Egyptian Muslims, Copts Dampen Religious Feuds

News article, posted 05.16.2011, from Egypt, in:
Egyptian Muslims, Copts Dampen Religious Feuds (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt have boiled over into sporadic violence for many years, but the dramatic changes in the country have brought the issue once again to the fore.  

Eye for eye

The murder of a parish priest proved the most recent tipping point here.   Anba Daoud Boutros was found stabbed to death in February in his home just outside Assyut.   At his funeral a few days later, angry mourners spied a young man at the edge of the graveyard, his beard a sign of his Muslim faith.  

Magdy Maher, a Coptic Christian who was at the burial, describes what happened next.   

Maher says that the some of the mourners turned on the Muslim youth and began to beat him.  Maher said he tried to intervene, but the man was badly hurt.  Tensions quickly escalated.   Copts held protest marches.  Muslims denounced the beating.  Insults turned to threats.  Within days, investigators alleged the murder was planned by the priest's Christian maid and the motive was robbery.   But by then, it didn't matter.  A group of young Muslim men took up arms.  That's when Wael Mohamed Saleh, of the Islamist group Gamaa Islamiyah, got involved.    

Saleh says he and others managed to convince the avenging group that punishing all Copts for the mistakes of a few is unjust and goes against the tenets of Islam.   He notes some of the young men involved weren't even particularly religious, just angry, but he credits God for "the tranquility in the hearts" of those trying to calm the situation. 

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