Middle East

Egypt media shocked by clashes with Copts

A tear gas canister is fired by Egyptian riot police into the compound of the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, Cairo
Image caption Clashes erupted in the streets around the cathedral in Cairo

Egyptian media prominently cover the unrest around the Coptic Christian cathedral in Cairo, with writers and TV presenters expressing shock over the sectarian conflict and some social media users accusing the government of failing to act.

Some see the collapse of the rule of law and a ''rehearsal for civil war'', while others interpret the events as a deliberate distraction from the pain of bread and fuel price hikes.

Some media highlight the president's reassurances to Christians that their safety is the responsibility of the state. His comments followed fighting between Muslims and Christians outside the city's Coptic cathedral after funeral prayers for four Christians killed in sectarian clashes on Saturday.

One newspaper, Al-Tahrir, runs the headline ''Persecution of Copts; interior ministry breaches sanctuary of the church; police fire on mourners.''

Another paper, Al-Dustur, which is owned by a Copt, says: ''Rehearsal for civil war outside cathedral; Muslim Brotherhood's thugs attack mourners.''

In the official Channel 1 TV talk show "Good Morning Egypt", the presenter says "sadness now prevails in the country after the regrettable events that we have been witnessing".

"Egypt has never been like this," said another presenter, noting that "we do not know what is going on and nobody can explain this riddle".

Official Nile News TV aired a discussion on how to fight attempts to harm Egypt's "unified fabric" of Muslims and Copts, with Muslim scholar Muhammad Wahdan saying that the events "prove that there are some elements seeking to harm the homeland''. He said the action had been planned to "sabotage the country".

'Duty to protect'

"The duty of the true Muslim is to protect the church,'' he said.

A presenter on private ON TV, Youssef al-Hosseini, accused President Mohammed Morsi of following a plan to "divide the people into groups and sects" and to cause a "rift among Muslims themselves" as well as between Muslims and Christians.

He alleged that the unrest was a ploy to "distract" the people's attention away from the government policies of "abolishing subsidies".

The controversial TV satirist Bassem Youssef (@DrBassemYoussef) tweeted in Arabic: "When a person who uttered racist statements against Copts is rewarded by being appointed to the constitutional drafting committee, and when a person who tore up the Bible gets bailed - don't be surprised by what is happening now."

English-language blogger Zeinobia says: ''The police and the ministry of interior are directly responsible for this disaster, for this fireā€¦ Mr President please check your supporters because they are sectarian, seriously speaking, and will not hesitate in starting a civil sectarian war in Egypt."

The Facebook page of Copts United carried a post that said: "History will remember that the Interior Ministry did not protect... the cathedral while it did its best to protect the (governing Muslim Brotherhood's) offices."

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