The symbolism is hard to miss:
The diocesan headquarters of the Coptic church in Shubra Al-Kheima was stormed by Salafis on Monday after afternoon prayers. The group raised a banner reading “Rahma Mosque” and remained on the premises until prayers at dawn, when the Interior Ministry intervened and removed the group.Ironically, "Rahma" means "mercy" in Arabic. (h/t Al Gharqad)
The Salafis took over an area of the diocese headquarters used for services, that had been governmentally licensed, and claimed it as a Muslim place of worship, said Bishop Morcos of Shubra in a telephone interview on Al-Tahrir channel. “We want to know what the government will do.”
“They claimed that the land is owned by a Muslim, despite the issuance of permits for the service building of the church,” said the Maspero Youth Union (MYU) in a statement.
“This episode is part of a series of attacks surrounding the role of Christian worship after the revolution,” the MYU said. The group blamed the government and security apparatus of being slow to act and sustaining their complicity in attacks on Copts and their churches.
Freedom of religion in Egypt is now little more than a slogan:
Mohamed Talaat didn't like the fact Christian music was being played at a party to promote interfaith harmony in the Egyptian town of Minya south of Cairo, so together with a group of like-minded Islamist hardliners, he showed up to put a stop to it.The "moderate" Muslim Brotherhood has been doing very little to protect the Christians of Egypt.
It was simply un-Islamic to broadcast Christian songs, Talaat explained.
"Egypt is Islamic and so we all have to accept Islamic rules to halt any strife," he said by telephone.
Four months since Egypt elected veteran Muslim Brotherhood politician Mohamed Mursi as president, human rights activists say hardliners are trying to impose Islamist ways on society.
From the fatal stabbing of a young man who was out with his fiancée to the case of a conservative teacher who cut schoolgirls' hair because it was uncovered, the examples are stacking up.
Such actions have grabbed local headlines and fuelled the worst-case-scenario fears of moderates worried by the rise of Islamists who were tightly reined in by Hosni Mubarak but have emerged as a major force since he was swept from power.
Since a group of youths killed a young man while he was out with his fiancée in the port city of Suez in July, there have been a steady stream of reports in a similar vein.
This week, a Suez grocer filed a legal complaint against a group of Salafis, or ultra-orthodox Muslims, who had threatened to enact religious justice against his son by cutting out his tongue. The Salafis accused the boy of insulting religion, according to Gharib Mahmoud, the grocer.
Self-appointed "committees for the propagation of virtue and elimination of vice" have surfaced elsewhere.
In Kafr el-Sheikh, a town in the Nile Delta north of Cairo, one such committee handed out flyers in late October warning it would "use force against violators of its instructions". Similar acts of intimidation have been reported by Christians in the middle-class Cairo district of Shubra.
"We warn you Christian people to give up your filthy trade in filthy statues and paintings," read a letter warning Victor Younan, an 83-year old Christian shopkeeper, to stop selling images of Jesus. Eight other Christians told Reuters they had received similar notes.
The police did not get involved in Minya, where the organizers cancelled the interfaith celebration to avoid trouble. Planned for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the October 28 event had been named "Light in Times of Darkness" and marked an effort to ease friction in the shifting political landscape.
Musicians at the event were playing both Christian and Islamic music, before Islamists ordered them to stop, said Alaa Kabawy, a Muslim who was one of several thousand attendees.