The Devil in the Details

From the BBC:

Egypt troops dead after Coptic church protest in Cairo

At least 17 people have been killed and scores injured after a protest in Cairo against an attack on a Coptic Christian church.

Egyptian TV showed protesters throwing petrol bombs and army vehicles burning outside the state television building.

Copts blame Muslim radicals for the partial demolition of a Coptic church in Aswan province last week. . . .

Egypt’s Coptic Christians—who make up about 10% of the population—accuse the governing military council of being too lenient on the perpetrators of a string of anti-Christian attacks.

The protest on Sunday was calling on the council to sack the governor of Aswan province after the church was damaged on Friday.

The clashes began outside the state TV building in central Maspero Square but soon spread to Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the demonstrations which led to President Mubarak’s resignation.

Thousands joined in the street violence, hurling stones and tearing up the pavement for ammunition.

It is not clear how many of those killed were soldiers and how many were demonstrators.

Protesters also called for the resignation of the military council, in particular its chairman, Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi.

Hundreds from both sides attacked each other with sticks, said witnesses quoted by the Associated Press.

From the Jerusalem Post:

They [Coptic Christians] took to the streets demanding the sacking of the province’s governor for failing to protect the building.

More than four vehicles were set ablaze and television footage showed protesters breaking windows of parked cars and army personnel carriers driving full speed towards crowds of protesters.

Gun shots were heard and witnesses said crowds of protesters carried bodies. It was unclear who was shooting.

“We were marching peacefully,” Talaat Youssef, 23-year old Christian trader told Reuters at the scene.

“When we got to the state television building, the army started firing live ammunition,” he said, adding army vehicles ran over protesters, killing five. His account could not be immediately confirmed.

“The army is supposed to be protecting us,” Youssef said.

Al Arabiya TV’s correspondent, whose office buildings are in the area, said she saw bodies outside the building but did not know if they were just wounded. She also said they saw protesters attacking military police and seizing their weapons.

Thousands of Christians protested in Cairo and Alexandria on Sunday over the attack, chanting against the ruling military council and its head, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.

The protesters want the government to fire the governor of Aswan Province, Mostafa al-Sayed, after the partial demolition of the church on Friday. Egyptian media said Muslims were accused of attacking the church after talk spread in the town that the building did not have legal authorization.

Also from the Jerusalem Post:

‘Babi Yar massacre was to test reaction to Jewish genocide’

The chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who is a former Chief Rabbi of Israel and who was a child Holocaust survivor, theorized last Thursday that the massacre at Babi Yar in Kiev 70 years ago may have been an experiment by Hitler to test world reaction to the elimination of the Jewish people.

Had the world raised its voice in protest at this horrendous atrocity, Lau surmised, what ensued afterwards might not have happened, and many more Jews might have survived the Holocaust. . . .

Retrospectively, said Lau, when he thought about it, he realized that the Babi Yaar massacre had taken place prior to the January 1942 Wannsee Conference, at which the top Nazi command had discussed the final solution to the Jewish problem.

Babi Yar, he said, may have given Hitler the impetus to continue further. . . .

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in a video-taped message, said that he had been to Babi Yar during one of his visits to Ukraine and had been unable to understand how Jews could be slaughtered like cattle in their thousands in this one place. The only conclusion he could draw, he said, was that because Jews had lost their sovereignty, they had lost their ability to defend themselves.

These are interesting thoughts: The first historical, the second very much rooted in the capacity of victims of religious hatred and intolerance to respond by demanding protection by the state whose responsibility it is to maintain public safety but which, to all intents and purposes, avows the same sentiments as the persecutors.

Egypt has long been a place of great difficulty for Christians; the so-called revolution that removed the Mubarak family from power has only heightened division. Elections featuring the Moslem Brotherhood are due shortly. The outlook here, as elsewhere, is deeply disturbing.

Addendum: See this piece, “Christians fear Islamist pressure in Egypt“, from Associated Press. it includes this revealing comment from the father of a schoolgirl:

“After the revolution, there are no administration and no officials to go to. The system is lax and there is no supervision from the ministry,” he told AP. “If things were under control, extremists would not have a free hand to act as they wish.”


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