Around 7:30 PM, I received text and Twitter messages that an announcer for State TV had on air called for Egyptians to go down and “defend the soldiers who protected the Egyptian revolution” against “armed Copts” who had opened fire and were killing soldiers. Looking around me, I could see that many of those gathered in the tight area around the TV building seemed to have responded to the call. Rough-looking men were arriving in groups; people said they were neighborhood thugs. They held bludgeons, wooden planks, knives, and even swords, and walked boldly into the chaos of burning cars, flying bullets, and glass. “We’ll kill any Christian we get our hands on,” one of them shouted. Someone tweeted that he was in the middle of what looked like a militia, “men with clubs and antique pistols.” Nearby, a young girl was harassed, and a mob assaulted a young Coptic couple, beating them and ripping their clothes. One of the perpetrators emerged from the gang with blood on his hands. “Christian blood!” he boasted. (The couple survived—rushed away by ambulance to be treated for wounds and possible fractures.)...What exactly happened at Maspero on October 9, when, amid a great deal of confusion, a peaceful protest turned into something of a massacre, has become a question of enormous implications for Egypt’s military and government, as well as for its increasingly divided population. Although many are critical even of the idea of “Coptic protests,” saying their premise is sectarian and that the Copts should instead be out defending a “united Egypt” in Tahrir, the events at Maspero have pitted those who believe State TV and support the army, against those who don’t. In the former camp are a working class majority who are convinced the Copts are to blame. Although all political factions, including the Islamists, have condemned the violence, and the Islamist political bloc has been swift to publicly claim it embraces Copts and Muslims alike, insisting it will work for a democratic Egypt, at a grassroots level there are also growing indications that Muslim conservatism is spreading nation-wide. In the aftermath of the violence, I was reminded by friends that many young Egyptians are taught that “Christians are going to hell.”...Whatever is ultimately revealed about what happened at Maspero, many in the Coptic Christian community, which accounts for some 10 percent of Egypt’s 82 million population, regard their position in Egyptian society as increasingly tenuous. The original cause for the Maspero protest, the burning of the El-Marinab Church in Aswan on September 30, was the fifth such assault on a church since the fall of Mubarak, and the sixth in twelve months. Hours before the Aswan church was set on fire, a preacher at a nearby mosque used his midday sermon to incite further anger against the town’s Copts. And in Alexandria the week before the Maspero violence, I heard a Salafi preacher blame the ills of the world on Christians, Zionists, and women.
Jeez. Somebody should just press a "Dislike" button or something. And, uh, has anyone decided what color scheme we're supposed to use on our blog in response to this?