After Deadly Clashes, Egypt's Christians On Edge Over the weekend, an outburst of violence between Coptic Christians and Muslims killed at least a dozen people in Cairo. Since the revolution, experts say, attacks against the country's Christians have grown more severe.
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After Deadly Clashes, Egypt's Christians On Edge

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After Deadly Clashes, Egypt's Christians On Edge

After Deadly Clashes, Egypt's Christians On Edge

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

NPR's Martin Kaste sent this story from Cairo.

MARTIN KASTE: Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

KASTE: Unidentified Man #2: Fitnah.

KASTE: But Christians were hardly the only victims here. Just a few blocks away, Tahrir hospital received seven of the dead and treated about 50 of the injured, like Ahmend Magdi Ahmed, a young Muslim laid up with a gunshot wound to the leg.

AHMEND MAGDI AHMED: (Foreign language spoken)

KASTE: I ran across a group of Christians with automatic weapons, he says, and they were just shooting people.

MAGDI AHMED: (Foreign language spoken)

KASTE: The trigger for the violence appears to have been a rumor that a Christian woman who'd converted to Islam had been abducted and was being held inside a church. Similar stories have caused violence before. Still, Egyptians are worried about where things are going.

HOSSAM BAHGAT: There is a sense of shock.

KASTE: Hossam Bahgat is executive director of an NGO called the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. He says he doesn't think there have been more incidents of violence, but he thinks they are becoming more severe; destroyed churches, murder and mutilation.

BAHGAT: There is generally a sense of an increased boldness of extremist elements in society that are attempting to intimidate Christians.

KASTE: Bahgat says since the revolution, extremists have felt freer rein.

BAHGAT: They know that police officers will not rush to use violence against them because of hostility that people on the streets generally feel towards the police.

KASTE: On Sunday, the military government tried to remedy that impression. Justice Minister Mohamed el-Guindy went on TV and invoked the spirit of Muslim- Christian solidarity that was so visible during the Tahrir Square revolution.

MOHAMED EL: (Through Translator) The people of Egypt, the brave police and the great army are joining forces as a protective shield against the counterrevolution.

KASTE: In the name of protecting the revolution, the military says it's cracking down. It's arrested 190 people and says it'll make them face military trials. But for the Coptic Christians, this isn't enough.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

KASTE: Ihab Samir, a middle-aged Copt who spent time in New Jersey, says the revolution has let hatred for Christians out into the open, and the Copts have to take a stand.

IHAB SAMIR: We don't want the violence to go on. And if it continues on, then there's going to be thousands and thousands more Copts coming to this place, to say, we exist.

KASTE: And there are signs that Egyptians still feel the solidarity expressed during the revolution. Some Muslims even came to the Copts' protest, women in headscarves and men like Walid Muhammed.

WALID MUHAMMED: (Foreign language spoken)

KASTE: Martin Kaste, NPR News, Cairo.

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