The controversy started when Egyptian authorities halted the construction of a church. Traditional Islamic law, which is not fully implemented in Egypt, forbids non-Muslims to build new houses of worship or repair old ones. “Egypt: 156 detained over Christian riots,” from AP, November 25 (thanks to all who sent this in):
CAIRO – Egypt’s prosecutor general leveled severe accusations Thursday against 156 Christians, including explosives possession and attempted murder, following clashes with police over the building of a church.
One person died and 68 others were injured when security forces halted construction on a church citing violations of building permits.
Angry Christians hurled stones while riot police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets near the church and later in clashes outside the governor’s office.
The prosecutor general ordered a renewable 15-day-detention for those arrested, on accusations of sabotage, assault, possession of explosives and attempted murder of police.
Some 15 police officers were injured in the clashes. No one arrested or charged over the death of one protester, killed after being shot in the thigh according to forensic reports.
Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 80 million. They complain frequently of discrimination, though they generally live in peace with the Muslim majority despite occasional flare-ups of violence, especially over limits on church building.
In his first comment after riots, Egypt’s Coptic Pope Shenouda III blamed the local authorities of using violence against the Christians….
The construction had been ordered halted in this case because the building was not licensed to become a house of worship, a government statement said….
The Coptic community says authorities in Egypt are reluctant to approve permits to build churches, which they say they need to accommodate growing numbers of worshippers.
Human rights groups say attacks on Copts are on the rise, underscoring the government’s failure to address chronic sectarian strains in a society where religious radicalism is gaining ground.