A handful of recent clashes between Muslims and Christians has again raised the spectre of sectarian discord in Egypt. The incidents, though relatively minor, highlight longstanding tensions between the country's Muslim majority and its Christian minority.
"As long as Egypt's Christian community suffers from official bias by the state, inter-communal tensions will persist," Naguib Gabriel, lawyer for Egypt's Coptic Church and head of the Cairo-based Egyptian Union for Human Rights told IPS.
Interfaith relations have traditionally been peaceful in this country of 82 million, of which Christians are estimated to represent between six and 12 percent, although precise figures are difficult to ascertain. Most Christians belong to the Egyptian Orthodox, or Coptic, Church, while the rest of the national population is almost entirely Sunni Muslim.
Sectarian fighting is not, however, unheard of. In the first week of July, several unrelated altercations between members of the two communities were reported in different areas of the country.