In Egypt, Religious Clashes Are Off the Record

January 31, 2010

Author: Michelle Slackman

Source: The New York Times

State security agents wearing black uniforms and armed with automatic weapons stood guard at the entrance to this small city. Armored personnel carriers and rows of boxy troop carriers parked along the main road. Local police officers and the secret police patrolled nearly every block, on foot and in vans.

People were scared, and the police were edgy. “We want you to leave; you must have special permission to be here,” Gen. Mahmoud Gohar, head of security for the region, said as he slapped his hands together and demanded that reporters leave town, immediately.

A few weeks ago, on the day that Coptic Christians celebrate Christmas Eve, a Muslim gunman opened fire on worshipers as they walked out of church, killing 7, wounding 10 and leading to the worst sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians in Egypt in years. In the days that followed, there were riots and clashes. Stores were wrecked. Homes were burned.