Long simmering religious, cultural and economic differences in Egypt between Muslims and Christians have exploded into deadly violence in recent weeks and there are signs that this is only the beginning.
At bottom, is Muslim fanatic opposition to any religion besides Islam. But the conflict cuts even deeper than that, with a huge cultural divide between the two sides that was maintained during the Mubarak years by force of arms. Now that the dictator is gone, restraint has left as well.
A day after dozens were seriously injured in the latest spate of clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians here, thousands of Christians on Sunday defied the request of the community's leader to lift a sit-in demonstration.This latest outbreak of violence comes on the heels of Saturday's riots that injured dozens. The current round of unrest can be traced to the forced conversion of a Coptic woman to be with the man she loved - a consequence of an Islamic culture that forbids mixed marriages. The Copts also frown on such marriages but do not demand that the Islamic spouse convert to Christianity.
Witnesses said the clashes began late Saturday after snipers opened fire from locations across the Nile River on Christians who have been camped outside the main state television building for nearly a week to demand better protection from the government.
[...]Saturday's clashes came a week after a Muslim mob set fire to a Coptic Christian church in a low-income Cairo neighborhood, setting off hours-long clashes that left at least 12 dead and emotions raw.
"We are not leaving until we get our rights, even if only one of us survives by the end of this," said Maher Talaat, 28, a Christian demonstrator standing outside the state television building Sunday.
Coptic leaders are urging their flock to stop the demonstrations, but it appears that the political movement for recognition of Coptic rights is not listening:
The leader of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, issued a statement Sunday urging demonstrators to go home, saying the unrest had "exceeded the mere expression of opinion," and was "harming Egypt's reputation and your reputation." Thousands ignored the plea. A tragedy is unfolding in Egypt and unless the authorities make a concerted effort to restrain the fanatics, the violence is likely to get much worse.