After Egypt church bombings, Copts complain of extremists


Egypian women walk past a church's paraphernalia shop displaying crucifixes and images of Christ and Coptic Orthodox religious figures in Cairo's northern suburb of Shubra, on April 11th. [Khaled Desouki/AFP]

Egypian women walk past a church's paraphernalia shop displaying crucifixes and images of Christ and Coptic Orthodox religious figures in Cairo's northern suburb of Shubra, on April 11th. [Khaled Desouki/AFP]

For years, Egyptian Copt Michel Fahmy could hear a Muslim preacher invoking God's wrath on Christians in sermons blared over loudspeakers from a mosque near his home.

The radical message, he says, is a reason for extremist attacks on his minority like the twin bombings of churches on Sunday (April 9th) that killed 45 people.

Sunday's attacks followed a December 11th suicide bombing in a Cairo church. The "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) claimed responsibility for all three.

"In mosques there are prayers to harm Christians," says Fahmy, referring to Friday prayer sermons in which some preachers lead congregations in imprecations against Islam's "enemies".

"They incite to violence, youths are being filled with hatred against us and acting on it," says the 50-year old who runs a souvenir shop in Cairo.

"It concerns us all. It leads to terrorism and to Christians being targeted," he adds.

The shock from the Palm Sunday attacks was palpable on the faces of Coptic passersby doing their Holy Week shopping, as they passed by the wooden crucifixes and statues of Christ and Mary lining Fahmy's store front.

"Society does not teach youths that Muslims and Copts are brothers and of the same nation. Upbringing plays a big role," he says.

Some Copts point to the school system, where Muslims and Christians attend different religious classes.

"The problem starts at school where children are treated differently," says Lillian Anis, 23, who works in a clothing store.

"In school some refused to speak to me because I was a Christian," she adds.

Coptic Christians have also long complained of radical discourse in some mosques and on Islamic satellite channels.

'Incitement everywhere'

Several Coptic Christians told AFP they had heard similar messages in Friday sermons or on Islamic television channels.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has repeatedly urged Cairo's Al-Azhar, the prestigious Sunni Muslim institution, to "modernise religious discourse".

Following Sunday's bombing, he said a committee would be formed to tackle the issue.

Many of the Islamic satellite channels in Egypt that broadcast criticisms of Christians had been closed after the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The Ministry of Awqaf which oversees mosques has also cracked down on unlicensed preachers and mosques, and picks the weekly topic for Friday sermons nationwide , to ensure any potentially subversive political content is avoided.

Sectarian unrest in Egypt had increased since the 1970s when president Anwar Sadat was seen as empowering Islamists over his socialist opponents.

The violence usually revolved around rumours of Christian-Muslim love affairs or reports that Christians were building churches.

ُExtremists have also targeted Christians before the recent bombings, with a suicide bomber blowing himself up outside a Coptic Church in Alexandria in 2011.

Some Islamist extremists look down on Christians as second-class citizens.

Law student Abram Anis says the extremists are "brainwashed by the religious incitement they hear against Christians everywhere".

Sunday's attacks brought home the dangers of the incitement to the Christian minority, which makes up about 10% of Egypt's 90 million people.

"I am afraid for my daughter -- I cannot stop worrying about it," says Hala Bushra, clasping the hand of her five-year-old.

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By the way, you're a garbage news website. You want to incite commotion and drive wedges among the people. This news is very old; I read it a month ago, and you still insist on publishing it.


A garbage article that promotes hatred and racism between the two components of the country. Mosques never incite against our brothers; rather, they always call for showing good treatment towards our brothers.


First of all, my name is Mohamed. When I was little, between kindergarten and middle school, a Christian family used to live at the same house. We grew up together. We were neighbours and we didn't know what the difference between us was, except that we prayed on Fridays and they prayed on Sundays. We used to eat, drink and play together, and we didn't know any hatred or malice.


First, this article involves mistakes. For example, the word ‘Copt’ is a variation of the word Kemt. In Pharaonic language, Kemt means ‘black land,’ which means Egypt. So, Copt means Egyptian, not Muslim, Christian or Jew. All the residents of Egypt, therefore, are Copts regardless of their religions.