In the midst of all of the recent sectarian violence in Egypt, the trial of a man accused of killing six Coptic Christians and a Muslim police officer during Coptic Christmas last January finally concluded. The man, Mohamed Ahmed Hussein, also known as Hamam Kamouni, was sentenced to death for “premeditated murder” in the drive-by shooting, which took place in southern Egypt.
This particular shooting resulted in protests from thousands of Copts. But because southern Egypt is much less developed than the northern port cities, the recent violence in Cairo and Alexandria against Coptic Christians seems to have much more political resonance. Last week, however, a Muslim policeman was charged with killing a Christian man on the subway in a southern Egyptian city; he will also be tried for premeditated murder.
This smaller episode of violence followed another attack in northern Egypt on New Year’s Eve, when two dozen Coptic Christians were killed in an attack on a church in Alexandria where hundreds of people were attending mass. The incident resulted in much renewed discussion of the extent to which the Egyptian government allows persecution of the Copts, who number about 10 percent of the Egyptian population, to continue. Some people protested the suggestion that Egypt is rife with sectarian violence, and many Muslims stepped up to be “human shields” for Egyptian churchgoers during this year’s Coptic Christmas.
Interestingly, this attack seems to have been very personal: it was thought to be revenge for the alleged rape of a 12-year-old Muslim girl by a Christian man. The attack in Alexandria has been couched mostly in terms of larger, more fundamental differences between Egyptian Muslims and Christians, which of course is probably not an accurate depiction of the country’s religious complexity.
Photo from Flickr.