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Religious unrests in Egypt

Coptic Christian and Muslim clashes erupt in Cairo, Egypt

May 08, 2011

Egypt's Prime Minister called an urgent cabinet meeting on Sunday to discuss the violence, a day after witnesses said a mob of people from the conservative Salafi trend of Islam marched onto a Coptic church in the northwestern neighborhood of Imbaba.

At least 10 people have been killed and 186 others wounded in clashes between Muslims and Christians in the Egyptian capital Cairo, hospital and security officials said.

The march began over an apparent relationship between a Coptic Christian woman and a Muslim man, amid reports that the woman was being held inside against her will and prevented from converting to Islam.

The verbal clash on Saturday soon developed into a full-fledged confrontation where the two sides exchanged gunfire, firebombs, and stones, and another church nearby was set on fire.

Shahira Abu Leil, a blogger and activist, told Al Jazeera that attempts were being made to bring security to the area.

"A building was also set on fire, and people are trying to prevent a possible explosion from gas leakages," she said.

Authorities deployed large numbers of soldiers and police, backed by armored vehicles, to the area. The army fired shots in the air and used tear gas to separate both sides, witnesses said.

Interfaith relationships often cause tension in Egypt, where Christians make up about 10 percent of its 80 million people.

Call for calm
The strife represents another challenge to Egypt's military rulers who are trying to restore law and order after president Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down in a popular uprising in February.

The Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa, a senior Islamic religious figure, called for calm.

"All Egyptians must stand shoulder to shoulder and prevent strife," he told the state MENA news agency.

He also urged the military council to stop anyone from meddling with the security of Egypt.

Meanwhile, Essam Sharaf, the Egyptian Prime Minister, postponed a visit to Bahrain in the wake of the violence, state news agencies reported.

"Prime Minister Sharaf has called for an emergency meeting of the cabinet to discuss the regrettable events in Imbaba," Ahmed al-Saman, a cabinet spokesman, told MENA.

Sharaf "has decided to postpone his visit to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates," which had been scheduled for Sunday, state TV reported.

Christians in Egypt complain about unfair treatment, including rules they say make it easier to build a mosque than a church.

Claims that Christian women who converted to Islam were kidnapped and held in churches or monasteries have soured relations between the two communities for months.

Coptic Christian and Muslim clashes erupt in Cairo, Egypt
Source: Al Jazeera

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