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  • Sunday ,09 January 2011

In the aftermath of the terrorist attack


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Sunday ,09 January 2011

In the aftermath of the terrorist attack

On the Coptic Orthodox satellite channel CTV on Saturday 1 January, Watani editor-in-chief Youssef Sidhom said: “Coptic anger has been steadily building up for years. But, despite the pain and ugliness of the incident, we have to practice self-restrain; a clash between Copts and Muslims might prove intolerable.” 

“There is,” Mr Sidhom said, “a wide sector of good-willing, tolerant Muslims. We need to lure them into understanding our anguish and collaborating to resolve our grievances.”

On Facebook, several groups formed to protest what their members described as the media delusion that the attack targeted Muslims as well as Copts. Even though some Muslims were among the wounded, they were injured in the demonstrations which followed the attack. A group under the name “The martyrs of The Church of the Saints’ in Alexandria” declared a state of mourning and said they would accept no New Year or Christmas good wishes.

On the grassroots level, many Muslims offered their Coptic friends and neighbours tearful, heartfelt condolences as they condemned the attack. A schoolteacher in the underprivileged area of Barageel in Giza gathered her young pupils first thing in the morning on Sunday 2 January and talked to them about Muslims and Christians being brothers, and the respect of all religions. The move is highly unusual in such a predominantly Muslim district. 

Reader comments on the Internet are always a good indication of public trends. A quick survey of reader comments to news of the Alexandria explosion on the Internet, conducted by Watani, revealed that the large majority of readers condemned the attack. Many promised to head to churches on Christmas Eve (6 January), a date on which churches were threatened with further attacks by Islamist movements, to show solidarity with the Copts. The majority of reader comments called for tracking the culprits and bringing them to justice, yet insisted the culprits were not Egyptian. Many alleged Israel was behind the attack. 

This does not mean, of course, that not a few Muslims sneered at the Copts or displayed ill-feeling. But this remained a minority.