Coptic Christians Struggle in a Muslim-Majority Country

February 23, 2006

Source: The Washington Post

On February 23, 2006 The Washington Post reported, "The sectarian battle [a recent event in which Muslim rioters attacked a Christian church in Odayssat] was one of a series that have recently pitted the minority Coptic Christians, an ancient community in Egypt, against the majority Muslims. Repeated instances of violence have brought to light a persistent paradox of Egyptian life: Although officially a secular state, Egypt is in many ways an Islamic entity in which non-Muslims are accommodated but not exactly on an equal footing. The constitution specifies Islam as Egypt's official religion; Copts make up less than 10 percent of the country's population. If the tensions are not new, the willingness of the Copts of Odayssat to stand up is. In part, their reaction to the police inspection exemplifies an increasingly common byproduct of Egypt's two-year-long wave of openness and dissent. Such ferment is putting the quarter-century leadership of President Hosni Mubarak to a test at a time when he is also under pressure from the United States to democratize."