`Two dead, church torched` in Egypt sectarian clash

Last Updated: Saturday, March 5, 2011 - 22:37

Cairo: Two men were killed during clashes
in Egypt between Muslims and Christians, which also saw
Muslims set fire to a church in the village of Sol, south of
Cairo, a security official said on Saturday.

"Two people were killed, and the Shahedain church set
on fire in clashes between two families," the official told
the MENA news agency.

The violence was triggered by a feud between the
families, which disapproved of a romantic relationship between
a Christian man and a Muslim woman in the province of Helwan.
It culminated in fighting on Friday in which both of
the couples` fathers were killed, another security official
said.

After the funeral for the woman`s father today, a
group of Muslims headed to the village church and set it on
fire.

The army, which has been maintaining security in Egypt
since police disappeared during anti-regime protests last
month, managed to put the fire out and restore calm to the
area, the official said.

Romantic relationships between Muslim and Christians
are taboo in Egypt, and marriage between a Christian man and a
Muslim woman is illegal unless the man converts to Islam.
Religiously driven violence breaks out sporadically in
the Arab world`s most populous country.

Copts, who make up 10 per cent of Egypt`s 80 million
people, have been targets of sectarian attacks and complain of
discrimination, such as the requirement for permission to
build a new church.

Observers say Egypt`s deteriorating political and
economic situation has pushed both Muslims and Christians
further towards extremism, sparking knee-jerk reactions within
both communities.

According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal
Rights, in the two years to January 2010, there were at least
53 cases of sectarian violence or tensions that have taken
place in 17 of Egypt`s 29 governorates.

Last month, an Egyptian court ratified the death
sentence against a man convicted of killing six Christians
outside a church.

The State Security emergency court had referred
Mohammed Ahmad Hussein to the country`s top government cleric
last month, a legal formality before the court can announce a
death sentence.

Hussein is to be hanged for the murder of six Copts
and a Muslim policemen in the southern town of Nagaa Hammadi
after the Coptic Christmas Eve Mass in January 2010.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, March 5, 2011 - 22:37

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