FaithWorld

Egypt vows crackdown after 12 die in Christian-Muslim strife

(Soldiers stand guard near the Saint Mary church which was set on fire during clashes between Muslims and Christians on Saturday in the heavily populated area of Imbaba in Cairo May 8, 2011/Asmaa Waguih)

Egypt’s government announced measures to curb religious violence on Sunday after 12 people died in clashes in a Cairo suburb sparked by rumors that Christians had abducted a woman who converted to Islam. The fighting on Saturday was Egypt’s worst interfaith strife since 13 people died on March 9 after a church was burned, and it threw down a new challenge for generals ruling the country since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf canceled a tour of Gulf Arab states to chair a cabinet meeting where the government decided to deploy more security near religious sites and toughen laws criminalising attacks on places of worship.

“Gatherings around places of worship will be banned to protect their sanctity and ensure the security of residents and prevent sectarian strife,” Justice Minister Mohamed el-Guindy said in a statement read on state television. The army said that 190 people would be tried in military courts over Saturday’s violence.

Tension was high and the army cordoned off streets near the Saint Mina church, where about 500 conservative Salafist Muslims massed on Saturday to call on Christians to hand over the woman.

Anti-Western messages grow among Afghanistan’s imams

hazrat ali mosque

(Hazrat Ali mosque in Kabul March 21, 2010/Ahmad Masood)

Enayatullah Balegh is a professor at Kabul University and preaches on Fridays in the largest mosque in central Kabul, where he advocates jihad, or holy war, against foreigners who desecrate Islam. After a fundamentalist U.S. pastor presided over the burning of a copy of the Koran last month, there has been a growing perception among ordinary people that many of the foreigners in Afghanistan belong in just one category: the infidels.

“The international community and the American government is responsible for this gravest insult to Muslims,” Balegh told Reuters in the blue-and-white tiled Hazrat Ali mosque. “I tell my students to wage jihad against all foreigners who desecrate our religious values. We have had enough.”

Protests in Kabul against the Koran-burning have not become violent but there are many other mullahs in the overcrowded capital whose sermons are filled with criticism of the foreigners fighting and working in Afghanistan.

Taliban suicide blasts at Sufi shrine in Pakistan kill 41

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(Bodies of victims lie at the site of a Sufi shrine hit by Taliban suicide bomb attacks in Dera Ghazi Khan April 3, 2011/Sheikh Asif Raza)

Two Taliban suicide bombers caused carnage on Sunday at a Sufi shrine in Dera Ghazi Khan in eastern Pakistan, killing at least 41 people and wounding scores in the latest bloody attack on minority religious groups. Police said some 65 people were wounded. They said the attackers struck during an annual ceremony for the Sufi saint to whom the shrine is dedicated.

“I was just a few yards away from the place where the blast happened,” said witness Faisal Iqbal. “People started running outside the shrine. Women and children were crying and screaming. It was like hell.”

Egyptian revolution brings show of religious unity after tensions

koran cross

(A Muslim holding the Koranand a Coptic Christian holding a cross in Tahrir Square in Cairo February 6, 2011/Dylan Martinez)

The surge of popular unity that toppled Hosni Mubarak last week has eased tension between Egypt’s Muslims and the Coptic Christian minority and raised hopes for lasting harmony. Muslims and Christians joined hands and formed human shields to protect each other from riot police as members of the different faiths prayed during the protests in Cairo.

Alongside banners demanding Mubarak’s resignation and an end to emergency rule, protesters held aloft posters of the Christian cross and Islamic crescent together against the red white and black of Egypt’s flag.