(The Coptic Orthodox "Hanging Church" in old Cairo, December 2008/Bertramz)

An Islamist surge in Egypt has left a large Christian minority divided over whether to flee the country, stay silent or reach out to a political force that seems guaranteed a major role in the country’s future.

The pessimists say a revolution that began with the uprising against Hosni Mubarak in January is unravelling because many Islamists, who won a first round of parliamentary elections, have little interest in civil liberties or religious freedom.

They say pledges from Islamists to protect the Copts, the mostly Orthodox Christians whose roots go back to before the arrival of Islam in the seventh century, contradict much of their campaign rhetoric.

The Muslim Brotherhood, whose party is set to take the most seats in the new assembly, has long said “Islam is the Solution” for a country where one-tenth of the population is Christian.

The runners-up were ultra-conservative Salafis, whose brand of Islam reflects the strict Wahhabi ideology born in Saudi Arabia, where no other religion is permitted.