5 December 2010
The sectarian violence in Talbiya in Umraniya, Giza dominated a large portion of the Cairo media during the last week. Even though there was a general inaccuracy as to the number of injured persons and the number of the detainees, the State-owned papers focused on the injuries inflicted on the security men not on the Coptic victims. Given that the security men injured were 37 including one officer while the injuries among Copts amounted to some 100, two of whom died of their injuries, the disregard to the Coptic victims provoked Coptic anger.
Predictably, the State-owned media focused on the Coptic riots and the fact that the Copts had been building a church without licence. But several other papers focused on the all-but-impossibility of the Copts obtaining licence to build a church, and the inadvertently harsh violence used to crush the Copts. Among the most significant pieces written on the issue was one by Khaled Montassir in his column in the daily independent al-Masry al-Youm in which he remarked that the Coptic riots were absolutely out of the ordinary as far as Coptic behaviour is concerned. It was unprecedented for Copts to protest so strongly; the riots indicated that they had reached the end of their patience, he wrote; it was obvious they would not listen to any call for restraint even if that call came from their pastors.
In the same paper, the poet and columnist Fatma Naout wrote that, considering the building was meant to be a place of worship, the violence used by the security forces against the Copts—the security shot the demonstrators using live ammunition—was unpardonable.
The weekly al-Youm al-Sabei printed a declaration by Sherif Wali, secretary-general of the National Democratic Party in Giza, describing the decision of Giza governor Sayed Abdel-Aziz to halt the building of the church as “positively inhumane”.
The monthly Adab wa Naqd (Literature and Criticism), published by the leftist Tagammu party, printed a story by its editor-in-chief Helmy Salem who is himself a poet, under the title “Seven Coptic pioneers and their influence on Egyptian culture”. Salem cited the role played by seven prominent Copts on the Egyptian scene during the first half of the 20th century; among these were some well-known figures such as the thinker and educator Salama Moussa and the writers, novelists, and critics Louis Awad and Edward al-Kharrat. He also cited some relatively unknown names including the musician Adly Fakhry who wrote the music of many pieces criticising the political situation and figures of his time. Fearing for his personal safety, he left Egypt to Lebanon where he proceeded with his career.
Salem confirmed the positive Coptic role in modern Egyptian culture and the modernisation of the Egyptian mindset.
The Jesiut’s school in Egypt, the Collège de la Sainte Famille (CSF), is among the oldest and most sought-after by parents wishing to give their children exceptional education. But the CSF was the target of an unsubstantiated allegation which the Cairo daily State-owned al-Ahram printed last month. The allegation was that the school included in its library—the Jesiut library is among the finest in Egypt—and assigned as a textbook to its students a book which defames the Prophet Mohamed. Watani called the school to get to the bottom of the matter, and found out that the school director Father Romani Amin had written a reply to al-Ahram which the paper printed the following day in the same space. Fr Romani said the allegation was baseless; it was written by a teacher who had been dismissed from his job. It was unreasonable, Fr Romani said, that a school 130 years old, the graduates of which include some of the most prominent figures in Egypt, should commit such a blunder.