This commentary was published in The Kuwait Times on 11/05/2011
Egypt's army rulers face a dilemma as a bolder stance adopted by Islamists in the post-Mubarak era is worsening sectarian tension and triggering demands for the kind of crackdown that made the former president so unpopular. Armed clashes between conservative Muslims and Coptic Christians left 12 dead in a Cairo suburb on Saturday, touching off angry protests by some of the capital's residents who called for the army to use an "iron fist" against the instigators. The violence has deepened fear among Christians, who complain of poor police protection and a new tolerance of Muslim extremists, raising the risk of new flashpoints in a country dogged by poverty, soaring prices and a faltering economy.
Why are we distracting ourselves with this idiocy? We should be spending our effort building the country, not protesting and fighting," a veiled woman in her 40s was heard telling a friend in central Cairo on Sunday. "I pray that no strife divides us. If someone converted it's God who judges him, not me or anyone else and in Islam we say 'you have your religion and we have ours'," said Ramadan Habiba, a bearded accountant in a suit outside a mosque.