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Egypt's Sectarian Strife Masks Failed Policies

The recent sectarian violence and rhetoric in Egypt is allowing President Mohammed Morsi to distract the public from the country’s real problems, writes Yasmine Nagaty.
Coptic Christians run on the roof of the main cathedral in Cairo as police fire tear gas during clashes with Muslims standing outside the cathedral April 7, 2013. Clashes broke out between Coptic Christians and Muslims in central Cairo on Sunday after the funeral of four Copts killed in sectarian violence outside the Egyptian capital on Friday night, witnesses said.  REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih (EGYPT  - Tags: RELIGION CIVIL UNREST) - RTXYC7G

On Saturday, March 8, the clashes that started in Cairo were reignited in the town of Al-Khosous in Qaloubia, where four Copts and one Muslim were reportedly killed and eight others were injured. The following day, two more were killed and at least 90 injured when unknown assailants attacked mourners outside the cathedral in Abbaseya. Tension mounted further still on Monday, March 9, as a video labeled “Proud Muslim Men Rape Coptic Women” went viral on various social-media outlets. The video displayed an attack made on a woman in an Egyptian market in which the attacker yelled "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) as he attempted to pin her to the ground. The video was in fact first posted in 2009 and has now been removed from YouTube.

What remains of that morbid week is a public state of anxiety over the prospects of sectarian conflict in Egypt, especially in light of the Islamist seizure of power under President Mohammed Morsi. For years, as sectarianism has continued to be one of the most sensitive and avoided topics of political discussion, the inequality with which Copts are treated by the state has become evident. Today, as various Islamist figures make “anti-Copt” statements and after the presidency blamed Coptic youth for the cathedral clashes, it is clear that the Egyptian state has failed to learn its lessons from the 2011 uprising.

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