PRESIDENT Mohammed Morsi of Egypt has publicly committed himself
to providing protection for the minority Christian community in his
In a televised speech to the nation last weekend, he referred to
the case of several Coptic families who had fled from the northern
Sinai town of Rafah to nearby El-Arish, after leaflets appeared
that threatened the lives of Christians. The families returned when
the governor of Sinai was ordered by the President to guarantee
"Attacking Christians is an attack against every Egyptian, and
an assault on me personally," President Morsi said. "They have the
right to protection like any other Egyptian citizen. Security must
Earlier, the Egyptian leader had visited Sinai in an attempt to
reassure Christians there that they would be safe. The Egyptian
army is involved in a campaign to dislodge jihadist Islamists from
the region. Security around the President was intense, and a plan
for him to visit Rafah was cancelled at the last minute.
Addressing Bedouin chiefs and other residents of El-Arish, he
said of the threats against the Coptic families in Rafah: "This
will not happen again. Your security is our security. What happened
is an individual case which represents neither Egypt nor its
children, Muslim or Christian. It's a crime for which the
perpetrators must be held responsible."
Only hours after President Morsi had flown back to Cairo,
however, gunmen in a passing car fired automatic weapons on the
house of a Coptic family in Rafah. No one was hurt.
Despite the President's efforts to ease tension between Muslims
and Christians, each community is watchful for signs that the other
is guilty of causing offence, real or perceived. In one such
incident, two Coptic boys, aged nine and ten, in the remote village
of Izbat Marco, in Beni Suef province 100 miles south of Cairo,
were arrested after a Muslim cleric said that he saw them urinating
on pages of the Qur'an.
Copts in the village insisted that the two boys, who are
illiterate, could not have known that the book in question was the
Qur'an, but Muslims held a demonstration calling for revenge.
A court subsequently ordered the release of the boys, pending