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Friday, April 22, 2011

Protest against Egypt Christian governor

TENS of thousands of protesters massed in a southern Egyptian city yesterday and cut off a major railway to demand the exit of a Christian governor as the government sought to resolve the crisis, police officials said.


The protests began last Friday after Emad Mikhail, a former Cairo police commander, was appointed governor of Qena, the second Coptic Christian governor in a row.
The protesters' motivations appear to vary but the presence of hardline Islamists has raised sectarian tensions in the province, which has a large Christian population and a history of religious strife.
Police officials said the protesters gathered in front of the governor's headquarters and reinforced demonstrators already camped out on a railway track after Friday prayer sermons exhorted them to end the sit-in.
Some of the protesters said they should have been consulted in the appointment of a new governor, especially one with a background in the country's vilified police force.

State television aired interviews with protesters who denied they were Islamists, but a Coptic Bishop in the province said the demonstrators have been heard chanting anti-Christian slogans.
"The protests are sectarian," Bishop Kirilos of the nearby town of Nagaa Hammadi told AFP.
"They are led by Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood, and they are chanting: 'We won't leave until the Christians leave,'" he said.

The bishop, who was present when Muslim gunmen killed six churchgoers after an evening mass in January 2010, said parishioners were fearful of further attacks.

But a prominent Salafi cleric in Cairo, Abdel Moneim al-Shahat, denied that his sect, which advocates a return to early Muslim practices, was spearheading the protests.

"People object to him because he has a security background, and also because he was appointed as though for a Coptic quota, and Qena always gets the quota Christian," he said."My religion forbids me from being ruled by a Christian, but if he were popular I would be willing to set aside my religious objection," he said.
Many traditional Muslim scholars believe a Christian or a woman may not rule a Muslim country.
The government has unsuccessfully tried to persuade the demonstrators to disperse by sending two prominent Salafi clerics to negotiate with them along with the interior minister.

State television reported that Prime Minister Essam Sharaf was preparing to head a delegation to the southern city to defuse the crisis.Copts make up about 10 per cent of the country's 80 million people and have been the targets of attacks.

The protests in Qena have served as a stark reminder to some of the persistence of sectarian tensions after a popular revolt ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.
Telecoms billionaire Nagib Sawaris, who launched a liberal party after Mubarak's ouster, wrote on his Twitter account that the protests showed a Christian would stand little chance of becoming the country's president.
"To those who said I should run for president: if we can't even have a Copt as Qena governor, what about Egypt?," he wrote.

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