Copt-Muslim clash in Cairo renews question: Who are the Copts?

Egypt's revolution put the issue of how to protect its beleaguered Coptic Christian population on the back burner. But a fatal clash Tuesday between Muslims and Copts in Cairo has turned attention once again to religious tensions, which gained the spotlight after the bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria on New Year's Eve. In an overwhelmingly Muslim country, where does this religious minority fit in. And who are the Copts?

What was yesterday's clash about?

Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters
A worker living in Manshiyet Nasser holds a paper reading: 'Christian and Muslim, we are Egyptian' in eastern Cairo on March 9, where clashes between Egyptian Christians and Muslims occurred on Tuesday night.

Fighting broke out Tuesday when Cairo's Copts gathered in a Cairo suburb to protest the burning of a Coptic church last week. Several Copts and Muslims were killed in the fighting, which was followed by arson attacks in one of the city's predominantly Christian neighborhoods.

Yesterday's clashes continued into the night. The Copts staged the protests to demand that the transitional government rebuild the church that was burned last week, publicly promise improvements for Egypt's Copts, and thoroughly investigate the incident.

Egypt's Coptic population has been plagued by violence in the last year. A New Year's Eve bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria remains unsolved and there were clashes in the fall when authorities halted construction of a Coptic church in Cairo.

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