Egyptian Christians Riot over Press Coverage of Monk's Alleged Affair
Calm was restored to Cairo's streets Monday after six policemen were hurt in clashes with thousands of Christians protesting against a graphic news story of a monk's alleged sexual relations with a married woman, said AFP.
Between 3,000 and 4,000 Coptic Christians had gathered at the main cathedral in Cairo late Sunday, with many clashing with police when they tried to take their protest to the streets.
Six policemen, including three officers, were treated at the scene after being hit by bricks and other projectiles. It was not clear if any were hospitalized.
Calm was restored by both the police, who arranged for people to leave the cathedral in small groups, and Pope Shenuda III, the head of Egypt's minority Christian community, who arrived on the scene to urge calm.
Dozens of riot police and around 200 Christians lingered at the scene well after midnight (2300 GMT Sunday). There were no reports of any arrests.
The weekly Al Nabaa published the controversial story that sparked the trouble, carrying front-page pictures of a bearded man, whom it described as a monk, in a compromising position with a woman.
Police said they had confiscated all copies of the publication on court orders, the agency said.
The church released a statement saying the monk attacked in the article had been expelled five years ago from a monastery in the southern city of Asyut for "abandoning the traditions of the church and monasticism."
It did not spell out what he had done and Pope Shenuda told an angry crowd later that the church would file a libel suit against the newspaper.
"There must be legal proceedings," the pope told a crowd of 200 people within the cathedral compound.
Many of the protestors demanded that the newspaper be banned permanently.
George Wagdi, 29, told AFP that the news article "was against all Christianity and all Christians. Muslims shame us. They completely hurt our pride and honor."
The Copts, who the government says account for six percent of Egypt's 65 million people, complain that the government discriminates against them in the state bureaucracy, police and army, education system, and other areas.
The Coptic patriarchate has 166 churches outside Egypt, including 16 in Britain and 57 in the United States, which has a Coptic community of 300,000, the largest outside Egypt, according to the Al Ahram Political and Strategic Studies Center.
In January 2000, at least 21 Christians were killed and 50 Christian-owned houses, shops, and warehouses, as well as a church, were burned by a group of 3,000 Muslims in a village near Al Kosheh in southern Egypt – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)