Leading article: Dangers that lie just beneath the surface

Share
Related Topics

The arrest of 190 people in Cairo, and the likelihood that they will be hauled before military courts, is designed to send a clear signal to Islamic radicals who would inflame communal violence. Such decisive action on the part of the Supreme Military Council, however, should not be allowed to disguise several uncomfortable facts.

The first is that, since the enforced departure of President Hosni Mubarak, sectarian tensions have grown. The clashes that precipitated the arrests at the weekend resulted in at least 10 people being killed and almost 200 people injured. But they did not come out of nowhere. They were the culmination of a steady increase in incidents between conservative Salafist Muslims and the country's Coptic Christian minority. There was a similar outbreak of violence in another Cairo district in March and the recent appointment of a Christian governor in the southern city of Qena prompted a week of protests.

When a Coptic church in Alexandria was bombed on New Year's Day, local Muslims came together a week later to form a cordon around that and other Christian churches, so that Copts could attend their Christmas services in safety. The same spirit of mutual support and tolerance was evident during the protests on Tahrir Square. This increasingly looks like a deceptively harmonious interlude.

The second is that the recent increase in sectarian clashes has been part of a general decline in law and order that the military authorities have been unwilling or unable to stem. This is fuelling speculation that Islamic extremists or remnants of the Mubarak regime, or both, are fomenting trouble in the hope of reversing the gains that were made.

And the third relates to the short attention span of the outside world. Violence in Libya, unrest in Yemen, and the ruthless suppression of protest in Syria have all claimed attention in recent weeks, allowing the impression of euphoria that followed the successful uprising to linger. Egypt may indeed be a better and freer country than it was, but instability lies only just beneath the surface. The time between now and the September elections could be perilous indeed.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Chester: English Teacher The school, th...

Maths Teacher (One day per week)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Maths Teacher (one day per week) Gr...

EBD Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Science Teacher Greater Manchester

Humanities Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Humanities teacher required for ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Letters: No vote poses difficult questions – so why rush?

Independent Voices
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits