In new provocation, Egypt Islamists occupy church land for prayers
CAIRO - Egyptian Salafists have occupied and held prayers on church land and threatened to burn Coptic shops if they are blocked from praying there on Friday, a Coptic bishop said.
"A group of Salafists entered land belonging the diocese on Monday at 10:00 pm and stayed till the next day's afternoon prayers. They put up a banner saying 'Abdel Rahman mosque'," Bishop Morcos said on Wednesday.
He said the Salafists, who follow an ultra-conservative tradition of Sunni Islam, threatened to torch Coptic shops if they were prevented from using the land for Friday's weekly Muslim prayers.
Morcos said the church wants to build on the land as soon as the permits are granted, and that a complaint had been filed with police and the state prosecutor.
There was no comment from the interior ministry.
In the meantime, in order to avoid the possibility of clashes, he said he will prevent young Copts from going to the property.
Copts, who make up between six and 10 percent of Egypt's 83 million people, have suffered an increase in attacks since a popular uprising ousted Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, leading to months of insecurity.
Many of the Christians opposed the election in June of President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist whose Muslim Brotherhood movement wants to gradually turn Egypt into an Islamist state. Morsi himself has assured Copts of equal rights.