But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the events is the level to which they succeeded in inciting Muslims against Christians, says Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which has tracked sectarian incidents for a decade. Unlike the outpouring of Muslim sympathy when a Christian church was bombed at the beginning of this year, he says, now there is little sympathy. “There are either calls for unity, or there is blame for Christians for having started this violence and for having attacked the Army,” he says.
“And," he adds, "we must blame state media here.”
As the Army was running over and shooting protesters, Egyptians watching state television heard an entirely different story. The channel reported that armed Christians were attacking the Army, and broadcast appeals for Muslims to go to the street to defend the Army.
“So it is no coincidence or surprise that large sectors of the Muslim majority feel that what happened was the Christians' fault and continue to blame Christians for what happened,” he says. “And that adds more anger and resentment and estrangement for the Coptic community and especially the Coptic youth,” a scenario that does not bode well for Egypt’s future.
Hundreds of people responded to the incitement and went out to the streets armed with sticks and sometimes knives, and attacked Christians. Around 10 p.m., hundreds of youths holding sticks marched toward the Coptic Hospital, chanting “Islamic, Islamic.” When they neared the hospital, they clashed with the mostly Christian men in front of the hospital.
Several gunshots rang out, and the two sides fought with rocks and Molotov cocktails for two hours with police and Army nowhere in sight. Cars and garbage containers were set alight, blazing high into the night sky as Coptic youths called their friends and asked them to bring reinforcements. One Christian youth siphoned gasoline from the tank of car parked on the street to use for Molotov cocktails. “They want us to be Muslim but we won’t leave our country," he said. “This is a civil war,” said another who gave his name as Emad.