The violence that erupted in Maspero yesterday signals an acutely dangerous turn in the already murky atmosphere of Egypt’s post-revolutionary transition.
I say acutely dangerous because what started out as a peaceful demonstration by Christians, joined by a few Muslims, calling for passing a law that regulates building places of worship, has not only turned into a violent clash with the army for reasons that are still open to speculation, but also because such clash carries what is quite possibly the most explicit sectarian violence associations witnessed since the fall of the Mubark regime, and the starkest undertones of religious tension in recent memory.
I say acutely dangerous because of the shockingly inflammatory rhetoric of misinformation deployed by the Egyptian state media, invoking unwelcome reminders of the Mubarak propaganda machine fielded in full strength during the 18 days that preceded his ouster. The vocabulary used and incendiary undertones implied are confirmations that all talk of state media reform has been nothing but hot air, and that SCAF – heralded as the “Guardian of the Revolution” – is nothing but an annexe of the toppled regime and a disguised tool of continued oppression.
I say acutely dangerous because, as readily evinced to any observer of the Egyptian social and political scene right now, what happened yesterday in Maspero is akin to pouring buckets of kerosene on a field of smouldering coals. Given the vagueness of most reports on what ignited the violence and the mounting dissatisfaction with SCAF’s actions (or often, non-actions) once cannot help but feel that something ominous is brewing.
With the dismal implications of these incidents casting a menacing shadow over the unfolding consequences of Egypt’s revolution, we have to remember that post-January 25th Egyptians are much more flinty-eyed and aware that the SCAF is going to have a very rough time playing divide-and-conquer, if such is indeed the game they choose to play now.