By Ashraf Sadek –
The Egyptian Gazette
Sunday, July 3, 2011 03:01:19 PM
CAIRO – A cautious calm has returned to a small town in the Upper Egyptian Governorate of Minya following a day of clashes between Muslims and Copts over harassment of women that left seven people injured, police officials said.
Samallout Central Hospital stated it had treated seven people for gunshot wounds. But there were no reports of fatalities.
A clash broke out after a Muslim microbus driver harassed a young Christian woman, the officials said, adding that a number of shops were burned to the ground during the unrest.
Police arrested a score of people and increased security in the town near Minya City for fear of further violence, the officials said.
Relations between Muslims and Christians are usually calm, but can become strained and erupt into violence over issues such as women.
The Christians said a 19-year-old woman was harassed by a Muslim driver, whom they accused of annoying Coptic girls on a daily basis, the sources said.
The clashes erupted after the young woman returned to her family. The fighting involved sticks, knives and firearms, the sources added.
The girl’s family attacked the driver and his colleagues , they said. What began as a fight between young people spilled over into big scale violence between Muslims and Copts, Bishop Dawood Nashid said.
“Police have detained people from both sides. The situation is now calm, but seven were injured,” Bishop Nashid added.
He said the violence erupted on Thursday night, when Muslims and Copts went on the rampage in the streets of Samallout, directing their anger at each other after a fight between young men had broken out.
“Many Muslim and Christian residents took to the streets and burned shops owned by both sides,” Bishop Nashid said.
The residents, furious about the lack of police protection, poured into the streets and protested for at least five hours, a police official said.
Bishop Nashid stated the police had promised to control the situation in the future.