Egypt's Coptic Christians Fearful Amid Outrage Over Muhammad Film

As an anti-Islam film, allegedly promoted by an Egyptian Coptic Christian in the United States, is causing outrage in the Middle East, Egypt's minority community fears it might lead to backlash sooner or later.

The film, "The Innocence of Muslims," by filmmaker identified by U.S. federal officials as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, believed to be a Coptic Christian living in the United States, has provoked an anti-American fury across the Middle East and beyond. The Coptic community in Egypt fears the anger might turn toward it now or some time later.

"We are worried about violence," Mina Thabet, an activist and founding member of Maspero Youth Union, a group of Coptic Christians, told USA Today. "There will be more violence against us. There will be more discrimination. There will be more hate."

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On Friday, the fourth day of demonstrations in Egypt, at least one protester was killed, more than 27 people were injured and 145 protesters were arrested near the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

Following last year's ouster of longtime dictator, President Hosni Mubarak, persecution of Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the country's population, has increased. They are anxious about their future, as extremist Muslim groups, which remained underground or inactive during the rule of Mubarak, got socially and politically active after the fall of his regime following the Jan. 25 revolution.

Some Coptic Christians think the recent arrest of a young Copt in Cairo for posting the anti-Islam film on his Facebook page could be a sign of what to expect in the coming days and months. His family's home was also attacked.

"Right now, I'm not projecting anything will happen," Hossam Kadry, an Egyptian photographer, was quoted as saying. "When violence rises, it rises all at once, but now things have calmed down ... But it could be worse later."

"The general climate is turning against Christians," Bishop Morcos, a Coptic leader, recently told AFP. "Assaults on Christians have increased." Washington's 2011 International Religious Freedom Report, also expressed concern over "both the Egyptian government's failure to curb rising violence against Coptic Christians and its involvement in violent attacks."

The Copts also fear they may not be fully protected by the government of President Mohamed Morsi, who is from the Muslim Brotherhood.

However, Youssef Sidhom, editor-in-chief of Watani newspaper, which has a large Coptic Christian readership, is hopeful. He told USA Today that Copts in Egypt have expressed anger at the film and denounced it for the same reasons Muslims have. Egypt's Coptic Christian Church denounced the film as "part of a wicked campaign against religions, aimed at causing discord among people, especially Egyptians."

Among the demonstrations against the film were peaceful protests by Copts expressing solidarity with Muslims, Sidhom said. "So I don't expect any backlash here in Egypt."

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