Muslims and Christians in Egypt made common cause in agitating for the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, but the alliance is fraying. A report by The Times' Jeffrey Fleishman about the country's Coptic Christians — 10% of the population — suggests that they are developing painful second thoughts about the "Arab Spring" now that Islamist parties are in the ascendance.
Like other Egyptians, Copts believe that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took control after Mubarak was deposed, has overstayed its welcome. But even the military is viewed as more welcoming of Christians than the Islamic parties that have dominated the first phase of parliamentary elections. In recent days, some strident voices have called openly for a strict Islamic state. A popular preacher was dismissive of protection for minorities. "The Crusader Christians are a minority and we can never equate a minority's rights with the majority's," said Wagdi Ghoneim. "How can they ask for the same rights as ours?"
It is unclear how influential such voices are. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose party led in the first round of the elections, has been conciliatory toward Christians. A government in which it played the leading role could emphasize its Islamic roots without oppressing or marginalizing Christians. Or perhaps it wouldn't. There is no guarantee that, once in power, the Brotherhood would abide by its assurances.