Despite the many inconsistencies in Egypt’s governance since the revolution, neglect has been a common thread and one that existed long before protesters began marching to Tahrir Square. This neglect has exacerbated problems. Many of these problems, whether economic or social, are very obvious and serious issues and their neglect has cost lives, damaged the credibility of anyone in charge of governing, and in some cases has made chronic issues seemingly irrevocable.

Since the revolution, violence against Egypt’s largest religious minority has come in spurts, both under military rule in 2011 and under Morsi’s subsequent government. But in the twelve days alone since former president Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, at least nine Christians have been killed in sectarian violence.

Violence against Copts has recently been focused in Luxor, where four Christians were massacred in a politically-motivated mobbing, and in Sinai where a priest was shot by gunmen and a Coptic shopkeeper was kidnapped, only to be found decapitated days later. Meanwhile masked gunmen attacked the Mar Mina Church in Port Said, one of the few attacks with no fatalities.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights released a report on sectarian attacks on Copts since June 30, detailing attacks in Luxor, Minya, Marsa Matrouh, Port Said and in Sinai. In addition to attacks on Christian homes, businesses and churches, flyers were distributed in North Sinai, accusing Christians of “declaring war on Islam,” claiming that they were targeting Muslims, and hoarding arms in churches.

The reasons for sectarian attacks always fall under the same root causes: lack of security and impunity and extremist sectarian rhetoric. However, the political circumstances that preceded and followed Morsi’s removal from power made way for intensified sectarian rhetoric peddled by some supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and its president.

Assem Abdel Maged, a member of Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiya (a group with a history that goes beyond simple sectarian incitement) carried out a media blitz leading up to June 30 alleging that Copts were behind Tamarod, the campaign seeking to unseat Morsi, in coordination with other groups that included the former regime and communists.

Abdel Maged’s allegations epitomize the way in which Islamist media portrays Christians. In much of this media, whether television or on the internet, Copts are casually listed among various political groups and movements. The characterization gives the false impression that Christians are a united political party, similar to the Muslim Brotherhood or any other political force.

This attitude went into full swing when Pope Tawadros II, the leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox church, appeared on television with Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb.

Al-Tayeb and Tawadros’ appearance was an attempt to express that the unseating of Morsi and the formation of a neutral government was a popular decision, backed by the country’s two most important religious institutions. Unfortunately it reinforced grand conspiracies that Christians and their alleged militias were working to derail the Islamist project.

“We tolerated it when Christians all voted for [Ahmed] Shafiq in the presidential elections, or when the Church told them to all vote against the constitution,” said a protester to me earlier this week at Raba’a al-Adaweya, one of thousands participating in a sit-in calling for the reinstating of Morsi to his post as president. “But participating in this coup against legitimacy is unacceptable.” 

Despite the prompt closing of Islamist satellite channels following the change in power, sectarian rhetoric has continued in chants at pro-Morsi demonstrations and through websites supporting the president. 

Websites officially affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood have published at least two articles detailing alleged accounts of Christians converting to Islam as a way of supporting Morsi and his legitimacy. While inflammatory content about Christians has often been restricted to the Brotherhood’s Arabic outlets, the rhetoric is finding its way into its English media as well. One of the most recent articles on the Muslim Brotherhood’s official English language website, Ikhwanweb states that “al-Sisi pitted the armed forces against two-thirds of the people, in support of the remaining third – the leftist, liberals and Copts.” 

In an increasingly polarized social spectrum and amidst a “You’re either with us or against us” mentality, Christians can’t possibly side with the ‘Islamist project’ something that many Morsi supporters hold dearly and see as an integral reason to call for the ousted president’s reinstatement.

Most of Egypt’s Christians neither possessed, nor sought a political voice in pre-revolution Egypt. However, the perceived political freedom that came after Mubarak’s downfall came with a more outspoken minority. That minority has paid a heavy price.

According to the Associated Press, the sectarian attack in Luxor that yielded four fatalities was a result of one of the Christian villager’s participation in Tamarod. Christians were targeted in Rafah long before any campaign to unseat Morsi, but the recent incidents have been systematic and occurred over a very short period of time following the president’s removal, reportedly leading to many churches closing their doors in the volatile region.

Sectarian violence has been a constant in Egypt, dating further back than Mubarak’s downfall. Unfortunately, so have the government’s inaction, a lack of impunity, sectarian rhetoric, and a lack of just mechanisms to deal with such hate speech.

It is in the hands of the interim and future governments, as well as responsible political and social groups to break those constants, but much damage has already been done and the longer such issues go unattended, the more difficulty the country will face in combating an extremist mentality that will continue leaving lost lives, burned churches, and a potentially permanently disenfranchised community in its wake.   

Basil El-Dabh is a reporter for Daily News Egypt. He graduated from Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Economy. He is an Egyptian American and moved to Cairo in 2010.