By BosNewsLife News Center
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife) -- Dozens of suspected Muslim militants were said to remain in custody Monday, May 14, after Egyptian security forces arrested them over the weekend on charges of setting fire to Christian homes and shops in clashes over church construction.
At least 59 Muslims were reportedly detained following clashes in which 10 Coptic Christians were injured on Friday, May 11, in the village of Behma, about 60 km (40 miles) south of Cairo. Hundreds of people from both faiths fought with sticks and hurled bricks and firebombs at one another, said Reuters news agency.
Allegations that Christian villagers did not have a permit to build a church reportedly sparked anger among Muslims that turned to violence after Friday prayers when about 300 Muslims clashed with about 200 Christians, reporters said.
Police allegedly did not prevent damage by fire of 27 Christian-owned houses and shops , including 10 homes that were reportedly completely gutted.
It comes at a time when Coptic and other Christians, including former Muslims, have complained that local authorities do not enough to protect then amid fears that a new controversial law will lead to more tensions.
Earlier this month an Egyptian administrative court upheld a ministry of interior decision to refuse 45 Christians wishing to convert back to Christianity from Islam permission for new identification papers and birth certificates that stated they were Christians, media reported.
The interior ministry reportedly refused to issue the papers saying it didn't see a legal reason for doing so and accused the petitioners of "playing with religion to suit their needs."
Christian clergy have voiced their concern over the new law backing such a move, saying Christians must take "a serious stand" against the law and resist "oppression of the government," the Middle East Times publication reported.
Critics claim the Egyptian government is concerned about spreading Christianity and wants to maintain Muslim numbers high. The government has said however it wants to tackle Muslim extremism. (With reporting from Egypt).
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