Muslims and Christians clashed outside a Cairo church as Egypt’s military said that the country would hold its parliamentary election in September as previously scheduled and then prepare a constitution before a presidential poll.
Previous sectarian clashes forced the closure of the flashpoint church more than two years ago, security officials said.
The Church of the Virgin, in the Cairo neighborhood of Ain Shams district, was one of several the government pledged would be reopened after hundreds of Copts staged a 12-day sit-in to protest attacks on their community.
Security officials told Agence-France Presse several hundred Muslims and Coptic Christians pelted each other with stones after fundamental Islamists showed up at the church to object to its reopening.
The Associated Press put the number of ultraconservative Salafi Muslims at 1,000.
Military police moved in and restored calm, the officials said on condition of anonymity.
Hundreds of Muslims had attacked two churches in Cairo overnight on May 7, claiming Christians were detaining a Muslim convert.
Fifteen people died in the violence that drove Egypt’s precarious religious tensions to the brink.
The attacks prompted the caretaker government to pledge it would reopen churches like the one in Ain Shams and ease restrictions on building Christian places of worship.
Copts make up about 10 percent of the country’s 80-million people and complain of state-sanctioned discrimination, such a law that requires them to obtain presidential permission before building a church.
Egypt’s military, meanwhile, said that the country will hold its first parliamentary election since Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow as scheduled in September and then prepare a constitution before a presidential poll.
General Mahmdouh Shahin, a member of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, said the parliamentary election would be held “no later than September 30,” the official MENA news agency reported.
“After the parliamentary election, a new constitution will be drafted, and then presidential elections will be conducted,” the agency quoted him as saying.
Mr. Shahin was speaking at the announcement of an amended law on political participation that stipulated that judges will monitor the vote, which will take place over two or three rounds.
The amendments did not specify whether Egyptians abroad will be able to vote and Mr. Shahin said there were logistical problems that have to be considered when it came to absentee ballots.
Mohammed ElBaradei, a prominent dissident and possible presidential nominee, wrote on Twitter that the amended law “bars millions of Egyptians abroad from their right to choose their representatives,” according to AFP.
The law, as it stands, allows all adult Egyptians, except criminals, to vote without specifying if that extends to citizens who live abroad.
The September election will be the first since the National Democratic Party of former president Hosni Mubarak was dissolved after his ouster from power on February 11 by a popular uprising.
Secular groups that led the revolt want the election postponed while they form parties able to compete with the much better organized Muslim Brotherhood, which will contest roughly 50 percent of the 508 elected seats.
(Abeer Tayel, an editor at Al Arabiya, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)