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ICC Note:

Salafi Muslims, who believe in a fundamental interpretation of Islam and want to impose Sharia (Islamic law) over the country, attacked a liquor store on Tuesday, killing one villager. The same day, they protested in Cairo demanding that the Coptic Church release two women being held in confinement for allegedly converting to Islam. One of the woman appeared on Egyptian television saying that she is still a Christian and that the rumors are baseless.

By Maggie Michael

3/29/2011 Egypt (Canadian Press) – Members of an ultraconservative Muslim sect clashed with villagers south of Cairo over demands that a liquor store and coffee shops be closed, officials said Tuesday, a sign of the increasing assertiveness of the fundamentalist Salafi movement.

One villager was killed and eight others were injured in the armed clashes, which erupted late Monday in the village of Kasr el-Bassil in Fayoum province, a security official said.

The fighting broke out after Salafi followers ordered the owner to close the liquor store and coffee shops as they try to forcibly impose their strict interpretation of Islam by banning the drinking of alcohol.

Salafis were tolerated as a religious group under ex-President Hosni Mubarak to counterweight Mubarak’s top foe, the Muslim Brotherhood group but has gained power as it rises to play a more political role as followers now ponder nominate a presidential candidate, following the 18-day uprising that led to the ouster of the former regime. That has alarmed many of the secular and liberal forces in Egypt because of the group’s extremist discourse and imposition of Islamic sharia law.

Dozens of Salafis also staged a protest Tuesday in Cairo, accusing the church of abducting Camilla Shehata, a Coptic priest’s wife who some believe converted to Islam and is being held against her will. Salafis also have accused the police of collaborating with the church by handing Shehata over to Church authorities to reconvert them. The woman’s whereabouts are currently unknown.

Such protests were held almost weekly by the Salafis over the summer as they accused the Coptic Church of conspiring to “Christianize” Egypt, but they largely stopped after a suicide bombing on New Year’s Day outside a Coptic church in the port city of Alexandria killed 21 people.

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