CAIRO - Egypt's largest Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, will protect churches during Christian celebrations of Christmas.
We have decided to form Muslim Brotherhood committees to protect the churches so that the hands of sin do not ruin the festivities like they did several times under the old regime, the Brotherhood said in a statement cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Christian Copts, who make up nearly 10 percent of Egypt's 80 million population, will celebrate Christmas next week.
Attacks occurred during past Christmas celebrations under toppled president Hosni Mubarak.
Last year, more than 20 people were killed in a car bombing attack outside a church in the coastal city of Alexandria on Christmas Eve.
In January 2010, six Copts were shot dead as they emerged from a Coptic Christmas Eve mass in the southern Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi. A Muslim security guard was also killed in the attack.
The Muslim Brotherhood called on the ruling military council to help protect churches during Christmas celebrations.
We call on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the police to protect the churches in the same way they protected polling stations during the elections, the group said.
A high-profile delegation from the Brotherhood, led by deputy leader Mahmoud Ezzat, will also offer greetings to Pope Shenouda III on Christmas.
Established in 1928 in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is the most powerful force in the country.
For years, the Muslim Brotherhood was banned and its leaders were repressed by governments since the 1950s.
But the group has emerged as the most powerful group after Mubarak's overthrow in a popular revolution in February.
The group's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, has taken nearly half of votes in the first two rounds of the country's parliamentary elections.
The Brotherhood has an overwhelmingly lay leadership of professionals with modern educations -- engineers, doctors, lawyers, academics and teachers.The core membership is middle-class or lower middle-class.