Washington, D.C. (October 4, 2012) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that two Christian boys were arrested in Egypt on Sunday for allegedly desecrating pages of a Quran. At least 17 people, mainly Christians, have been detained in the country on similar charges in recent weeks following rising sensitivities over the release of a film derogatory toward Islam.
Mina Nady Farag and Nabil Nagy Rizk, ages nine and ten, were detained on September 30 when Ibrahim Mohamed Ali, a local imam from their home village of Ezbet Marco in the Beni Suef province of Egypt, accused the children of tearing pages of a Quran. The boys are being held in a juvenile detention center until their scheduled court appearance on Sunday.
“An apology is not acceptable,” Sheik Gamal Shamardal, a Muslim cleric and the local leader of Gamaa Islamiya, once Egypt's largest militant group, told The Associated Press. “This feels like it was arranged [by local Christians]. There was a lot of anger particularly with the circumstances the country is going through after the film. It was like spilling oil on fire.”
Accusations of insulting Islam have increased in Egypt since violent protests swept the Middle East last month over a US-produced film that ridicules Islam. On September 13, Alber Saber, an Egyptian Christian blogger, was arrested after being accused by neighbors of posting the anti-Islam film, “Innocence of Muslims,” on his Facebook page. Saber has been imprisoned for more than three weeks on charges of disdaining religion and ridiculing religious beliefs and rituals.
In another case, Nevine al-Sayed, a Christian school teacher in the Upper Egypt town of Assiut, was accused by one of her students of insulting the Muslim prophet Mohammad in class on Monday, Egypt Independent reports. Al-Sayed allegedly used the word “unfortunate,” which is very close to the word “poor” in Arabic, when describing Mohammad’s upbringing, according to an interrogation report. She was released on Thursday.
At least 17 people have been charged for blasphemy in Egypt following the release of the anti-Islam film, said Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. “This is a very serious development and is an attack on freedom of expression,” Ibrahim explained. “The Islamic trend has nothing to offer in terms of realizing social justice and is seeking to create issues to keep people from criticizing them.”
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Blasphemy cases against those alleged to have ‘insulted Islam’ have skyrocketed in Egypt in recent weeks following violent protests and rising sensitivities over the release of the anti-Islam film in the US. However, it is not the film that should be blamed for the influx of blasphemy cases. Rather, it is extremists who have used the film as an excuse to press their Islamic agenda, arguing that banning blasphemy means standing up for Islam. The battle is being waged by Islamists who want their interpretation of religion to be declared as the only acceptable version. Sadly, the Islamists are getting their way, and blasphemy charges, like those filed against the two young boys, will inevitably increase. We urge Egyptian officials to immediately release the two children, lest they become the latest victims of abused blasphemy legislation. No child should fear imprisonment because they are members of a minority religious community.”
Please call the Egyptian Embassy in your country to express your concerns:
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For interviews, contact Aidan Clay, Regional Manager for the Middle East: firstname.lastname@example.org
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