Anti-Christian Hostility Heats Up amid Unrest in Egypt: Two children to be tried for insulting Islam; family imprisoned for reconverting.
ICC Note: Two boys in Egypt will soon be tried for allegedly insulting the Quran, Morning Star News reports. The case follows a lengthy prison sentence given to an Egyptian mother and her seven children for reconverting to Christianity last month. To Egypt’s ruling Islamist parties, banning blasphemy and apostasy means defending the integrity of their religion. They demand that their interpretation of Islam be declared as the only acceptable version and as a result, blasphemy cases against those alleged to have 'insulted Islam' have skyrocketed following the country’s revolution in early 2011.
02/03/2013 Egypt (MSN) - Among files on arrested converts from Islam, kidnapped Christian girls and beaten monks piling up on the desk of a noted lawyer in Egypt, on top is the case of two boys about to be tried for allegedly showing contempt of Islam.
Attorney Karam Gabriel said anti-Christian hostilities in the restive country are getting worse as the two boys are to be tried in a court in Beni Suef – the same city where a mother and her seven children were convicted last month for reconverting to Christianity – for showing “contempt to Islamic religion and insulting the Koran.”
The accusation against Nabil Naji Rizq and Mina Atallah (identified in some press reports as Mina Nadi Faraj), who were 10 and 9 years old respectively at the time of their arrest in late September, of insulting the Koran made headlines throughout the country after a man saw them playing in rubbish that he claimed included pages from the Koran. Accusing them of tearing pages of Islam’s holy book – a later version of the story had them allegedly urinating on it – he filed a report that led to the arrest of the two children. They were released in early October.
Angry protestors from Beni Suef reportedly intimidated Christian residents of the nearby village of Ezbat Marco at that time and prevented them from going to work.
“They are just small children, and they don’t really understand what all the fuss is about – they can’t even tell the difference between the Koran, the Bible or any other holy book,” Gabriel said.
After the sentencing on Jan. 14, Ali and her children were imprisoned, along with two clerical employees of the Ministry of Interior who reportedly helped the family change their identity and residence documentation.
While cases such as that of Ali and her children have drawn international attention, many others remain largely hidden local affairs, Gabriel said. Coptic Christians would like to see more pressure put on the Egyptian government to protect religious minorities, and they expect more concrete steps from the United States, he said.
“We just like to be equal citizens in our own country,” Gabriel said. “Copts and Muslims need to be equal, it’s a simple as that.”
Since the fall of Mubarak in the Jan. 25-Feb. 11, 2011 revolution, Coptic Christians have been subjected to attacks in Qana and Minya (Upper Egypt), Alexandria, Helwan, Dahshour, during a demonstration at the Maspero building in central Cairo and Rafah, among others.
Tens of thousands of Coptic Christians are said to have left Egypt since the revolution, and religious rights advocates say lack of protection as well as pressing economic conditions are a growing threat to the existence of the largest Christian community in the Middle East.