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Tuesday August 15, 2006

CHRISTIAN COBBLER KNIFED FOR OFFHAND COMMENT

Muslim fanatic with criminal record admits intention to kill him and ‘all infidels.’

Fouad Fawzy Tawfik

Compass Direct News – A Muslim ex-convict stabbed and killed a Christian cobbler northeast of Cairo in June, confessing that he had planned to murder him because he was an ‘infidel’ who had made an offhand comment that offended him.

Hossam Hafez Ahmad Attaya knifed Fouad Fawzy Tawfik on June 27 as the shoemaker was bending down to take the Muslim man’s foot measurement near his shop in Zagazig, provincial capital of Sharkeya.

“I want to kill him because he is an infidel, let me kill them all!” Attaya was heard to shout as he sunk an eight-inch blade into the Christian’s left lung and stomach, according to Tawfik’s family.

“My brother was clearly victimized for being a Christian,” Noshe Fawzy Tawfik told Compass.

Restraining Attaya from stabbing Fouad Tawfik a second time, bystanders called an ambulance. The shoemaker died minutes later from loss of blood before he could reach the hospital.

Attaya admitted during questioning that he had planned the murder in response to a joke Fouad Tawfik had made several days before, lawyer Fady Nabil Labib told Compass. Labib, who is representing the victim’s family, quoted Attaya from official investigation records as saying he was specifically angered by Fouad Tawfik’s offhand comment that “tomorrow America is going to invade Egypt and kill everyone in it.”

On June 27 Attaya visited his cousin’s shoe shop, located only 50 meters (165 feet) away from Fouad Tawfik’s store, and pretended to be interested in buying shoes. The Muslim man had his cousin call Fouad Tawfik to take measurements and then attacked him with a concealed knife.

Labib told Compass that a case against Attaya is due to be heard in a criminal court but that no date has been set for the hearing.

Labib and Zagazig church leaders are confident that Attaya will be fairly prosecuted, though not necessarily because the ex-convict has pled guilty in initial interrogations.

Father Daniel Habib

“If there is any kind of fairness in this situation, it is because of his past crimes, not because he killed a Christian,” Father Daniel Habib, priest of St. Antonius Coptic Orthodox church, told Compass. Fouad Tawfik’s funeral was held at the church.

Attaya is a follower of the strict Wahhabi Islam, which views the creation of human images as a form of idolatry. The Muslim was sentenced last year for attempting to destroy an ancient statue of Ramses II located at the entrance of Zagazig University and for burning a picture of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Legal Loopholes

Recent events have made Egypt ’s Coptic Christians, estimated to number between 8 million and 15 million, particularly wary of legal loopholes used to acquit those who carry out periodic attacks on Christians.

Last month Egypt dropped charges against a Muslim for his April knife attacks on churches in Alexandria – which killed one churchgoer and wounded more than a dozen others – after a committee of psychiatrists published a report that he was mentally imbalanced.

In Zagazig, Christians are confident that Attaya will not be acquitted on the pretext of insanity.

“They can’t say he is insane, because he was already tried for burning a picture of Mubarak,” Fr. Habib commented. “He can’t be sane one minute and not the next.”

Double Standard

The disparity between police treatment of Hossam Attaya and treatment received by Christian murder suspects in the nearby village of Kafr Salama Ibrahim has angered church leadership and lawyers.

Certain interpretations of Islamic tradition demand that a murderer or his family pay compensation to the family of the victim. Police invoked this extra-legal “blood-money” settlement last December by detaining 11 Christians without trial in Kafr Salama Ibrahim and insisting that they pay 1 million Egyptian pounds to the family of the Muslim man they were suspected of killing.

After four days in police custody, the Christians gave law enforcement officers deeds to five of their homes as compensation. All 11 had expected to be released, but police kept five. Their case has yet to be heard in Masoura’s Criminal Court (See Compass Direct, “Egyptian Copts Lose Homes, Freedom over Murder Charge,” August 14).

Christian lawyers involved in the Kafr Salama Ibrahim case agreed that the Christians had been blackmailed into accepting the extra-legal settlement.

Though Article 2 of the Egyptian constitution designates shariah, Islamic law, as the basis for country’s legal system, it does not give police the power to impose Islamic law verdicts on citizens without granting them a fair trial.

“After Tawfik was murdered, we demanded compensation because of Kafr Salama,” Father Habib said. “Police told us, ‘Okay, the victim and the killer’s families should sit down together and work out an agreement.’ But soon they forgot all about it and no compensation was ever given.”

Christian lawyers were skeptical that there was any legal recourse for pursuing the same type of extra-legal settlement that they said police had unilaterally imposed upon Christians in Kafr Salama Ibrahim.

Fr. Habib noted, “The real injustice is how police acted differently in these two cases. “In Kafr Salama they enforced Islamic law, but in this situation [the murder of Fouad Tawfik], it was just a suggestion.”

Tawfik’s Wife and Children

With the death of her husband, Fouad Tawfik’s wife, Abeer Magdy Mekaye, now faces the challenge of raising her two small children alone.

“I want to be a good mom and to help my kids grow up in a Christian home and to know their faith,” said the mother of 6-year-old Batul and 3-year-old Fawzy. “I need God’s help, because I have problems in my spine and leg. Please pray for my physical healing and the ability to heal from the loss of my husband.”