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ICC Note:

After three silent months, some Egyptian Muslims on Tuesday again took to the streets to protest against rumors that the wife of a Coptic priest, who allegedly converted to Islam, was kidnapped and tortured by the Coptic Church in an effort to reconvert her to Christianity. As religious tensions in Egypt continue to heighten, demonstrations of this sort will only further divide a country that desperately needs to unify in this post revolution era.

By Mary Abdelmassih

3/30/2011 Egypt (AINA) – Hundreds of Muslims staged a protest in front of the State Council this morning, during the hearing of the case filed by a number of Muslim clerics with the administrative judiciary court, contesting the validity of the detention of Camelia Shehata and Wafaa Constantine in the churches of Pope Shenouda III.

After a three-months pause Muslims resumed their demonstrations today against the Egyptian Coptic Church, demanding the release of Camelia Shehata, a priest’s wife, and “her sisters in faith,” whom they allege converted to Islam and are imprisoned by the Church and tortured to give up Islam (AINA 9-18-2010).

Pope Shenouda III told Al Ahram newspaper at the beginning of this crisis in August 2010 that Camelia is a Christian and no one has the right to know her whereabouts or ask where she is. Camelia later appeared on a video taken by the independent newspaper ElYoum7 and confirmed she is a Christian, never converted to Islam, and is staying of her free will in a place belonging to the church (video of Camelia with English subtitles).

Demonstrators held photos of Camelia and chanted slogans demanding her release, saying she was being held in one of the monasteries after she converted to Islam. They also distributed a statement entitled “from Camelia Shehata to Muslims,” urging Muslims to defend her and set her free.

A number of Muslim leaders announced during their sit-in today the establishment of the “Coalition for the Support New Muslims”, a coalition between several Muslims and Muslim Brotherhood leaders, in addition to the Islamic Group.

Representatives of the coalition distributed a statement that their goals were to set free new Muslims, held captives within the Church, which they claim total nearly 70 women and men. Included in this list are Wafaa Constantine, Mary Abdullah Zaki, Camelia Shehata, Marianne Makram, Teresa Ibrahim, Abeer Ibrahim and Elia Nabil Ayad.

They also demanded to hold accountable anyone involved in the kidnapping, detention or torture of any Muslim convert, and to provide legal protection and human rights for anyone who wants to convert to Islam.

Today’s demonstration was covered by the media due to the propaganda that preceded the event. Muslims announced on the web that any woman seen without Hijab or not covering her head on Tuesday March, 29, would be killed, which frightened many Christian women. This prompted the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization (EUHRO) to file a complaint against the Muslims with the office of the Head of the Military Council, accusing them of terrorizing Christian women (video of demonstration).

Islamic thinker Dr. Salim Al-Awa said yesterday on the popular TV program “90 Minutes” that Camellia Shehata is not a Muslim, never converted to Islam and is still a Christian. Al-Awa said: “I said on more than one TV channel that the issue of Camellia is a personal issue with her husband.”

Dr. Hossam elBokhary, Coordinator of the Coalition told the independent newspaper ElYoum7 that the goal of the coalition is managing the crisis of those women who are detained by the Church, because of its seriousness saying, “We must block the way for any act of chaos which exploits the issue of Camelia as happened in the events of the bombing of the Church in Iraq and the Church of the Two Saints in Alexandria.

In an interview with Coptic activist Mariam Ragy of Free Christian Voice, a Muslim demonstrator said that the reason for this protest was the follow-up of the Camelia case “according to the law”. He said that Muslims have nothing against the Christians, but with those who are forcibly confining any Christian female who converts to Islam to revert her back by force to Christianity. “We have proof which we will put in front of Court” he said.

Another demonstrator introduced himself as doctor Mohamad and said “The matter is simple, we want Pope Shenouda to bring Camelia out in a non-biased place, if she is not a Muslim he can take her back.” He said that they have a rule in Sharia Law that says that as long as there is a Muslim “captive,” then all Muslim have a duty to save that person. “All demonstrators believe that Camelia is a captive.” He said that the matter would end as soon as Camelia comes out in a non-biased place and say that she is not under any pressure, and then whatever she says, the matter will be closed.

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