Coptic Christians Forced to Observe Ramadan
ICC Note: Although it is illegal in Egypt to arrest a Christian who fails to observe Ramadan, a 2016 Fatwa declares that eating or drinking during the fast is not part of the personal freedom of people. Three recent incidents show how this tension can negatively affect Christians. One Christian was held at the police station, and two Christians were beaten. As Ramadan approaches its conclusion, we must keep Christians in the Middle East in our prayers.
06/14/2018 Egypt (World Watch Monitor) – In one of three incidents reported to World Watch Monitor, an Egyptian photographer was detained by police for carrying a bottle of water during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims are required not to eat or drink anything from the first light of dawn until sunset. He claims he was targeted because of his Christian faith.
Hani Shamshoun Girgis, 31, arrived at Giza railway station on 5 June to continue his way to the office of the Tahrir newspaper where he works, when he was approached by a police officer and asked to present his ID.
Girgis told World Watch Monitor that as soon as the officer found out through his ID that he was a Christian, he started searching his bag.
“There was a bottle of water inside my bag and, while he was searching it, he was staring at this bottle with anger,” Girgis said. “He took my ID from me and asked me to follow him. When I resisted and asked where he was taking me, he started insulting me and ordered that I stopped talking — as if I was a criminal.”
At the police station, Girgis says he was told that he was arrested because of the bottle of water found in his bag.
“The officer told me, ‘Why did you have this bottle of water while we are in Ramadan?'” he recalled. “I told them I was not fasting because I was a Christian, but they insulted me and said that I would stay there until sunset and that I was not allowed to sit.”
Girgis says he then called his editor-in-chief at Tahrir newspaper, who came to the police station and saw that he was released.
“I was held at the police station for more than two hours and was dealt with in a very humiliating way for having done nothing,” Girgis said.
“When I am at work, I don’t eat or drink in front of my Muslim colleagues, as a sign of respect,” he added.
Ramy Emad, a Christian lawyer from Cairo, the Egyptian capital, told World Watch Monitor that it is illegal to arrest someone — whether Christian or Muslim — for failing to adhere to the Ramadan fast.
“What the police officer did to Hani is a crime and he must be prosecuted and fired from his position,” the lawyer said.
World Watch Monitor asked the police department of Giza railway station — where Hani was detained — for comment, but they hung up.
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