The village in Nassriya in Beni-Mazar, Minya, in Upper Egypt has been the scene of an attack by the village Muslims against the Copts on account of claims that a young Coptic teacher derided Islam. The 26-year-old Gad Younan was accused of shooting a 30-second video clip—some claim he has posted it on his Facebook page—of five Coptic youngsters who were sarcastically performing a depiction of the IS beheading of the 20 Copts in Libya last February. When Younan passed them and asked what they were doing they answered that they were “praying”. Younan laughed and said: “Gamaan”, a term usually told to a Muslim when he completes his prayers, and filmed the scene. He had it on a memory card on his mobile phone, but he lost that card which was later found by the village Muslims. As the video was circulated, Muslims found it insulting and claimed the Copts must be punished for deriding Islam.
On Tuesday 7 April the Muslims filed a complaint with the police against Younan and the young Copts, all of whom were underage secondary school students. The police caught Younan, but the village Muslims waged demonstrations that screamed insults against Christians and Christianity and pelted the Copts’ homes with stones, knocking threateningly on their doors and windows. The elders of the village Muslims intervened and calmed the situation, and security forces descended on the village to work at controlling the situation.
The demonstrations continued the following two days and grew more violent especially following the Muslim Friday noon prayers. A Coptic-owned photo studio, pharmacy and several homes were damaged. The families of the five Coptic students were forced to hand them over to the police. These families had to leave the village for fear of their lives.
The village Muslims demanded, for peace to prevail, that the families of the six Coptic defendants should leave the village for good, a demand rejected by all the village Copts. Yet the Copts live in fear; many of them cannot leave their homes or send their children to school. Schools administrations have asked the Coptic students to stay home for their own safety. Even though the security forces have guarded the village churches against any attack, especially given that last week was Holy Week for Copts and Sunday was Easter, the Copts are angry that the police has not caught any of the Muslim attackers and only caught the Coptic ‘offenders’. Investigations are ongoing, and the harassment and attacks against Copts have not stopped.
According to Ishaq Ibrahim of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a rights group, cases of deriding Islam have risen drastically following the Arab Spring uprising in January 2011. Defendants do not usually get fair trials since the penal code is not well-defined on such charges, Mr Ibrahim says, and also because the fundamentalists terrorise the judges and the courts.
13 April 2015