Luxor prosecution has ordered the detention of nine Muslims pending investigation for their role in an attack against the Coptic villagers of al-Mehidat in the district of al-Udaisat in al-Toud, Luxor. It also ordered that the perpetrator of the attack, 19-year-old lbrahim Muhammad, who is unemployed and is still at large and wanted by the police, be caught together with 16 others. The nine detainees have been charged with mobbing, damaging public property–a police vehicle, resisting authorities, and causing injuries to eight policemen.
Muhammad had circulated a rumour in Mehidat that a Coptic young woman, 17-yeast-old Amira Girgis, was in love with him and wished to marry him, and had thus converted to Islam. Her family, he said, would not let her do so and took her away from the village to imprison her in some convent or monastery. He posted photographs of Girgis in a headscarf, and cried out that “our Muslim sister is being held against her will and forced to remain Christian! Oh faithful Muslims, rescue our sister!”
Late last week saw Muslim crowds from four neighboring villages converge on Mehidat, threatening to attack the Copts if they didn’t produce Girgis. The Copts were livid; Girgis’s family claimed that Muhammad had been chasing their daughter in a very unsightly manner and, in order to protect her from his unwanted approaches and also since she must sit for her Secondary School Certificate finals in a few weeks, they took her away from the village. As to her photo with the headscarf, which was claimed by Muhammad to be Islamic higab, they explained that it was part of the school uniform forced upon Christian girls as well as their Muslim fellow-students. It is almost a month now that Girgis has been away from the village.
The local security officials attempted to calm matters by asking Girgis’s family to bring her to the village for her to announce before council that included a local MP, a security official, and five Muslim representatives whether or not she had converted. This outraged the Copts since, according to the law, no under-age person is allowed to take the life-changing decisions of conversion or marriage. They could not condone that a young Coptic woman should be so terrorised as to be made to stand before fundamentalist Muslims who would be sure to tear her to pieces if she denounced Islam. Besides, the Copts bitterly said, “isn’t it ironic that when one of our daughters disappears and the police claim she has converted or married a Muslim, her family is never allowed to see her no matter how much they plead. Now they want us to bring the girl to some Muslim who claims she has converted for him to take her away!”
Father Sarabamon al-Shayeb of the Monastery of the Saints in al-Toud deplored the request of the police, insisting it was an attempt to bring the Copts to their knees. For their part, both Coptic activists in Luxor Mikhail Gedees and Safwat Samaan said that Mehidat was a Muslim Brotherhood hotbed and that the entire matter was an abominable attempt to oppress the Copts and destroy national unity. “The State should never give in to that, otherwise it loses authority and dignity,” they insisted.
The evening of Thursday 23 March saw Muslims from Mehidat and four neighboring villages surround the Copts houses in the village and clamour for Girgis to be produced. They threatened that if their demands were not met by noon the following day, the would attack the Copts. The Copts kept to their homes in terror.
Following Friday noon prayers, the Muslims marched towards the Copts’ houses shouting Islamic slogans and shrieking: “We want Amira.”. But they were confronted by the security forces who had already surrounded the Copts’ houses, and who had to use tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.
The clashes left three police officers and five policemen injured. The police caught nine demonstrators but was still searching for Muhammad and his accomplices. According to Gedees, these accomplices include Ammar Habaasby Ahmed, a peasant; Ahmad Gamal Hammad, a peasant and trader; Hussein Sayed Darwish, an irregular construction labourer; and Ra’fat Muhammad Adam, a schoolteacher.
This morning, 26 March, witnessed a demonstration by the students of al-Udeisi Secondary School, the school Girgis used to go to, demanding “our sister Amira”–the term ‘sister’ is used by Muslims to denote Muslim women. The police met them a little distance from school and send them back. Apparently, peace is not back yet in Mehidat.
26 March 2017