The case of the Luxor teacher Demiana Abdel-Nour who is charged with religious contempt, is yet another case in a long line of the Coptic saga of false accusations on no evidence
The case of the Luxor teacher Demiana Abdel-Nour who is charged with religious contempt,is yet another case in a long line of the Coptic saga of false accusations on no evidence. This saga, dominated by the Islamist fanatics, ensures that cases are unfairly handled and judged. Abdel-Nour’s case has been adjourned to 4 June. The school principal and the head of the Luxor education directorate, however, whose testimonies would have been in Demiana’s favour, have not been asked to testify.
Watani met Mustafa Mikki the principal of Naga Sheikh Sultan School, the school where Demiana Abdel-Nour was accused of deriding Islam. As we drove through the lush fields to the village where Mekki lived, the peaceful beauty that surrounded us made it difficult to believe such grating hostilities took place there.
We reached Mekki’s home, only to find he was getting ready to go to a wedding he had been invited to but, once we informed him of our mission, he graciously accepted to delay his errand and take the time to talk to Watani.
Testimonies do not match
Mekki insisted there was absolutely no evidence to incriminate Abdel-Nour. “A number of fanatic parents forged the signatures of other parents on the official complaint,” he said. These fanatics, he said, are taking a strong stance against him for having spoken the truth in this case.
The official investigations, Mekki said, include not a shred of evidence to support the allegations made against Abdel-Nour.
The whole story began when he requested more teachers for his school so Abdel-Nour wassent to fill in for a teacher who was on leave. She started at the beginning of April, shuttling between several schools. On 8 April she explained the lesson about religious life in Egypt and, by chance, this lesson was attended by the Social Studies inspector from the Education Ministry. “A parent later came to me to say that the Social Studies teacher spoke about the three religions and when she mentioned Islam she put her hand on her neck—a gesture that the father took to mean that she wanted to throw up—then added that Pope Shenouda was better than the Prophet Mohamed.”
Mikki said he told the father he would directly investigate the matter, which he did. The stories of the children in that class did not match: the three children who said Abdel-Nour had made a gesture did not agree what gesture she made; nor id they agree on what derogatory remark they claimed she had uttered. Ten other children denied that the teacher had said anything of the sort, or made any gesture at all. All the children of the other Year Four class denied that anything was mentioned about the pope or the prophet.
The following day, Mikki said, he asked the Social Studies inspector to investigate the matter further with the children and also to dismiss Abdel-Nour and let her go back to the school she originally worked at. He took this measure, he said, in order to protect her, since he had discovered knives and sharp objects with the children whose parents had complained. While the inspector was investigating, some Islamist teachers tried heap blame against Abdel-Nour but were told to stay away as they were in no way involved. “This gave rise to threats against me and against Abdel-Nour, with one teacher, Mohamed Zaky, swearing to ‘kill that woman not with a knife but with my bare hands’ ”.
Mikki said there was nothing in the entire investigation to incriminate Abdel-Nour but, obviously, the aim of the Islamists was to sow sedition. A complaint was submitted to the local authorities, signed by 13 parents and 13 teachers, some of whom later said they didn’t even know that their names had been signed to the complaint. Three of the signatories were not parents of children in the school. On 16 April a security officer came to school and an official investigation was held with the 13 teachers who had signed the complaint. The result was sent to the administrative prosecutor’s office along with the other investigations that had been made by the inspector and by Mikki.
The matter became worse, Mikki said, when a journalist got wind of a “hot story” here, and began to splash fictitious headlines that worked to make the case more explosive. He even used the names of the board of trustees of the school and got them involved. This also got the Islamist lawyers in Luxor involved and complicated matters more so that closing the issue in a friendly manner became impossible. “And now the Islamists besiege the courthouse and terrorise the prosecutor and the judges, threatening that no-one who allows ‘that woman’ to go free is a good Muslim,” he said.
Much worse, however, according to Mekki the educator and teacher for so many years, the issue does not stop at that. In bitter sadness and dismay, he deplored the long-term effects of the incident, “Can you imagine,” he said, “how this event can spoil relations between pupils and their teachers, and between Muslim and Christian pupils? This is something that won’t go away any time soon.”
Means to an end
Watani also met Father Sarapamon al-Shayeb of the Saints Monastery in al-Toud, Luxor, and the pastor of the church of which Abdel Nour is a member. Fr Sarapamoun believes that targeting Christians with charges of contempt of Islam has become part of the post-2011-Revolution general tide against Christians in Egypt, along with the burning of churches, abduction of girls, discrimination in workplaces, and many others. “It is as though there is a systematic plan targeting Copts, designed to intimidate and isolate,” he said.
The case against Abdel-Nour is not a stand-alone stance; it is just one among many means to an end which is Islamising education and gaining control over all the education institutes in the country. He added that the case is meant to frighten the Copts and to isolate them especially in Upper Egypt and it is indeed destroying all feelings of unity, companionship and family that were integral parts of the Egyptian character regardless of religion.
The photos show Watani’s Nader Shukry with Mekki and Fr Sarapamoun
26 May 2013
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