Blasphemy charges against Christians surge ahead


A wave of blasphemy cases against Egyptian Christians has the community complaining it’s being hounded with flimsy evidence.

From Christian Science Monitor

[It is not so far away from us here in America as we may think.  While not an outright religious challenge, the current spate of government harassment, i.e. the IRS and others targeting Americans, is on the same dangerous road.  We are just nearer to the starting line.

hippo cartoonFr. Orthohippo]

In Brotherhood Egypt, blasphemy charges surges ahead. A blasphemy trial against a Christian teacher in this Egyptian city renowned for its Pharaonic monuments is among a wave of cases that have Egyptian Christians worried they can be jailed for insulting Islam on the flimsiest of evidence.

Dozens of lawyers crowded a small, hot courtroom yesterday, eager to participate in the case against Dimyana Abdel Nour, a primary school teacher from a village near Luxor. Three students accused her of insulting Islam while teaching a social studies class last month. Such blasphemy cases have become much more frequent since the 2011 uprising that brought Islamists to power in Egypt.

Ms. Abdel Nour is now in hiding, and did not attend the court hearing. Her lawyers and local activists say the case is unjust, and local Christians are watching the proceedings with worry. They say the Islamists’ rise to power, including the election of the Muslim Brotherhood‘s Mohamed Morsi, has encouraged extremists to discriminate against Egyptian Christians, known as Copts, who make up around 10 percent of the population.

RECOMMENDED: How much do you know about Egypt? Take this quiz.

To them, Abdel Nour’s case is an example of an increasingly grim reality.

“This case is not just about Dimyana,” says Archbishop Sarabamon El Shayeb, head of the monastery in Abdel Nour’s village. “It’s about organized repression of the Copts. The Islamists are giving out the accusations of blasphemy generously and openly, mostly against Christians.”

Blasphemy cases occurred under former president Hosni Mubarak too, but they have increased since the uprising that toppled him. Egypt’s new constitution, drafted last year by an Islamist-led committee, criminalizes blasphemy, bolstering a pre-existing law against insulting religions. Rights groups say blasphemy laws restrict freedom of expression and are often used against minorities, but most Egyptians support such laws.

From 2011 to 2012, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) tallied 36 accusations of blasphemy that were dealt with extra-legally, sometimes with village residents forcing the accused Christians to leave their village. In Cairo, several cases against prominent figures ended in acquittals. But in southern Egypt, where Luxor is located, all recent cases that have gone to trial have ended in convictions, according to EIPR. Throughout Egypt, most cases are brought against Christians.

EIPR’s Ishak Ibrahim says there were six blasphemy convictions in the last two years in Upper Egypt (as southern Egypt is called because of the direction the Nile flows). Last year a Coptic teacher in the city of Sohag was sentenced to six years in prison for insulting Islam and the president. During his trial, Islamist lawyers surrounded the courthouse, chanting and trying to block the defendant’s lawyers from entering.

FALLOUT

Abdel Nour began working as a substitute teacher at the Naga El Sheikh Sultan primary school in April. Soon after she started, three students accused her of insulting Islam during a social studies lesson. They say she put her hands to her throat while mentioning Islam, as if she wanted to vomit, and then said that the late Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III was better than the Prophet Mohamed.

Mostafa Mekki, the school principal, says he conducted an immediate investigation. According to his handwritten report, he questioned all students in her class, and all but the three who originally accused her denied the accusations.

Speaking in his home in the small village where the controversy began, Mr. Mekki calls the parents of all three children who accused her “extremists.” At least one of them is known for inciting sectarian strife in the past, he says. The principal said the parents were not happy with Abdel Nour, partly because she wore jeans instead of skirts, and didn’t cover her hair.

Mekki decided that the accusations against Abdel Nour were unfounded,

A wave of blasphemy cases against Egyptian Christians has the community complaining it’s being hounded with flimsy evidence.

A blasphemy trial against a Christian teacher in this Egyptian city renowned for its Pharaonic monuments is among a wave of cases that have Egyptian Christians worried they can be jailed for insulting Islam on the flimsiest of evidence.

Dozens of lawyers crowded a small, hot courtroom yesterday, eager to participate in the case against Dimyana Abdel Nour, a primary school teacher from a village near Luxor. Three students accused her of insulting Islam while teaching a social studies class last month. Such blasphemy cases have become much more frequent since the 2011 uprising that brought Islamists to power in Egypt.

Ms. Abdel Nour is now in hiding, and did not attend the court hearing. Her lawyers and local activists say the case is unjust, and local Christians are watching the proceedings with worry. They say the Islamists’ rise to power, including the election of the Muslim Brotherhood‘s Mohamed Morsi, has encouraged extremists to discriminate against Egyptian Christians, known as Copts, who make up around 10 percent of the population.

To them, Abdel Nour’s case is an example of an increasingly grim reality.

“This case is not just about Dimyana,” says Archbishop Sarabamon El Shayeb, head of the monastery in Abdel Nour’s village. “It’s about organized repression of the Copts. The Islamists are giving out the accusations of blasphemy generously and openly, mostly against Christians.”

Blasphemy cases occurred under former president Hosni Mubarak too, but they have increased since the uprising that toppled him. Egypt’s new constitution, drafted last year by an Islamist-led committee, criminalizes blasphemy, bolstering a pre-existing law against insulting religions. Rights groups say blasphemy laws restrict freedom of expression and are often used against minorities, but most Egyptians support such laws.

From 2011 to 2012, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) tallied 36 accusations of blasphemy that were dealt with extra-legally, sometimes with village residents forcing the accused Christians to leave their village. In Cairo, several cases against prominent figures ended in acquittals. But in southern Egypt, where Luxor is located, all recent cases that have gone to trial have ended in convictions, according to EIPR. Throughout Egypt, most cases are brought against Christians.

EIPR’s Ishak Ibrahim says there were six blasphemy convictions in the last two years in Upper Egypt (as southern Egypt is called because of the direction the Nile flows). Last year a Coptic teacher in the city of Sohag was sentenced to six years in prison for insulting Islam and the president. During his trial, Islamist lawyers surrounded the courthouse, chanting and trying to block the defendant’s lawyers from entering.

FALLOUT

Abdel Nour began working as a substitute teacher at the Naga El Sheikh Sultan primary school in April. Soon after she started, three students accused her of insulting Islam during a social studies lesson. They say she put her hands to her throat while mentioning Islam, as if she wanted to vomit, and then said that the late Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III was better than the Prophet Mohamed.

Mostafa Mekki, the school principal, says he conducted an immediate investigation. According to his handwritten report, he questioned all students in her class, and all but the three who originally accused her denied the accusations.

Speaking in his home in the small village where the controversy began, Mr. Mekki calls the parents of all three children who accused her “extremists.” At least one of them is known for inciting sectarian strife in the past, he says. The principal said the parents were not happy with Abdel Nour, partly because she wore jeans instead of skirts, and didn’t cover her hair.

Mekki decided that the accusations against Abdel Nour were unfounded,……….

Rest of story

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About Fr. Orthohippo

The blog of a retired Anglican priest (MSJ), his musings, journey, humor, wonderment, and comments on today's scene.
This entry was posted in abuse, christian, Coptic Christian, orthodox, persecution, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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