Two Coptic Christians fled arrest in Egypt after the men allegedly blamed Islamic leaders for a jihadi bus attack.
Bassem Abdel-Malak Fahim, 25, and Mina Younan Samuel, also 25, remain on the run after Egyptian police charged them with inciting sectarian strife via Facebook comments. Muslims rioted over the social media post.
The post specifically criticized Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for making a show of opposing Islamic extremism in Libya, but for allegedly doing nothing in Egypt. Fahim accused certain Muslim clerics in Egypt of encouraging attacks against Christians, according to Christian Today (CT).
“This post spread among the Muslim villagers, and all people in the village were talking about this post, saying it was an insult to Islam,” Adel Girgis, a Coptic in the village, told World Watch Monitor (WWM). “They then begin to insult and threaten us while we were walking in the village streets, and hit two Copts.”
Though Fahim posted in May and deleted it shortly thereafter, Muslims in the village of Ezbat El-Sheikh Nageim took notice of the post Sep. 6, as the post was saved when Samuel shared it. Word spread among the Muslim community, inciting anger and resentment toward Christians in the area. Fahim fled the region of Minya with his father to seek sanctuary in Cairo.
The tension that mounted in the following days exploded on Sep. 14 after security officials withdrew from protecting Fahim’s home in Minya. It seemed the outcry had died down. A large crowd of Muslims, however, regrouped at 9 p.m. that night and began ransacking Coptic houses and churches, according to WWM.
Muslim rioters injured two Coptic men and one Coptic woman in the ensuing attack. A Coptic mother of two children aged two and eight whose house was attacked described the riot as “a night of terror and fear.”
“What was the sin we committed to have all these things happen to us?” the mother told WWM, wishing to remain anonymous. “We have received threats and insults from some Muslims in the village, even now, despite the presence of the security officials. We are afraid that these attacks will be renewed when the security officials leave the village.”
Police initially detained 100 people and still hold 19 people in custody. The governor of the of the region, Essam el-Bedawi, visited the village Sep. 15 with a security detail and several Egyptian politicians to negotiate peace between Muslim and Christian leaders in the area.
“There are parties whose purpose is to destabilize the security and stability of the homeland and those people will never succeed in their quest,” Bedawi said, according to CT. “Egypt will remain strong and proud, despite the spiteful and disloyal people. You [Christians and Muslims] should stand united against any attempt to undermine the good relations between you.”
Fahim offered an apology on Facebook on the day of Bedawi’s visit.
“I did not mean to offend any religious or public figures, but rather terrorism and terrorists, the enemies of the homeland,” Fahim wrote, according to CT. “I deleted that post from that date, and I did not write anything after it. I affirm my love and respect for all Christians and Muslims, and everyone in my dear country.”
Police hold both Samuel and Fahim responsible for inciting the riots, though neither of them have been arrested as of yet.
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