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Five Coptic Christian Children in Egypt Imprisoned for 'Blasphemy' after Mocking ISIS

( [email protected] ) May 08, 2015 01:56 PM EDT
Five Coptic Christian children in Egypt remain in police detention nearly a week after a Muslim mob accused them of blasphemy for being featured in a circulated prayer video with their teacher that showed them mocking the Islamic State terrorist group.
A Coptic Christian man holds a cross made of flowers during a clash between Christians and Muslims in Cairo in November. AP Photo

Five Coptic Christian children in Egypt remain in police detention nearly a week after a Muslim mob accused them of blasphemy for being featured in a circulated prayer video with their teacher that showed them mocking the Islamic State terrorist group.

In a recent report published by Fox News, it was revealed that angry Muslim mobs in the village of Nasreya in Minya recently gathered around the homes of five Christian students and chanted that they had "insulted" Islam.

The mob claimed that the students and their Coptic teacher were guilty of blasphemy, because their video mocked ISIS, a violent extremist group which has overtaken large parts of Iraq and Syria in an attempt to establish a caliphate, displacing and murdering thousands of Christians.

The report notes that while the teacher was arrested and questioned by police over a four-day period, the mobs threw rocks at the homes of the students and demanded that their parents turn over the children to local police.

According to Mina Thabet, a Coptic activist, the children and teacher remain in police detention nearly a week later, along with multiple other Christians who been targeted by Muslims.

"We have five Coptic Christian children charged with blasphemy and insulting Islam," Thabet explained. "We still have other open cases where Christians are charged with inciting violence as if they were the perpetrators, but where they were [actually] the victims."

The Minya Governorate, which was home to the 21 Coptic Christians who were beheaded by ISIS in February, has for the past several years seen ongoing attacks against the Coptic Christian community by Muslims. In April, Coptic Christians building a church honoring the fallen 21 Coptic martyrs in the village of al-Our were attacked by a Muslim mob, who also destroyed the construction using Molotov cocktails, sticks and stones.

According to Lora Moftah of the IBTimes, violence between Muslim and Christian communities in Minya has escalated since 2013, when Egypt's first democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi, who supported the Muslim Brotherhood, was deposed in a coup by the military.

Consequently, some supporters of Morsi believe Christians had a role in his overthrow and revenge attacks against the group, which make up 10% of the population,  have become increasingly common in the southern Egyptian province.

"[Minya] lacks the development and projects needed to sap the energy of young people and protect them from people who exploit them in this kind of strife, such as the Muslim Brotherhood or other parties with particular interests," explained the province's security chief, Maj. Gen. Osama Metwally. "We are faced with many difficulties, most important of which is that people here have highly volatile temperaments, with full-blown sectarian strife almost erupting as a result of trivial disputes that nearly become religious catastrophes."

Todd Daniels, the Middle East regional manager for International Christian Concern, revealed that due to the corrupt nature of Egypt's judicial system, the five Coptic children will likely receive long prison sentences.

"The case of the five arrested in Minya and charged with blasphemy represents yet another case of how Egypt continues to bend to the weight of extremist ideology," Daniels told the Christian Post. "A video - not even shared publicly - that mocked ISIS, a group that openly beheaded twenty Egyptian citizens, has already put these five in prison and may lead to lengthy prison sentences. Despite progress in terms of rhetoric from [Egyptian] President [Abdel Fattah el-Sisi], Egypt has pervasive persecution that continues to occur not only on the societal level but also in the judiciary."