Monday, January 11, 2010

Fallout of Coptic killing in Egypt continues

Mohamed Abdel Salam

10 January 2010 in Egypt, Featured, News
CAIRO: The reactions to the deadly attack on the Copts in Nag Hammadi on the eve of Coptic Christmas that resulted in the killing of 6 Copts and one Muslim security officer and the injury of 7 others last Wednesday, continued with the condemnation by the Egyptian Government, the Catholic Pope, Sheikh of al-Azhar, the Muslim Brotherhood. This has been followed with reports spreading about Coptic Pope Shenouda III being holding a hunger strike while mourning the death of the Copts.
The country’s interior ministry announced shortly before noon on Friday, the arrest of three suspects for the massacre at Nag Hammadi. The ministry announced the names of the three suspects, led by Mohammed Ahmed Hassan Al Komi, also known as Hammam Al Komi, after they surrendered to police the same day.
Security forces had imposed a massive security siege in the area between the village of Farshout and the town of Nag Hammadi in an effort to curtail further violence.
Major General Adly Fayed, the First Deputy of the Minister of Interior for Public Security Bureau, in statements to Egyptian daily newspaper al-Dostour said that the accused had surrendered after security tightened its grip in the area.
He added: “We interrogated the accused in the State Security Intelligence headquarters to find out their motives for the crime and the first suspect said that the idea of the massacre just came to his mind and he denied receiving money from the family of the raped girl in Farshout.”
For his part, the Bishop Kirolos of Nag Hammadi held a press conference in the Orthodox Diocese to unveil details of the incident. He said: “I knew about the details of the attack before it took place and I informed the security leaders to make the necessary arrangements, but no one took any action for our protection, thus, I met the leaders of churches and told them to finish the service as early as possible and I told my sons not to come to the Patriarchate.”
He added that “I hope for a better presence of security planning in the province of Qena, so we feel secure as Christians and Muslims. I saw with my own eyes the offender Kamoni with another person opening fire on innocent people as the worshippers were leaving the church and then contacted the security services to inform them of what had happened and the whereabouts of the suspects.”
More than 100 activists of the Copts Abroad in Britain organized a protest in front of the headquarters of the BBC on Friday morning to protest and condemn the events. Dr. Ibrahim Habib, the head of the United Copts Organization in England said in a special statement to al-Youm al-Saba’a that it is the first time in the history of England, when the Copts hold a demonstration because of the events. The protest, according to Habib, came to protest “the lack of objective coverage of the BBC of the events in Egypt, as the channel covered the story in a false way.”
In a related development, Free Copts and the Coptic Voices Organization in the United States, called for a peaceful march be organized on Tuesday, January 19, in front of the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, in order to protest the recent sectarian violence incidents.
The Egyptian Center for Development and Human Rights, in turn, called on President Mubarak to intervene personally to end the “sectarian sedition” in Qena Governorate.
The statement also demanded the dismissal and resignation of both of the interior minister and security chief of Qena, Magdi Ayyoub, “as they are failing to protect the security of Egyptian citizens in that province.”
The group criticized the role taken by the Egyptian media, “in an attempt to delay the incident and showing it as an individual incident, which is totally untrue.”
Several human rights activists also launched sharp attacks on the official and religious institutions of the state, accusing them of being responsible for the violence in the town, adding that the state “pursues policies and promotes political speech that has enshrined discrimination against the Copts, and restricts freedom of religion for non-Muslim citizens.”
El-Din Hassan, Director of the Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies, argued that this unfortunate incident is a continuation of the deterioration over the last decade of Coptic issues, stressing that this incident reveals the “absence of political will on the political system to solve the crises of Christians and other religions including the Shiites, Baha’is and Quranists,” indicating that the real culprit is not the unknown suspects who committed the incident in question, “but it is in the hands the government and the official religious establishment and security services, formal education and the sheikhs of the satellite channels. Their hands are stained with the blood of the Coptic victims.”
Hossam Bahgat, Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, stressed the need to investigate the security agencies, which failed to prevent the accident, “although it was aware that a number of Copts received threatening messages two months before the incident by Muslims in revenge for the rape of a Muslim girl in November 2009.”
Bahgat said that the responsibility for the recent incident is on the state that discriminates against the Copts and adopts policies that would slander them, calling for immediate action as a deterrent to criminals, and the introduction of legislative amendments that criminalizes discrimination against the Copts.
Like Bahgat, many activists have demanded reforms of the education curriculum and the discourse in the official media and to review the position of sheikhs on popular satellite channels and the official religious establishment “that encourages hatred of non-Muslims.”

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