Region | Egypt

Christians’ eviction from Egyptian village re-ignites communal tensions

Christians are angry with the predominately Muslim country’s authorities for allegedly condoning the eviction of Coptic families from a village over a reported affair between a Christian man and a Muslim woman

  • By Ramadan Al Sherbini Correspondent
  • Published: 17:32 February 13, 2012

Cairo Egypt’s Christians are angry with the predominately Muslim country’s authorities for allegedly condoning the eviction of Coptic families from a village over a reported affair between a Christian man and a Muslim woman.

The eight Coptic families were dislocated late last month from the village of Sharbat in Alexandria, Egypt’s second biggest city, under a deal arranged by the village’s notables to allay Muslim residents’ anger, according to reports in the local media.

What happened is a national disgrace. The people forced to leave the village have no link to the man accused of having an affair with the Muslim girl

Hani Ramsis, a Coptic activist

The Muslim villagers damaged houses and stores owned by Christian neighbours after footage showing the Coptic man and the Muslim women were circulated among mobile users in the area, said human rights groups.

“This is a phenomenon, not a single incident,” said Christian lawmaker Emad Jad.

“There is deliberate insistence on sidelining the power of the law and leaving such issues for local people to resolve through reconciliation sessions,” he added.

Jad has presented an urgent request to the newly-elected parliament to discuss the incident. The parliament’s Human Rights Committee Monday opened an inquiry into the incident.

“This issue is underlined by two crimes: collective punishment and arbitrary emigration, which threaten to give rise to demographic discrimination in Egypt,” said Jad.

Members of the parliament were involved in working out the controversial deal that included the “forcible displacement” of the Coptic families from the village, according to Christian activists.

“What happened is a national disgrace,” said Hani Ramsis, a Coptic activist. “The people forced to leave the village have no link to the man accused of having an affair with the Muslim girl,” he added.

Ramsis accused the ruling military council and the Islamist-dominated parliament of pursuing an anti-Coptic policy purportedly adopted by the regime of the now-ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

Hundreds of Christians Sunday staged a protest outside the parliament in Cairo over the incident.

Potential presidential contender Amr Mousa Monday denounced the incident as “unacceptable any circumstances”. “The executive authorities should take all necessary measures to prevent its recurrence now or in the future,” he added in his twitter account.

The row comes more than four months after 27 people, mostly Christians, were killed in clashed with army troops in Cairo during a protest over the destruction of a church in Upper Egypt.

Relations between Egypt’s Muslims and Christians are usually harmonious. But they are occasionally strained due to disputes over conversions and the construction of places of worship.

Last April, 14 Muslims and Christians in the Cairo poor area of Imbaba were killed in fighting after a rumour went round that a Muslim convert had been held inside a church against her free will.

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