As Pakistani Christian Rimsha Masih’s imprisonment demonstrated, Islamists are not above accusing children of blasphemy, or of manufacturing incidents to fuel rage against vulnerable Christians. Since Arab “Spring” and the new Muslim Brotherhood government, such accusations are appearing more frequently in Egypt. Fortunately, as with the case of Rimsha Masih, the fraudulence of some of these Egyptian blasphemy cases has been exposed.
In one such case, a Coptic secondary school teacher was arrested and charged with ”contempt for religion and insulting Prophet Mohamed.” According to AhramOnline, Nevine Gad, an Upper Egypt social studies teacher, gave a lesson on the life of Mohamed (talk about land mines!) on Wednesday, September 26. The next day, a pupil, Mohamed Moustafa Ahmed Hashim, accused her of saying something offensive. On Sunday, the 30th, Gad, who is eight months pregnant, was arrested at the insistence of the student Hashim’s Salafist father. She was taken to the local police station and held in solitary confinement.
Gad was released on Wednesday, October 3, and all charges dropped when it was revealed that her accuser was absent on the day of the history lesson. Attorney Magdy Farouk said that the police concluded that it was a “malicious complaint” and closed the case file. Gad’s defense was funded by wealthy Coptic businessman Amir Abu Ghali. Ghali declares he will fund the defense of other falsely accused Christians as well.
Sadly, there are many such cases. In the Upper Egypt governorate of Beni Suef, two Coptic boys, Mina Nady Farag, 9 and Nabil Nagy Rizk, 10, were arrested and held in juvenile detention earlier this month for allegedly tearing up pages of a Koran and urinating on them. Coptic sources revealed that outside Islamists connected with the radical Gamaa Islamiya stirred up the trouble. The boys were released but not acquitted on Thursday, October 4. The Egyptian Coalition on Children’s Rights denounced the boys’ arrest, declaring that there was no legal basis for it. They warned against “actions which escalated religious tensions in Egypt” and ”using children as part of the conflict to ignite sectarian strife.”
Hopefully Egypt will not continue to emulate Pakistan by using the Blasphemy Law for personal vendettas and inflaming mob violence. Accusations against innocent, often illiterate, children violate international standards of human rights. There is also danger that the threat of such blasphemy accusations against Coptic bloggers and others will further repress free speech — already a disappearing commodity in Egypt.