CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Egyptian authorities on Thursday, October 4, released two Coptic Christian children who were accused of “insulting Islam” by allegedly urinating on a paper with verses of the Koran, prosecutors and other officials said.
Nabil Naji Rizq, 10, and Mina Nadi Faraj, nine, from Beni Sewif province in southern Egypt were held at a juvenile facility.
Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud reportedly took the decision because the accused, aged nine and 10, are minors.
The boys were reportedly detained in their home village of Ezbet Marco on September 30 following complaints from a local imam, identified as Ibrahim Mohamed Ali.
Local Christians said the situation remained tense in the village, with members of Gamaa Islamiya, a militant group, going to mosques urging Muslims “to rise up” against the court order to release the boys.
“I don’t know why they are inciting people now. Right now, villagers from outside our place are gathering,” The Associated Press news agency quoted a priest as saying. “God help us,” he added, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.
Christian rights activists view the case as part of growing hostilities towards Egypts minority Christians, known as Copts, who comprise up to 10 percent of the over
180 million population.
At least 17 people, mainly Christians, have been detained in the country on similar charges in recent weeks following “rising sensitivities” over the release of a
U.S.-produced anti-Islam film, said advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC).
Among those detained is a Christian teacher in the southern province of Assiut who received six years in prison for posting anti-Islam material on his page of the Facebook website.
Rights activists said a female Coptic teacher in another southern town was summoned for interrogation last week and detained for a night after her students claimed she spoke “offensively about the Prophet Muhammad” in class.
The teacher was released from detention, but prosecutors are still investigating her, according to rights investigators.
A Coptic Christian activist, Alber Saber, faces trial for posting material on his Facebook page deemed offensive to religion.
He was first detained after neighbors complained he had posted the anti-Islam film, but investigators didn’t find it.
Yet, he was put on trial on charges of “contempt of religion”. His trial reportedly began last week.
Egypt’s new President Mohamed Morsi has pledged to protect the Coptic community, but critics claim violence and detentions suggest otherwise.
“Blasphemy cases against those alleged to have ‘insulted Islam’ have skyrocketed in Egypt in recent weeks following violent protests and rising sensitivities over the release of the anti-Islam film in the U.S.” noted Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East.
However, he said, “extremists who have used the film as an excuse to press their Islamic agenda, arguing that banning blasphemy means standing up for Islam.”
Clay told BosNewsLife in a statement that, “The battle is being waged by Islamists who want their interpretation of religion to be declared as the only acceptable version.”
Sadly, he said, “the Islamists are getting their way, and blasphemy charges, like those filed against the two [released] young boys, will inevitably increase.”