06/27/2011, 00.00
EGYPT
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Eight houses burnt as anti-Christian violence rises in Upper Egypt

More than 200 Muslims torch eight Christian homes on Saturday morning in the Upper Egyptian village of Awlad Khalaf (Suhaj), after the local Christian community was accused of planning to build an unauthorised church. More Coptic girls are being abducted and forced to convert to Islam. Human rights activists complain about poor security in the country’s poorer areas following the fall of the Mubarak regime.
Cairo (AsiaNews) – Attacks against Copts and the abduction of young women continue in Upper Egypt. Last Saturday, in the village of Awlad Khalaf (Suhaj, Upper Egypt), hundreds of extremists set fire to Christian houses (pictured). Three people were injured. In Minya, two young Coptic women were abducted and forced to convert to Islam.

Anti-Christian violence has become a daily event in Upper Egypt, where police and the military often side with Muslims, sources told AsiaNews. In this under-policed area of the country, extremists are pushing Muslim civilians against Christians, using any pretext to destroy churches and homes.

In the village of Awlad Khalaf, extremists tried to stop the construction of a 350 m2 home, accusing the Christian community of planning to turn it into a church once construction was over. Local sources said that the owner, Wahib Halim Attia, violated the original licence, which authorised a house of only 95 m2.

Fr Weesa Azmy, parish priest at the St George church in neighbouring village of Negou Madam East, said that Christian and Muslim leaders had already been informed of the irregularities and had tried to convince the owner to stop.

Attia’s refusal sparked Muslims who, egged on by some extremists, attacked nearby houses.
Police moved in after three hours and arrested some teenagers, between the ages of 10 to 14. However, the instigators of the attack are still free. Many fear more attacks.

The power vacuum created by Mubarak’s fall has increased the number of abductions of Coptic teenagers and young women. Kidnapped at home or in the street, they are forced to convert and marry Muslim men.

The latest case involves two girls, 14-year-old Nacy and 16-year-old Christine, who disappeared on 12 June. Police found them days later, wearing a niqab but with on cross tattooed on their wrist.

Fearing repercussions, they said they converted to Islam. However, al-Azhar and the Fatwa (religious edict) Committee denied that the two Coptic teenagers had converted to Islam, because they are still minors and have not yet reached 18 years of age, as is required by law.

Despite complaints by their family, the two teenagers are being kept in a mental hospital until the end of the investigation.

"The daily abduction and forced Islamisation of Coptic minors, conducted by Muslims funded by Saudi Arabia, has escalated to new levels after the 25 January Revolution," said Coptic activist Mark Ebeid. It has also “greatly enraged the Copts. Everyone now fears they might not be able to stand any longer continuous Islamist provocations.” (S.C.)
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