02/20/2012, 00.00
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The Egyptian parliament defends Copts against the Salafist threat

A parliamentary committee overrules an eviction order against eight Coptic families from the village of Sharbat (Alexandria) issued by a pro-Salafist village tribunal. On 27 January, 3,000 extremists attacked Christians because of false accusations against a Christian man. Moderate Muslims call for anti-discrimination legislation.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - The Egyptian parliament cancelled the eviction of eight Coptic families from the village of Sharbat, el-Ameriya District in Alexandria. Led by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, the village tribunal had issued the expulsion order on 1 February. Since then, a parliamentary committee has investigated Salafist anti-Coptic violence set off by false accusations laid against a young Christian tailor. Yesterday, the parliamentary committee ruled the decision by the local tribunal to be null and void. It also asked the government to compensate the families whose homes and businesses were torched, and called on police to find and arrest those who carried out the attack.

According to Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman of the Egyptian Catholic Church, the investigation shows that moderate Muslims want to defend Copts against the threats of Islamist parties.

Mohamed Sadat, son of the late Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat, headed the commission. "He asked the government to compensate families victimised by the violence," the clergyman said. "He stressed that Egyptian Christians must be respected."

"Sadat also said that an anti-discrimination law was urgent to defend Christians such attacks, which often go unpunished."

On 27 January, some 3,000 Salafists attacked the village of Sharbat and set fire to Christian homes and businesses. The attack was provoked by claims made by some Muslims that a Christian tailor, Mourad Samy Guirgis, had "illicit" pictures of a Muslim woman on his mobile phone.

After their attack, the Salafists turned to the village tribunal, which is controlled by Muslim extremists, demanding the eviction of 62 Christian families, i.e. the village's entire Coptic population.

No one has yet brought forward any evidence against the young Coptic man and his family, but on 1 February, the tribunal had Guirgis arrested. It also had his and other seven Coptic families evicted as well as their assets seized. The accused was eventually released on bail last Wednesday.

The Islamist victory in the country's recent elections have raised deep fears among Christians and moderate Muslims. Together, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist won 73 per cent of seats or 358 out of 498.

However, in order not to lose supports, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, has tried on several occasions to reassure religious minorities about their future, saying that they will enjoy equal rights.

Boosted by their electoral victory, Salafists have instead continued to describe Christians as "infidels", promising to throw them out of the country.

Sources told AsiaNews that anti-Coptic statements and slogans appear every day on TV and radio as well as online.

Anti-Christian violence has been reported elsewhere in the country. On 12 February, some 2,000 Salafists attacked the Church of St. Mary and St. Abram, setting fire to the home of parish priest, and various other building belonging to the Coptic community, in the village of Meet Bashar, Sharqia province, about 50 km north-east of Cairo. (S.C.)

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