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Media Contact: Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Egyptian Christian Charged with Blasphemy Sparks Calls for Violence
Trial Day Looms Tomorrow for Christian Accused of "Contempt of Islam"
International Christian Concern
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned Kyrolous Shawky, a Christian in southern Egypt, has been charged with blasphemy and contempt of Islam for liking a Facebook page. Kyrolous is set to appear before the court in Luxor, Egypt, on Tuesday, June 3.
Kyrolous Shawky, a Christian worker in a small shop in Armant, outside of Luxor city, became the center of a firestorm on Wednesday, May 28. Shawky, who suffers from poor eyesight, was looking at Facebook on his mobile phone and liked Knights of the Cross page. A Muslim neighbor saw a post from this page and accused Kyrolous of posting pictures and quotes that were insulting Islam.
"Publications were distributed demanding the upheaval against Kyrolous," Rafla Zekry Rafla, the lawyer representing Kyrolous and president of the Human Rights Commission of the Luxor Bar Association, told ICC. "Many Muslims gathered in the front of Kyrolous's home and attempted to storm it to take revenge on him, and they were chanting slogans against Christians, insulting them, but the police came and arrested Kyrolous and were able to disperse the gathered angry people," Rafla said.
Relations between the Muslim and Christian communities remain tense, according to Neama Henery, who lives on the same street as Kyrolous. She told ICC, "there were some Muslim fanatics who were going to attack Christian homes but the moderate Muslims of the village intervened and prevented them from doing anything." According to Copts United, "Six people accused of inciting against the Copts in Armant village, Luxor, and encourage attacking and burning houses of the Copts were released today."Henery told ICC that Christians have been prevented from gathering to pray in the village as it does not have a church and Muslims are preventing access to the site regularly used for meetings.
Early Monday morning, June 2, a mob allegedly set fire to a number of Christian shops, according to a security official cited in an AP report. Authorities continue to investigate this incident, though ICC was unable to confirm these reports with locals in the area.
Blasphemy laws have been used disproportionately against Christians in Egypt. Convictions usually carry lengthy prison sentences and heavy fines, such as that handed down to Dimyana Abdel Nour, a school teacher who continues to appeal her case. While accounting for just 10 percent of the population, 40 percent of blasphemy cases are against Christians, and the majority of convictions are against religious minorities, according to United States Commission on International Religious Freedom's 2014 Annual Report.
Todd Daniels, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, "We call on the Luxor court to quickly dismiss this case and to not allow Egyptian law to be used to further oppress its Christian community. The unjust punishment of Kyrolous will only serve to further polarize the country along religious lines. Egypt must ensure that the fundamental rights of all its citizens are being protected."
For interviews, contact Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East: RM-ME@persecution.org
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