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May 23, 2013 12:47 pm

Christians Face Growing Number of Blasphemy Accusations in Egypt

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The Coptic "Hanging Church" in Cairo. Photo: Berthold Werner.

Under Egypt’s new Islamist-led government, blasphemy (insulting Islam) cases against Egypt’s Coptic Christian community have been on the rise.

The trial of Dimyana Abdel-Nour, a Coptic Christian teacher in Luxor, has gained media attention. Three of her students, aged 10, said that Abdel-Nour said former Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda was better than the Prophet Mohammed. Abdel-Nour was imprisoned for a week and released on nearly $3,000 bail, a large sum for a case like hers.

“This case is not just about Dimyana,” Archbishop Sarabamon El Shayeb, head of the monastery in Abdel-Nour’s village, told the Christian Science Monitor. “It’s about organized repression of the Copts. The Islamists are giving out the accusations of blasphemy generously and openly, mostly against Christians.”

While blasphemy cases have been prevalent in Egypt for years, since the 2011 Egyptian Revolution and the rise of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood as well as the ultraconservative Salafis to power, blasphemy accusations have increased, especially under Egypt’s new constitution, which criminalizes blasphemy.

According to the human rights group Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), there were at least 36 blasphemy cases initiated in 2011 to 2012, including 10 convictions, with Christian teachers being frequent targets, the Associated Press reported.

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