13. Press review: Details of Imbābah fitnah


Article summary: 

AWR's Diana Maher Ghali writes a two days' press review on Imbābah incidents.

Article full text: 

Kāmīlilyā Shihātah, wife of Dayr Mawās priest who allegedly converted to Islam and detained by the church, appeared on the Christian channel al-Hayāh on May 7, 2011, at 7 pm for an hour. [Salafists had launched more than 17 protests demanding the release of Shihātah by the church], al-Dustrūr, page 4, May 9, 2011.

[Prior to Shihātah’s appearance in a video conference on the channel, salafists began attacking the church in Imbābah, approximately at 8 pm. New story was also covered in al-Ahālī, May 11, 2011]

In the video, Shihātah said that she was not detained by the church but by salafists, and that she is scared they would kill her and frame Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III.

She added that she is and will remain Christian even if they will kill her. Shihātah said that she left home after squabbles with her husband and was later handed to her sister by the dissolved State Security Agency.

Furthermore, she does not know Shaykh Abū Yahyá [who claimed that she stayed in his house and went with him to the Azhar to convert to Islam].

She called salafists to stop offending the Pope and the church. Additionally, she appeared in the video with her husband and son [Watch video on al-Hayāh channel website].

In al-Ahrām, Page 4, May 9, 2011, Imbābah district of Giza governorate witnessed 15 hours of clashes with firearms, resulted in the death of 12 people and the injury of 232 others. An estimated ten houses and 13 stores were set on fire.

The army had imposed a curfew in the impoverished district in an attempt to stabilize security conditions there.

The tragic incidents had started at 7:00 pm on May 7, 2011, when Saint Mina churchgoers found a gathering of salafists outside, after rumors that a young woman who converted to Islam seven months ago in Asyut, is being held hostage inside the church after being kidnapped from her husband’s house.

In al-Ahrām, page 5, May 10, 2011, ‘Abīr Tal’at Fakhrī, a reportedly detained young woman in Imbābah, appeared on a video clip on the Internet and revealed critical details on the incidents.

Fakhrī said that she converted to Islam on September 15, 2010 after she was being mistreated by her Christian husband. She changed her name to Āsmā’ Muhammad Ahmad Ibrāhīm on September 23, 2010, then she went with a man called Ja’far to Banha governorate.

She had an argument with Ja’far over financial issue so he revealed her location to her family, who took her and handed her to a church in Asyut.

According to 'Abīr, that is when the issue of being detained began, on March 2011, she was kept in Virgin Mary monastery in Asyut for eight days, then to an elderly nursing home in Asyut, after that to a hotel, owned by Christians, in Asyut.

“They pressed me to take away from me my freedom and dignity in choosing the religion I want,” she said. Finally, she was handed over to Saint Mina church in Imbābah.

She was forced to go to the civil registry office to change her religion back to Christianity but she managed to call Yāsīn Thābit [mentioned as her husband in al-Shurūq al-Jadīd] and asked him to wait for her and take her prior her to going to the office. Later, a nun came and asked her to leave and then she received a phone call from the security director asking about her location [Reviewer’s Note: News story was also mentioned in al-Shurūq al-Jadīd, page 5, May 10, 2011].

On the same page in al-Ahrām, Fakhrī filed a lawsuit of separation between her and her Christian husband, who agreed, then in the trial session, May 7, 2011, she did not appear before the court but her lawyer did. Her lawyer said that she phoned him and told him that she managed to escape and she will appear in the next session.

Regardless of al-Ahrām reports, Fakhrī denied the last version on the Mahmūd Sa'd show called al-Maydān on al-Tahrīr channel. Fakhrī said that she is still Christian, and the church did not violate her freedom in any matter [Watch video here].

The street of the church is known to be inhabited by a large community of Christians. With a rising number of salafists gathered in front of the church, Christians felt threatened that salafists are going to attack them, which brought one of them reportedly fire a series of bullets as means of protection of the church.

Consequently, a number of salafists were injured and carried to hospitals by their families.

In return, the number salafist grew even more and they began trading fire.

Military and police forces tried to control the situation, but then they had to open fire to end the clashes due to the large number of Copts and salafists.

Meanwhile, a number of persons sneaked their way into nearby stores and Coptic houses and set them ablaze. Also, inciters took advantage of the security forces presence and attention on Saint Mina church and went to Virgin Mary church and burned it too.

The story of the 25-year-old allegedly detained young woman called ‘Abīr Tal’at Hamzah is that she was a Christian married to a Christian man, then she converted to Islam and had an ‘urfī marriage with a Muslim driver.

Both of them came to live in Giza and then she disappeared from her Muslim husband’s house.

Her Muslim spouse discovered that her family kidnapped her after calling them, where they said that she returned, while ‘Abīr called him and said she was detained in the third floor of Saint Mina church.

After that her husband called the salafists, who in return headed to the church, then the attacks started. [Read original text in Arabic] 

Yāsīn Thābit [reportedly her Muslim husband, the driver] was arrested by the armed forces, al-Wafd, page 1, May 10, 2011.

In al-Ahrām , page 6, May 9, 2011, Muhammad Salīm al-‘Awwā, Islamic thinker, urged salafī leaders to do what is best for the country and avoid sparking fitnah [Read original text in Arabic]

Christian clerics are demanding maximum penalty on the attackers. Furthermore, Rev. Dr. Andrea Zakī, Vice President of Egypt's Evangelical denomination, said that the continuous sectarian incidents are attempts to throw a spanner in the gains accomplished by the revolution [Read original text in Arabic]

Father Rafīq Greish, Director of the press office of the Catholic Church in Egypt, shares the same opinion as Rev. Zakī. [Read original text in Arabic]

Tāriq al-Bashrī, an Islamic thinker, said that what happened is unjustifiable.

Moreover, Dr. Jamāl Hishmat, a Muslim Brotherhood figure, excluded that salafists had a hand in these incidents [Read original text in Arabic].

Moreover, Bishop Theodosius of Giza governorate, said that the incidents cannot be related to any religion [Read original text in Arabic]

In addition, various Islamic scholars affirmed that the nation’s enemies are only those planning for sectarian conflicts in Egypt [Read the original text in Arabic]

In al-Ahrām, page 7, May 9, 2011, a medic in Imbābah, said that the hospital received 48 injured people, two of them died, a Copt with a bullet in the head, and the other, whose religion could not be identified, with a bullet in the neck.

Furthermore, only 13 are left in the hospital, some of them ran away after receiving treatment [Read original text in Arabic]

For his part, Muftī of the Republic Dr. ‘Alī Jum’ah warned of a civil war sparked by a fitnah tā’ifīyah in Egypt [Read original text in Arabic]. 

[Reviewer’s Note: News story was also covered in al-Ahrār, page 1, May 10, 2011]

In addition, the Azhar Grand Shaykh Dr. Ahmad al-Tayīb called the incidents a terrorist act, and decided, through the Family House initiative, to form a fact-finding commission to investigate them [Read original text in Arabic].

Moreover, Minister of Awqāf [Endowments] ‘Abd Allah al-Husaynī stated his rejection for attacking houses of worship, al-Jumhūrīyah, page 5, May 9, 2011.

On the other hand, Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III expressed his sorrow over the incidents, according to al-Wafd, page 3, May 10, 2011.

As for Shaykh Muhammad Hasān, a salafī cleric, said that protecting Copts is a religious duty binding for all Muslims [Read original text in Arabic]

Islamic preacher Safwat Hijāzī said that armed thugs looted and burned the church, while Shaykh ‘Abd Allah Shākir, the leader of the Ānsār al-Sunnah Scholars’ Shūrá Council, said that conversion to Islam is the responsibility of the Azhar, adding the people of the street had nothing to do with this affair, al-Shurūq al-Jadīd, page 4, May 10, 2011.

In al-Shurūq al-Jadīd, page 7, May 9, 2011, Dr. Muhammad Badī’, Muslim Brotherhood (MB) Murshid (Guide), condemned attacks on houses of worship, saying that Islam is a religion that protects places of worship, houses and private property.

Asyut security director imposed tight security measures on churches and the archbishopric of Archangel Mikhael, for fears of reprisal over Imbābah incidents.

Tāriq and ‘Abūd al-Zumur are expected to visit salafī protesters in Asyut [Read original text in Arabic]

On the other hand, a number of human rights organizations and NGOs formed a fact-finding commission to investigate incidents in Imbābah, accusing the Azhar and the Coptic Church of adopting passive stands in dealing with past sectarian incidents [Read original text in Arabic].

A number of political powers as well condemned the salafī movements that caused the Imbābah fitnah and demanded that those involved are held accountable  [Read original text in Arabic]

Islamist movements warned against thuggery and poverty disguised in religion.

Dr. Safwat ‘Abd al-Ghanī, the leader of al-Jamā’ah al-Islāmīyah (Islamic Group), said that thuggery is often used to spark fitnah [Read original text in Arabic]

Moreover, Shaykh Muhammad Zughbī, a salafī imām, and Archpriest ‘Abd al-Masīh Basīt of Musturud Church, called for forming a panel of elders to solve critical problems between Muslims and Christians [Read original text in Arabic].

In al-Akhbār, page 7, May 9, 2011, Prime Minister Dr. ‘Isām Sharaf canceled his planned tour of the Gulf countries and announced a constant convening of the cabinet until the Imbābah problems are settled.

The cabinet, during the meeting, emphasized that whoever involved in the incidents are going to be immediately held accountable and tried in accordance with the civil law, not the emergency law.

On the other hand, Ahmad al-Simān, a press advisor to the Prime Minister, said that the Ministry of Interior report underlined the protection of houses of worship all over the governorates of Egypt and provide all necessary resources for security forces to do their duties, according to al-Misrī al-Yawm, page 8, May 10, 2011.

The Giza governor announced six million pounds to rebuild the church and the reconstruction of houses and stores destroyed during the attack, in addition to five-thousand pounds compensation for families with dead victims, and one-thousand pounds for family with injured victims.

Interior Minister Major General Mansūr al-‘Isawī visited Imbābah and demanded an immediate arrest of the perpetrators.

However, the residents of the district attacked the Ministry and the Minister, accusing them of negligence [Read original text in Arabic]

On the other hand, Copts protested in front of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, and the TV building in Maspero area.

During these protests, clashes erupted between Muslims and Christians after Christians attacked Muslims and Islam [Reviewer’s Note: News story was also covered in al-Ahrām, page 4, May 9, 2011]. Protests are not dispersed yet, according to al-Misrī al-Yawm, page 8, May 10, 2011.

Salafī Shaykh in Imbābah, Shaykh Muhammad ‘Alī, said that thugs sparked fitnah, not the salafists.

In al-Sharq al-Awsat, page 11, May 10, 2011, Saudi Arabia condemned the burning of churches.

In al-Shurūq al-Jadīd, page 7, May 9, 2011, military police forces arrested ‘Adil Labīb, a trader and owner of a coffee shop and a member of the dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP), on charges of propagating the initial rumors of the detained young woman, which resulted in the eruption of fitnah between Muslims and Christians.

His brothers were arrested as well. All of the suspects were detained in an armored vehicle positioned on the church street and were not presented to any security point.

A number of 190 persons captured during the incidents were referred to the Supreme Military Prosecution as a prelude to an urgent military trial [Read original article in Arabic]

On the same page, Bishop Theodosius of Giza accused the remnants of the dissolved NDP of involvement in the incidents, noting that the residents of Imbābah, Muslims and Christians, have always been coexisting in peace.

In al-Wafd, page 6, May 9, 2011, Maurice Sādiq, Coptic lawyer, the president of the National Coptic Assembly in the United States and Human Rights Center for National Unity in Cairo, called the UN Security Council to place Egypt under international protection [Read original text in arabic]

(Reviewer’s Note: News story was also covered in al-Akhbār, page 1, 5, 7 and 9, May 9, 2011) 

Incident timeline according to al-Dustūr, page 5, May 10, 2011, by AWR's Diana Maher.

Incident timeline according to al-Yawm al-Sābi’, page 5, May 10, 2011 (Part 1) (Part 2), by AWR's Diana Maher.

As soon as the attacks started, many private satellite channels went with their cameras to cover the incidents in Imbābah, except the Egyptian television, which covered the incident five hours after their eruption. By then the satellite channels had already covered all the details. All what the Egyptian television has said is that there were news of clashes in Imbābah, and they did not send one camera to the site to report on the issue.

At 12:00 am, the Egyptian television reported that calm returned in Imbābah again while at the Virign Mary Church in Imbābah was being on fire, according to al-Yawm al-Sābi’, page 8, May 8, 2011.

Other links in al-Misrī al-Yawm in English:

May 8, 2011

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May 9, 2011

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