Coptic Christian teens face blasphemy trial in Egypt over anti-ISIS video
by Naomi Inman
Posted 2/03/16, 02:15 pm
Three Egyptian Coptic high school boys will appear in a Cairo court tomorrow to face charges of “insulting Islam,” according to their lawyer, Maher Naguib. The judge could sentence the teens to three years in prison or a juvenile detention center for being caught on a 32-second video joking around in their hotel room and mimicking an ISIS-style beheading.
The case continues to attract international attention. According to Sam Tadros, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a specialist in Egyptian Coptic issues, mob demonstrations and blasphemy cases have surged since the Egyptian Revolution in 2011. According to a report from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, that number is now approaching 100 in the past five years. Blasphemy trials came only once every couple of years under former President Hosni Mubarak, and most were of intellectuals who did attack or insult Islam.
“The definition of what’s insulting is increasingly subjective,” Tadros said. “Those boys had just seen the massacre of the Copts in Libya. The kids mimicked ISIS and no one feels that they were doing anything out of the ordinary, or insulting to anyone.”
Tadros described the process of mob rule upstaging police control of the streets: A Muslim neighbor or fellow student sees something on Facebook, or a picture or video that “insults Islam.” A rumor starts in the village. A mob gathers. It attacks the homes and businesses of Christians. When the police arrive—late—they arrest the offender (usually a Coptic Christian) so the village cools down. In the end, Tadros said, “they give the mob what they want.”
Reports conflict of how the video, filmed by teacher Gad Younan, 42, slipped into the wrong hands. World Watch Monitor reports Younan misplaced his phone or memory card. Last April, police arrested Younan, and for three days, a mob of more than 2,000 Muslims raided the village of Al-Nasriyah, attacking Christian homes and businesses. The parents turned their sons in to the police. Village elders banished Younan and a judge sentenced him to three years in prison. He is now in hiding.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Naomi is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute's mid-career course.