Emerging trend leverages blasphemy laws
Facebook posts may be a new persecution tactic that Islamic extremists are using against Christians, says Open Doors Middle East Director. He just returned from Egypt when he learned about several incidents involving blasphemous Facebook posts.
Case in point: Fady Youssef Todary. The 26-year-old Egyptian Christian says that someone hacked into his Facebook account and posted something insulting to Islam. In response, Todary posted a video of himself saying his account had been hacked and apologized for the offensive message.
But that didn’t stop around 100 people from marching on Todary’s family home in Ashnin El-Nasara, a village in Minya south of Cairo. As his parents hid in a relative’s house, the mob raided the property and destroyed the family’s belongings.
The situation calmed down when police arrived and arrested some of the attackers. Yet a few days later, police returned to arrest Todary, his 19-year-old brother and two uncles. Since then, Todary’s relatives have been released, but he is still awaiting trial.
Local Christians have vouched for the young man’s integrity, including a local priest. Father Soliman told an Open Doors contact, “I know Fady very well. He is a peaceful person, and he would never post something negative about Islam. But there are people whose aim it is to fire up conflict between Christians and Muslims in this country.”
AN EMERGING TREND
What recently happened in Ashnin El-Nasara isn’t an isolated incident, said Open Doors’ Middle East director. “My local sources told me about other cases too, some of which have been reported in the media,” he said.
In December 2018, World Watch Monitor reported a similar incident in the same region. A believer was sentenced to three years in prison for insulting Islam in a Facebook post.
This emerging trend is a “real cause for concern,” Open Doors says, adding that they’ll be investing in research to learn more about this potential new tactic. He said the Facebook hacks fit the framework of how extremist Salafists operate; also, they would have the money to employ hackers.
Open Doors analyst Michael Bosch says the incident fits the pattern. “First, Christians are accused of insulting or threatening Islam. Next, they are attacked, their properties destroyed, and sometimes they are driven out of their houses.
“Then the authorities intervene, calming down the situation by arresting and prosecuting Christians for the alleged ‘crime.’” He added that it is unlikely the claims are true because “all Christians know the consequences of blasphemy.”
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