Last Update 14:37
Mystery of Muslim woman's disappearance leaves Kom Ombo in crisis
Kom Ombo in Upper Egypt is in turmoil after rumours a Muslim woman was abducted by the Coptic Church and converted to Christianity — a charge her family denies
Salma Shukrallah in Kom Ombo (Aswan ), Saturday 2 Mar 2013
Share/Bookmark
Views: 2921
Mystery of Kom Ombo woman
Crowds inside church during attacks(Photo: Ahram Online)

A rumour has spread in the Upper Egyptian city of Kom Ombo that a divorced Muslim woman in her mid-30s was kidnapped by the Coptic Church and converted to Christianity. In an area divided by tribal and religious allegiances, the story has fuelled violence against the area's Christian minority.

The city's largest church, the Church of Mar Girgis, has been under attack for the past three days by what residents describe as "unknown assailants." Mostly in their teens, hundreds of young boys and men have been surrounding the church and pelting it with rocks and Molotov cocktails.

Central Security Forces (CSF) and soldiers have used teargas to repel the assailants, but Molotov cocktails and rocks have landed on the roof of the church and in its central courtyard.

A field hospital was set up in a corner of the courtyard, while many of the injured sat inside the church resting. Others prayed. One young man in the church had burns on his arms and back, which he said he had suffered from a Molotov cocktail thrown at the church.

"The missing woman is not in this church as you can see … Her family never claimed she was," the church's Father Abanob Wahid told Ahram Online.

"Influential Muslim figures, as well as imams in mosques, have been urging people to calm down, assuring them the woman is not in the church … Some have even visited the church and looked around to assure people, but the violence continues," he added.

Christians attacked

The violence is not only limited to the church. Seventeen-year-old Copt Abanob, whose arm was covered with medical bandages, said he was attacked by a young man also in his teens who had first asked him whether or not he was Christian.

"'Yes, I'm a Christian! What's your problem?' I exclaimed before he and his friend followed me. He took out a pocketknife and aimed at my face but cut my arm instead, which I quickly raised to cover my face in an attempt to protect myself," Abanob told Ahram Online.

Not far from the scene of the clashes is the home of the missing woman, to which Ahram Online headed to meet the woman's brother at the local mandara, a space for social events, located near their house. The planned meeting never materialised, however, as a crowd — very similar to that surrounding the church — intervened.

Tens of young men, also mostly in their teens, carrying sticks and pocket knives quickly surrounded the mandara. Tense and on-edge, family friends quickly rushed to close the doors and windows, hushing away the crowd seemingly angered by the media's presence.

"You can only learn about the story from her father, uncle or brother … no one else," said an old man firmly who later identified himself as a distant uncle of the missing woman.

Time passed and the brother did not appear, while the persistent crowd remained determined to storm the place. The presence of the angry crowd increased tensions minute by minute.

"We don’t know who these people are … We don’t know what they want … Don't worry, you are under our protection," the old man repeated.

A member of the missing woman's family, a brother, finally showed up.

"We don’t have anything to say other than what we told investigators. She went missing and we know nothing about her. None of us [her family members] have attacked the church… We never claimed the church had her. We don’t know where she is. We know nothing about her."

An older, seemingly influential, figure suddenly entered, refusing to speak with reporters.

"No interviews will be held. Leave now," said the man who was later identified as Ashraf Hashem, a powerful former National Democratic Party (NDP) member and former member of parliament.

A car was called to pick up this reporter at the back door, into which I was quickly bundled and transported away from the angry crowd which – angered by my presence – was still trying to storm the building. The family denied knowing – or having anything to do with – members of the crowd outside.

"We don’t know these people. We all know each other here, but we don’t know who these people are," the driver told Ahram Online.

Hashem, Ahram Online was later told, was at a meeting with Sheikh El-Sayed Idris, a local sheikh from a large and influential family.

According to Father Wahid, Idris had intervened to calm the clashes. He had met at the church with several local figures to discuss the situation. He had also intervened to secure the release of 18 of the church attackers who had been detained by security forces in hopes of deescalating tensions, Father Wahid said.

Family denials have no effect

Despite denials issued by the family and influential figures of both faiths that the woman had been kidnapped by the church, violence continued against Kom Ombo's Copts for a third day on Sunday.

Since the missing woman disappeared a week ago, rumours have continued to circulate without their sources ever being confirmed.

The latest story – which has become widespread – is that the room of the missing woman, who is a well-known schoolteacher in the area, had been left full of crosses and Christian texts. Some say her ex-husband has kidnapped her; others claim she escaped with her Coptic lover and converted in a place far from Kom Ombo.

"Maybe someone spread this rumour [that the missing woman had been kidnapped by the church] because security failed to do anything to find her earlier," Father Wahid opined.

Speculation aside, the woman's exact whereabouts are not the only ambiguous part of the story. No one knows the source of the rumours, as well, nor do they know the identity of the church assailants. While sectarianism has played a role in the ongoing violence, much remains unanswered as to the source of the crisis.

Kom Ombo is located on the Nile River around 50 kilometres from Aswan in Upper Egypt. It has an estimated of 60,000 residents.

In recent years, Egypt had witnessed several attacks on churches, especially in Upper Egypt where sectarian tensions are more frequent.

Clashes over alleged forced religious conversions have also been common in recent years. Most alleged instances centred on Christian women converting to Islam and believed held captive by the Coptic Church. The best-known case was that of Camelia Shehata, the wife of a Coptic priest who was allegedly detained by the Church after she converted to Islam.

Copts have frequently complained that young Coptic women have been kidnapped by Muslim men and forced to convert for the purposes of marriage.

While conversion from Christianity to Islam is legally recognised, the opposite is not.





Short link:

 

Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 4000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.
10



Joseph
05-03-2013 10:05am
0-
0+
Confesional State
Incident clearly shows Egypt was and after the revolution still remains religious state not guaranteeing the equal rights to all it's cityzents including the freedom on choosing religion. Nowadays situation deteriorated from previous times to worse implementing the religious laws in the country. Present Egypt starts to look like another similar and not civil but religious neighboring state what was and is Israel.
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
9



Hous
03-03-2013 05:11pm
1-
10+
It's been hours
It's been hours since the woman was found and it has been confirmed she disappeared due to family problems, not conversion, yet Ahram Online does not see it as relevant to update the story to reflect that fact.
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
8



Nora
03-03-2013 03:13pm
5-
5+
One wrong act doesn't justify hate
This is a sad story that reflects the tension between the two religions in Egypt. I pray for peace and understanding. The comments posted here represent Coptic live outside Egypt. Hate against Islam is alive and well. Hates creates more hateful reaction(s). Need to break the cycle.
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
7



Ahram Online
03-03-2013 02:28pm
2-
6+
Mistake corrected
Dear loyal users, Thank you very much, the last line has been corrected. Corrected line: "While conversion from Christianity to Islam is legally recognised, the opposite is not."
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
6



Tedros
03-03-2013 12:41pm
21-
21+
Attack on Christians insane
I have been following the situation in Egypt, especially through Ahram online, in my opinion the best objective news channel. I am wondering how long would the Copts continue to suffer before they see a rights respected. How on earth people gather to attack for lame excuses, this is unjustifiable. I really feel very sorry for the situation of Christians in the Middle east. The west should have done more to pressurize the Moslim brotherhood, but they simply ignore this peoples plight. Christias are the only light of hope in the darkness of the Arab world, with the death of Christianity in middle east the situation would extremely get worse.
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
Ansari
04-03-2013 08:09am
16-
3+
What Attack on Christians, speak the truth Tedros
Tedros, Why you are saying untrue story. Copts have highest standard of living in Egypt Copts do not suffer any misery, but enjoy better living in Egypt more than majority of the population. Copts rights are very much respected. Copts elect their own Pope. Where is in Christian Majority countries like EU Muslims clerics and Imams are qualified by the government. You Copts are very unthankful species. President Morsi changed election dates because of Easter, tell me any Christian majority country like US, EU do they change any date for Eid or any other Muslims festivals. Mubarak treated you royally. Big Shame on you Tedros
Tammy
03-03-2013 08:42pm
8-
9+
total insanity!!
I agree with you Tedros!! How much longer is the west going to keep turning a blind eye to what the radical islamists are doing to everyone who does not believe as they do? How much more money is the US going to send to help a dictatorial, tyrannical religious government regime keep the whole country controlled by the religion of islam.. the current government ran by morsi & the brotherthugs have no idea what democracy, basic human rights or freedom of religion, freedom of speech & expression are.. they are destroying a once beautiful country & are too egomaniacal & arrogant to accept the fact that they are the ones who are causing the political, religious, economic & very speedy destruction of a whole country, the country they say they love all because of the greed they have for power & control.. They condemned & ousted Mubarak for his way of ruling but they refuse to acknowledge that they are WORSE than he ever was.. It makes me sad that the people of the revolution were lied to & s
5



Balasticman
03-03-2013 09:41am
2-
2+
Conversion error
The last line of the article is incorrect. It is conversion from Christianity to Islam that is legal in Egypt, not the opposite.
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
Keith
04-03-2013 06:00pm
1-
2+
Conversion law of Muslims Majority countries
Whatever you decide to call someone legally only an individual, not a government has the right to decide what label they associate to themselves. You could call me 'muslim' in a muslim majority country but that doesn't make me a muslim, thats is a political move not a religious one. Does Allah accept those who are forced to be 'muslim' by the state or under threat of oppression or punishment when their heart has no love for him and the belief system that advocates his existence? Your argument is a political one and the political system your advocating is a totalitarian one. Their is nothing noble or progressive in that.
Keith
04-03-2013 05:55pm
1-
4+
Response to 'Conversion Law of Muslim Majority Countries'
I'm sorry but the idea that because a country is a muslim majority muslims cannot cease to be muslims is textbook oppression. Your ok with people becoming muslims but don't want people to decide they don't want to be muslims?
Zaki
04-03-2013 08:14am
8-
3+
Conversion law of Muslims Majority countries
Yes, it is true. It is God's devine law in Quran. That Muslims have to follow in the Muslim majority states. In the non Muslim countries this is not followed, as Islam advocated to Muslims follow the land of the law of non Muslim countries. By the same token the Christian minority should follow the law of the land where they are in minority. I think by now the Christians know it very well, and should not have any objection.
4



Sharif Shehata
03-03-2013 12:31am
3-
24+
Egypt first before anyone
It is sad day in our life to see Egyptians Muslims and Christians are fighting to each other. Where is old day when Muslims and Christians live together in peace and harmony but well done to invisible hands to destroy our society. Wake up Egypt before will be so late. Egypt I am your Son. God save Egypt
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
3



s farag hakim
03-03-2013 12:20am
1-
1+
correction
A mistake in the lanst line of the above article the correct is the conversion from Christianity to Islam is legally allowed but the opposite is forbiden and legally pusnishable!!
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
expat
04-03-2013 06:48pm
6-
1+
sory,but you ar enot informed right
Sorry,tammy,but you ar enot informed about islam right,google for abrogation and the punishment for it in the holy quran and you will start to understand,why every islamic country is sectarian and unfair to other religions of the book and worse to other religions of the world
Tammy
03-03-2013 08:51pm
3-
9+
religious discrimination
Farag what that correction on the last line shows is the total disrespect & discrimination shown to a whole religious sect of people.. the Christians.. and it is approved by the so called NEW DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT FOR ALL EGYPTIANS…until rules & laws like this are changed nothing is going to change in Egypt.. The Egyptian government is run by radical islamists & no other religion is respected or tolerated by them.. Government & religion do not mix, its like oil & water.. when you try to rule a country based on only one religion the government will fail but before the government fails it destroys the whole country as we are seeing now..
2



Vanesa
02-03-2013 11:20pm
6-
29+
Ignorance
Eduction should be the primary source in Egypt to prevent these ignorance, radical Jihadish. Stop teaching the Quran in Arabic Language classes. Stop Broad casting your prayer daily on TV channels. That is discrimination. Enough is enough with those who use religion to wage hatred. You don't see American burning mosques and beating Muslims because they are Muslim. No wait, this is 1 story out of many, a lawsuit filed by a Muslim woman and get 1 million in damage because she was denied to work b/c of her hijab when she wanted to work at "Victoria's Secret" shop. Seriously, these Muslims needs to be locked and jailed.
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
Keith
04-03-2013 06:06pm
1-
1+
A law whether islamic or no does not make it right
A religion retains or draws in adherents through threat of violence and oppression only does so because it has little to no other means to appeal to a person. Outlawing conversion is barbarism, governments that advocate such things are dictatorship, regardless of the supposed religion.
Oscar
04-03-2013 08:26am
11-
3+
Yes Vanesa, you can see American burning mosques and beating Muslims in Chicago, Tennessee, Missouri, Google it
Vanesa, do not forget the Egypt is a Muslim majority country. Not your EU country like France,and Sweden, and more countries where basic Muslims freedoms are very much curtailed. It is Islamic law that the conversion from Christianity to Islam is legally allowed but the opposite is forbiden and legally pusnishable. Like I said Egypt is Muslim state. You are ignorant to the fact that You Muslims experience American burning mosques in Tennessi, Missouri and and killing Muslims because they are Muslim. If do not live in the US go Google it. You are very ignorant Vanes, and spreading a lie.
Tammy
03-03-2013 09:09pm
2-
11+
ignorance leads to destruction of a country
Vanesa once again I totally agree with you.. The New Egypt was supposed to be unbiased, democratic, tolerant & fair for all people of all religions in Egypt.. As we are all seeing that was nothing but lies & more lies told by morsi & the brother thugs to get into power.. They betrayed the people & martyrs of the revolution, all they want is power & control.. Their total disrespect & discrimination against any religion that is not islam or goes against sharia law shows openly with the arrest, torture, killing, beating & intimidation tactics they use against the opposition. I have heard & read how islam is the religion of peace & so far all I have seen is the exact opposite, VIOLENCE THAT IS APPROVED & ACCEPTED by the current ruling dictatorial government against anything or anyone that is not islamic or muslim.. Or anyone who does not agree or has an opposing idea or thought.. Egypt for all people & religions will never happen as long as morsi & the brother thugs are in power.. such a r
1



FRO
02-03-2013 10:24pm
4-
2+
you have it backwards
Your last statement is false. Egypt recognizes conversion from Christianity to Islam, not from Islam to Christianity. Please make that correction.
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment

© 2010 Ahram Online. Advertising