The shameful Minya incident and the need to apply the law

Mohamed Abul Ghar
Sunday 5 Jun 2016

What happened to an elderly lady in Minya prompted wide public reaction and anger. To avoid such incidents in the future, the law should be applied, not out of court reconciliation

In a village in Minya, a group of around 300 young men attacked the house of an elderly Christian lady. They dragged her out of the house, stripped her naked and chanted around her: "God is Great."

This incident took place against the backdrop of a suspected affair between the son of this lady and a Muslim woman from the same village. I am sharing some reactions from social media on this obnoxious incident.

First: Public reactions

Azza Kamal: What happened in Minya is a crime against humanity. 

Raouf Kamel: A totally barbarian scene whereby an elderly lady stripped of her clothes is forced to stand in the heart of angry mobs. 

Oudette Boules: Everytime there is an attack on Copts, the state comes to thank the Copts for having exercised self-restraint in their reaction to the assault. I just hope for once that the Copts would have a reason to thank the state for having stopped the assailants.

Imbaby: Men from Upper Egypt were in an uproar because [a cinema producer] spoke poorly of women of Upper Egypt. But they find it perfectly normal to strip an elderly Christian lady and to assault her on top of it.

Ahmed El-Khamissi: A nation that was stripped naked in Upper Egypt.

Samy Aziz: Are we in a state or in a jungle?

Nour Farahat: I wish to tell the lady of Minya that she is protected and shelled at the hearts of all Egyptians; it was the regime and its shameless security body that was stripped in Minya.

Souliman Shafik: I say no to any out of court reconciliation.

Anwar Nosseir: Let us face it: IS (Islamic State group) kills its victims under the chants of God is Great; the Shia cleric was killed under the same chants; and the lady of Minya was stripped naked under the chants of God is Great.

Alaa Al-Aswani: Would the police had left those assailants had they been demonstrators in an anti-Sisi protest?

Ahmed Megahed: Don’t forgive those who attacked the lady; deal with them as if they were saying that Tiran and Sanafir are not Egyptian islands.

Hannah Aboulghar: I wish that the state would demonstrate equal firmness and strength in dealing with the assailants of Minya as it did with the demonstrators of Land Friday.

Second: Official reactions

The presidency: The president issued directives to take necessary actions to impose order, protect citizens and properties and to refer all those behind the attack to a court of law. He asked the governor of Minya and the armed forces to make sure that all damage done should be repaired.

The governor of Minya (in a first reaction): This is not a big deal and we should not blow things out proportion. (In a second reaction during a TV show he fully denied the incident).

Pope Tawdros: Closely following up on the incident and received confirmations from officials that assailants would be arrested … He said that protecting and honour of the elderly lady is a responsibility to be taken; he also asked for the exercise of self-restraint.

The Minya Bishop: I asked for law to be applied and refused to bow to any out of court settlement.

Abou Kourkas MP: The lady was not stripped naked.

Father Rafaeil: What else is the state waiting for after an elderly lady is stripped naked and kept in the middle of a wild mob?

The Milli Institute: We need to see the law applied, the constitution honoured and the dominant social culture faced.

Father Makarios: I declined to attend a meeting of [a joint Coptic-Muslim official institute's council] and I declined to meet the governor of Minya; I decline to do this before the law is applied and the assailants are brought to justice.

Then there was a series of Muslim statements: 

Al-Ahram: The leading Islamic figure of Minya said that the Muslims of the village where the lady was attacked are willing to reconcile.

Al-Azhar sent a delegation of 40 clerics to extend apologies to the lady.

This was an incident that prompted wide public attention and anger because it is an incident that hit a very sensitive nerve in Egyptians in general and in the people of Upper Egypt in particular. But the fact of the matter is that on the ground there is a systematic attack on the lives and properties of Copts, especially in Upper Egypt. There is also the degrading and annoying treatment to which Copts are subject by some radicals.

And had it not been for the wisdom of decent Muslim people who truly appreciate the concept of citizenship, we could have well been seeing daily attacks on Copts.

As for the official stance, we know that the governor and the security chief of the governorate have their eyes only on keeping the president and top officials pleased and to keep “annoying” journalists away to avoid having incidents and relevant testimonies video-taped.

The police say that the worst thing that happened during the 25 January Revolution is that Egyptian citizens, both Muslims and Copts, grabbed the right to loudly protest injustice. This had not been the case, especially for poor Christians who always had bow before whatever came their way.

The 25 January Revolution gave us many positive things, including a constitution that opens the door for considerable improvement of the situation of rights and liberties, and presidential sensitivity towards the Copts of Egypt, as the president made an unprecedented visit to the Coptic Cathedral for Christmas mass.

However, all of Egypt is fuming and defending this lady; this could not have been the case before the 25 January Revolution.

The attack revealed the discrepancy between the way the police reacted to angry Egyptians who demonstrated on the case of Tiran and Sanafir, rounding up young men from houses and cafes on the eve of the demonstrations. By contrast, the police showed no serious reaction at all to the incident of Minya, to the point that it would not register an official complaint from the family of the lady who was subject to the attack, as they had tried to approach the police one day ahead of the assault. The police took no preemptive measures and only reacted when it was too late.

Usually all civilian attacks end with an out of court settlement by a group of Muslim clergy who are always willing to do this job and a group of Coptic clerics who always have to bow under state and popular pressure. The law has never been applied. 

If the leading clergy of Al-Azhar really wish to see an answer to this problem then they simply have to opt for a preemptive path whereby such incidents could not reoccur.

The anger that led to this crime has been fermenting for a while and neither the police nor the clergy acted in a preventive approach; they could have stopped this crime before it happened had they wanted to.

Now that the crime happened, the only way out is to apply the law.

Just like every Egyptian who believes in citizenship, I was ashamed and humiliated by this incident. And I felt deeply embarrassed by the approach of the concerned leaders who could have acted to prevent this and to keep things under control in defence of the pride of Egyptians.

Short link: