Thousands of Salafists protest for release of woman allegedly held by Copts

Ahram Online, Friday 29 Apr 2011

The ordeal of Camilia Shehata, who was believed to have converted to Islam but shut away in a monastery, continues with thousands of Salafists clamouring for her release in front of a Coptic cathedral

Islamists protest
Islamists protest in Cairo near the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)

Around ten thousand Salafists marched from El-Sinia Mosque in Shubra, Cairo stopping by El-Nour Mosque in the Ramses area and continued to the Coptic cathedral in Abassiya calling for the freeing of Camilia Shehata and any other, Copt whom, according to them, has converted to Islam and was locked in the monastery. The military police surrounded the Coptic cathedral to prevent any physical attack against it.

Protesters held banners asking for Shehata’s release and chanted for the protection of any Muslim convert. They also assured that they have no intentions of getting into the cathedral.

However, protesters made it impossible for Sheikh Ahmed Tork to preach the traditional Friday sermon, instead Sheikh Hafez Salama, leader of the Suez protesters, gave the Friday sermon. This is not a regular incident in Egyptian mosques, as usually the sheikh of the mosque is the one who gives the sermon.  

Shehata is the wife of a Coptic priest who disappeared suddenly from her home last summer. She was then found at a friend’s house a few days later. The Salafists accuse the Coptic Church for holding Shehata because she adopted Islam; while the Church has aired a video of her saying she is a Copt.

The protests for releasing Shehata have been ongoing even before the Egyptian revolution. Sometimes they result in violence against Copts. Salafists were working underground during Mubarak’s era, but the revolution that toppled the president and his cabinet has given them the freedom to push their opinions in public.

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