Egyptian Copts, one holding a banner with a picture of Jesus Christ and writing in Arabic reading "Christ, Our God, is alive" (Photo: AP)
Political forces have condemned the eviction of eight Coptic families in Nahda village in Al-Amerya district of Alexandria. The families were evicted after an informal hearing held by one prominent sheikh in the district who ruled that the families must leave their homes.
Political forces called the ruling unwarranted collective punishment without any legal basis, and a move that will feed sectarian tension and damage the sense of national unity. They also accused the government of not applying the law properly and frequently resorting to informal hearings to solve any sectarian crisis.
The crisis erupted at the end of January when obscene footage of a Muslim woman was leaked from the cell phone of a Christian youth. Brawls erupted between Muslims and Copts as a result of the footage, escalating when several Coptic homes were torched. Following this, an informal hearing was held, attended by representatives of both sides, call by a sheikh who decreed that eight families in the town must be evicted and their belongings sold.
Among those who signed a dissenting statement are the Popular Socialist Coalition Party, the Egyptians Against Discrimination Movement, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, and the Egyptian Socialist Party.
Meanwhile two Coptic movements, the Maspero Youth Union and the Mina Daniel Movement have announced that they would stage a march at 11am Sunday from Abdel Moneim Riyad Square in downtown Cairo to the parliament headquarters to protest the incident.
However, IkhwanWeb, the official English website of the Muslim Brotherhood, denied that the incident even took place. The site published statements by Hossam Al-Wakil, media spokesman for the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Alexandria that there are no problems between Muslims and Christians in Nahda village.
"The crisis that broke out between Muslims and Christians in the village, after the recent circulation of video footage showing scenes of an illicit relationship between a young Christian tailor and a Muslim woman, ended with a decision by the village’s residents to remove the people of both Christian and Muslim families involved only, in order to prevent further bloodshed and sectarian trouble," El-Wakil told IkhwanWeb.
He also said that the decision was made by the governor of Alexandria, MPs from the FJP and the Salafist El-Nour Party as well as village elders. He justified the holding of an informal hearing to resolve the crisis by saying that the Bedouin nature of the village made this type of hearing appropriate.
Al-Wakil criticised the media's coverage of the event as "dangerous, misleading and just not true at all."
The incident comes on the heels of a series of sectarian clashes that rocked the country since the January 25 Revolution erupted.
In March 2011, a church in Sol, Atfeeh, in the governorate of Helwan was set ablaze and demolished as a result of sectarian tensions. This was followed by an attack on a church in Imbaba and then another on El-Merinab Church in Aswan. A march by Egypt's Christians to protest against the recurrent violence ended in the Maspero massacre when Coptic protesters clashed with the army leaving scores dead. In most cases, the government either resorted to informal hearings to resolve crises or failed to bring those accountable for violence to justice.