Muslim woman's disappearance with Copt leads to tensions in Upper Egypt

Ahram Online , Wednesday 24 Apr 2013

After reports of a forced conversion and kidnapping of a Muslim woman in Upper Egypt, officials, political leaders and church representatives meet to resolve the issue

Representatives of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church met with a top interior ministry official and representatives of a number of political groups in an effort to contain possible unrest caused by the disappearance of a Muslim woman from Upper Egypt, who allegedly converted to Christianity and fled to Turkey with an Egyptian Christian.

The 21-year-old woman’s father, Hatem El-Shazly, was present at the meeting, while the parents of the man who is accused of escorting the girl to Turkey, Zaki Tawfiq Andraous and Souad Akhnon, remain in police custody pending investigations into allegations of incitement to kidnap and concealing information about their son.

Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported that Beni Suef's security chief Ibrahim Hudeib said he met leaders from the Wafd Party, the Freedom and Justice Party, the Nour Party, the Salafist Watan Party and the Constitution Party as well as representatives of the Church and the family of the girl in order to resolve the issue.

Hudeib said at a press conference that the woman, Rana Hatem El-Shazly, travelled to Turkey, escorted by Ebram Andraous.

The dispute began in February when members of the Salafist Nour Party and the Salafist organization Al-Gamaa Al-Salafaya gathered at Al-Wasti police station in the Upper Egypt province of Beni Suef to protest the alleged kidnapping and forced conversion of the woman.

The woman's relatives had reportedly found a number of Christian books in her personal library, which led them to suspect the involvement of the Church in her disappearance.

This is not the first protest against an alleged kidnapping in recent months. In February, clashes erupted in Kom Ombo in Aswan, also in Upper Egypt, after local Muslims accused Christians of kidnapping a middle-aged Muslim woman and forcing her to convert to Christianity.

In Egypt, marriage between a Christian man and a Muslim woman is forbidden; Muslim men and Christian women are allowed to marry, however.

In May 2011, clashes erupted in Cairo after a rumour spread among Salafists that a Christian woman, who had allegedly converted to Islam, was being held hostage at a church in Imbaba.

The clashes left at least twelve dead and over 50 injured, while two churches were burnt down.

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