Egyptian Students Face Trial on Charges of 'Insulting Islam' after Making Fun of ISIS

( [email protected] ) May 19, 2015 06:22 PM EDT
Four Egyptian students and their teacher face charges of “insulting Islam” after they made a video poking fun at the terror group known as ISIS. They were turned in by their Muslim neighbors, who found the video and went to police.
Photograph: Robert Harding World Imagery / A/Alamy

Four Egyptian students and their teacher face charges of "insulting Islam" after they made a video poking fun at the terror group known as ISIS. They were turned in by their Muslim neighbors, who found the video and went to police.

According to Todd Daniels of International Christian Concern, the decision was handed down by the Economic Misdemeanors Court in Egypt on May 5. The court convicted Michael Mounir Beshay of "ridiculing or insulting a heavenly religion" in violation of Article 98(f) the Egyptian Penal Code; researcher Ishak Ibrahaim elaborated on the circumstances leading to his conviction.

"In November 2014, the young man [Beshay] posted a video clip from a program on the satellite network, al-Qahera wal-Nas," Ibrahim said. "In it, Mohamed Abdullah Nasr, known to the public as Sheikh Mezo, was discussing the Hadith on the 'suckling of adults.'"

Ibrahaim added that the video largely went unnoticed until February 2015, when Muslim villagers then demonstrated in from of Beshay's house.

"They called for Beshay to be charged with contempt of religion, and set fire to his motorcycle," Ibrahim said.

Steven Edwards of Fox News reported that Egyptian Christian and civil rights groups have called for their release. However, the five people, who hail from the Coptic community, have already spent weeks in police holding cells.

"They are some kids who decided to have fun in a private place," Coptic activist Mina Thabet said. "They were on a trip with their teacher, but somehow rumor got out that they'd thrown down the Koran, and had insulted Islam, so that led to their arrests."

Thabet added that the 30-second video clip failed to support the rumors about the boys supposedly insulting Islam. However, the video did show them mocking ISIS through a fake beheading.

"They use some words that are used in Muslim prayers, but they are in no way being disrespectful to Islam," Thabet said. "And even if they were, they should have the right to free speech ­­- but in Egypt we have this law."

Edwards analyzed the context behind the creation of the video in question.

"When the boys made the video, the ISIS passion for beheading would be uppermost in their minds because a Libyan affiliate of the terror group recently announced the murder of 21 Christians by releasing a video claiming to show jihadists decapitating the group on a beachfront," Edwards wrote.

Edwards noted that the 20 Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS in Libya also came from the same area where the boys lived. Computer repair shop owner Ashraf Salah elaborated on the harsh reaction of local residents.

"There were three or four marches in different places in the village," Salah said. "They were...chanting: 'With our souls and blood, we will defend you, oh Islam! We will not leave you; we will take revenge for you!'"

Salah added that the angry mobs started "pelting Christian homes with stones" and "pounding threateningly on doors and windows" of Christian-owned shops.

"They destroyed the door of my shop and they destroyed a photo studio owned by the father of one of the boys," Salah said.

Daniels told Fox News that based on similar cases in the past, the boys could face trial for their actions.

"It's fair to say that these boys are headed for trial based on how we've seen similar cases play out in the past," Daniels said. "If convicted under the blasphemy law, they could indeed be detained for the duration of their sentence, or they could receive a suspended sentence because of their age."

Daniels highlighted the lack of freedom to openly discuss controversial issues in Egypt, despite the election of President Sisi and promises of reform.

"The fact that a Christian may be imprisoned for sharing a video of Islamic scholars discussing an issue with Islam highlights just how little space there is for discussion, and how important it is that the Sisi government promotes religious freedom that will allow for debate to happen to confront these violent tendencies," Daniels said.

Tags : Egypt, Egyptian Penal Code, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt Coptic Christians, Coptic Christians, Christian persecution, Christian persecution Egypt, Economic Misdemeanors Court Egypt, ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State, mocking ISIS, ISIS mockery, insulting Islam charges, Christians vs. Muslims Egypt