On October 22, a court postponed to December 3 the case concerning four Coptic Christian students accused of blasphemy. They did this after the Copts’ lawyer, Maher Naguib, convinced the court to bring the exhibits of the case, including the video made by the Copts which is responsible for the blasphemy charge.
The four Coptic students were arrested last April on the charge of “contempt of religions.” They had made a 30-second video on an iphone poking fun at the Islamic State, or “ISIS.”
In the video, the boys appear laughing and joking, as they pretend to be members of the Islamic State praying to Allah. One of the boys pretends to slit the throat of another, an ISIS trademark.
Along with facing up to seven years prison, one of the youth was “banished” from his village of Al-Nasriya by fellow Christians in an effort to appease local Muslims who reacted to the video with violence, including by pelting the homes and businesses of Christians with stones.
According to the brother of the banished Copt:
I don’t see any insulting of Islam in the video. They were joking and making fun of Daesh (the Arabic acronym for IS), not Islam. My brother didn’t intend to insult the Islamic religion. He is a respected man and all people love and respect him. He is very polite and deals with all people in a good way, he has a good relationship with the other teachers and his students in the school, and he is characterised by his good manners.
One Coptic shop owner told of the wild reaction of Muslims after they found out about the video:
There were three or four marches in different places in the village, as our village is a very big village. They were chanting slogans against Christians and Christianity. 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!”
They were pelting Christian homes with stones, pounding threateningly on doors and windows, attacking shops owned by Coptic Christians. They destroyed the door of my shop and they destroyed a photo studio owned by the father of one of the boys.
For three days we were living in terror and panic. We stayed in our homes and our children didn’t go to their schools. We also couldn’t go to church to attend the masses for [Coptic] Holy Week.
Another local Copt described how his home was attacked:
On Thursday evening (9 April), the Muslim demonstrators attacked our home. They pelted it with stones and insulted us. They were shouting, “Oh kafirs (infidels), we can’t let you live here. We will oust you from our village.” They also stole the windows from our home…. We were unable to go to the church during these events. Also, we didn’t go to the church on Saturday to attend the Easter mass. Until now, we have been staying at our homes and are afraid that the attacks against us will be renewed.
Muslims, especially those of Egypt, are in the habit of distancing Islam from ISIS. If the Coptic youth are convicted of blasphemy, it will be clear that, at least in the eyes of Egypt’s formal legal system, mocking ISIS is one with mocking Islam.