The New Year began with an uptick of slaughter attempts on Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.
First, on January 12, 2020, a Muslim man crept up behind a Coptic woman walking home with groceries, pulled her head back with a hand full of hair, and slit her throat with a knife in the other hand.
Nearby people attacked and restrained the man in al-Wariq, Giza, where the incident took place. Catherine Ramzi was rushed to a nearby medical center, where her throat was sewn with 63 stitches; despite initial heavy bleeding, she managed to survive. The doctor told her that had the knife penetrated one millimeter more—her now mangled sweatshirt had provided some buffering against the knife—it would’ve reached her jugulars and killed her.
During an interview, she explained that she had never before seen the man. All she heard him say during the assault is that she “deserved it” because her “hair was exposed.” He may have also identified her as a Christian because, like many Copts, Catherine bears a visible tattoo of the cross on her hand.
When the interviewer suggested that the assailant must have been insane, Catherine and her sister, who was present during the interview, argued otherwise, giving several reasons—including that the man knew and casually recited his ID number, his home address, and other detailed information to the arresting officers—suggesting that he was sane of mind. “This was a determined man who sought to execute a specific idea in his mind,” said Catherine’s brother. “There is no way that he was acting in a craze.”
Two days after the attack on Catherine, on January 14, 2020, in the region of al-Maraj, Egypt, another Muslim man tried to slaughter a Coptic man with a sharp box-cutter in a public space; he managed only to slice off a portion of the Christian’s ear.
After Muhammad ‘Awad, 32, was arrested and questioned as to why he tried to murder Rafiq Karam, 56, he confessed that he did not know the Copt, but that he simply “hates Christians, for they are from among the People of Lot, and the [death] penalty must be applied to them, for they commit indecencies.”
“The People of Lot” is a reference to the homosexual behavior of the denizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, as recorded in the Bible and, later, the Koran. This would not be the first time a Muslim misunderstands Christianity’s message of love as promoting libertine or illicit sexuality.
These recent attacks are hardly unprecedented for Egypt. For example, one need look no further than to al-Wariq, Giza, where Catherine was attacked for a nearly identical precedent: there, in March, 2017, another Muslim man slit the throat of another Christian woman, also in broad daylight—and also only to be characterized by authorities as “mentally unstable.”
In January, 2017, another Muslim man crept up behind a Coptic man, 45, and slit his throat, killing him in Alexandria. The murderer’s reasoning was that the Christian man owned a shop that sold alcohol, which the Muslim deemed “contrary to the shar‘ia [Islamic law] and the religion [Islam].” There are many more examples.
In other words, these most recent and random murder attempts of 2020 are clear indicators that there’s nothing “new” about the New Year—at least not in Egypt, where its Coptic minorities continue to be targeted for slaughter, simply for being Christians.