Islamic “justice”—which usually finds Muslims in the right, and non-Muslims in the wrong—or rather, tribal justice, has, once again, prevailed in Egypt.
Not only have the Muslim men who stripped naked and publicly abused an elderly Christian grandmother been acquitted in a court of law; now she is the one facing serious legal charges to compensate her tormentors.
As the nearly seven-year-old case of Soad Thabet, now 76, comes to its disgraceful close, it is important to recall the facts.
On May 20, 2016, in al-Karm village, Minya governorate, some 300 Muslim men descended on the Christian woman’s home, stripped her naked, and then beat, spat on, and paraded her through the streets by her hair—to jeers, whistles, and triumphant shouts of “Allahu Akbar” (first reported in English here).
Her “crime” was that her son was accused of being romantically involved with a Muslim woman. (Islam assumes the man is superior, and that non-Muslims must never have authority over Muslims. Non-Muslim men may therefore never court or marry Muslim women, although Muslim men may court and marry non-Muslim women.)
Several Christian homes in the village were also looted and torched during this 2016 riot, in keeping with Islamic law, or sharia, which prescribes the collective punishment of non-Muslim “infidels.”
While being kicked on the ground, cursed, and spat upon, Thabet had managed to slide herself underneath a wagon. As the furious mob rampaged, an unidentified woman slipped her some garments, she wore them and managed to slip away unnoticed.
“I never saw the woman who covered me and don’t know how I survived,” she later recalled during a closed meeting with Coptic clergymen. They testified that Thabet’s body was “covered with wounds,” adding, “though she is strong, it is sometimes hard for her to speak; she’s always fighting back tears and sometimes breaks down.”
Thabet and her household had been harassed and threatened several days before the attack. On the morning of the assault, some of the home’s property was stolen and vandalized. She and her husband went to local police but they accused them of being troublemakers and kicked them out of the station. The attack occurred a few hours later that day, May 20, 2016. It took the same local police over two hours to appear, giving the mob “ample time,” as one clergyman put it, to sate its savage impulses.
It is further worth noting that this assault, like so many Islamic attacks on religious minorities, occurred on a Friday—the one day of the week when Muslims congregate in mosques where they are often whipped up into a frenzy against “infidels” and their alleged transgressions against the honor of Islam.
Like many women in her situation—indeed, like many rape victims—Thabet was initially reluctant to take legal action against her abusers: doing so would just protract the scandal. “I tried to hide and suppress what occurred,” she said in 2016, “but I could only take the feelings of humiliation and oppression for four days, at which point I decided to return to the local police station and testify about what happened to me before those who had refused to hear me.”
When Thabet duly took her tormentors to court, her case became one of Egypt’s most prominent—to the point that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with and promised her justice. (In retrospect, that visit appears to have been just for show.)
Despite video evidence and eyewitnesses clearly identifying the three Muslim men primarily responsible for the assault, from the very first court hearing in 2016 until the present, Egyptian courts appeared to do everything possible to exonerate the perpetrators: they continuously acquitted the three men, tried to close the case, delayed and postponed the hearings, and even recused themselves. Thabet and her lawyers nevertheless determinedly reopened and pursued the case in appellate courts.
All during these years, Thabet and her family received threats and had to relocate from their village, even as the three guilty Muslim men walked there freely, head held high.
Finally, earlier this month, on January 9, 2023 a Court of Cassation, the highest court of appeals in Egypt, closed the door on the possibility of justice for Thabet by upholding the acquittal of the three Muslim men. As one report explains, “Not only will the men who assaulted Thabet not be held accountable, but Thabet is facing litigation that could see her have to compensate the three men who assaulted her.”
The judiciary system maintained appearances but was void of true justice. Right from the beginning of the case in 2016, the police and prosecution colluded in mishandling the investigation to avoid presenting any reliable or specific evidence against the accused. In fact, the witnesses who initially supported the victim were later “convinced” to alter their testimony and claim in front of the court that, after all, they were not really sure who assaulted the old woman. Acting upon technicalities, the courts—all the way to the top (Cassation) Court—simply absolved the defendants and never challenged the investigative authorities. In the end, the final ruling ultimately exposes Egypt’s injustice.
Thabet is hardly the first Christian woman in Egypt to be treated this way. In 2013, rioting Muslims “burned down a Christian school, paraded three nuns on the streets like ‘prisoners of war,’ and sexually abused two other female staff even as at least 58 attacks on Christians and their property were reported across Egypt over the last four days. At least two Christians have died in the attacks.”
Nor is this a distinctly Egyptian practice; it is an Islamic one. In Pakistan, a 28-year-old pregnant Christian mother of four was stripped naked, beaten, and forced to march nude in her town by two Muslim brothers after an argument. She lost her baby in the ordeal, which “was motivated because of Bibi’s [Christian] religious beliefs.” Similarly, a Muslim family kidnapped, beat and left naked on the streets an 8-year-old Christian girl, as a way to “punish” her uncle for pursuing a relationship with a female member of the Muslim family.
Sadly, such is the notion of “justice” in many Islamic nations. Because Muslims are members of the “right” tribe—Islam—they are seldom punished when transgressing the rights of infidel minorities, who, in keeping with the prevailing sentiment, are expected to be grateful for being accorded any measure of toleration at all.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Defenders of the West, Sword and Scimitar, Crucified Again, and The Al Qaeda Reader, is a Distinguished Senior Shillman Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.