A court ruling concerning the murder of a Christian man has left many of Egypt’s Copts disappointed and, once again, feeling discriminated against.
Background: In April, 2022, three masked men pulled up near the workshop of Rani Ra’fat, a 28-year-old Coptic engineer. Once the Christian appeared, a hail of fire was opened on him. He died on the spot; 22 bullets were found in his body. His killers then fled the scene.
Then, on May 13, one of the murderers made a brief video. While beaming a great smile and congratulating himself for his deed, he proudly identified himself as Faisal Abdul Nasser, and said that he did not know his victim, but that he was moved to the act after reading the Koran and because he is “loyal to Allah”:
I am the one who killed that Christian of al-Daba, and—by Allah, by Allah, by Allah—I am delighted that I killed him! I killed him on behalf of Muhammad’s umma [i.e., the Muslim world], because he is a polytheist who associates another [Christ] with Allah, and his own Bible confirms this…. No Christian polytheist, who doesn’t believe in our lord, Muhammad, can just come and profane our women! He is a polytheist and my heart was inflamed. I had read the Koran and my heart was inflamed with fire, so I killed him. He is not permitted to touch someone [a woman] who believes in Muhammad the messenger of Allah… I neither knew him [personally] nor the woman he was reportedly involved with. However, when I read the Koran, my heart was set afire. I am zealous over and sacrifice for Islam. I have no problem surrendering myself [to the police]. This is a state issue: It is not permissible for a Christian who associates others with Allah to be involved with a Muslim woman…No one incited me to do this, only my heart—because I am loyal to Allah.
While Islam permits Muslim men to marry non-Muslim women, the reverse—a non-Muslim man marrying a Muslim woman—is forbidden. Because Islamic culture is ultra-patriarchal, the logic behind this dichotomy holds that, since the man has authority over the woman, it matters little if the woman is not a Muslim. If anything, their relationship only confirms that “infidels” are subservient to Muslims. On the other hand, if the man is not a Muslim, but the woman is, then that marriage would lead to an “infidel” having authority over a Muslim—which is totally unacceptable.
Despite this man boasting of his deed, and saying that he had nothing personal against his Christian victim; despite that he and the others used illegal machine guns, were dressed in camouflage, and even opened fire on security forces—they did not get what many expected them to get—and what others have gotten for far less—that is, the death sentence.
Faisal, the main culprit who made the video, and the two others who opened fire alongside him, received life in prison. The three others got between 10 and 15 years. As critics point out, had their victim been a Muslim, they—certainly the main culprit—most likely would have been sentenced to death. Indeed, the victim’s lawyer said he will appeal the verdict.
Even so, the reader is left to imagine what their punishment would have been if they were Christians who murdered a Muslim for “zeal” of God.
But, as it happens, the slain victim was a Christian—and Islamic sharia makes very clear that the blood of Muslims and “infidels” are not equal, and that under no circumstances should Muslim authorities execute a fellow Muslim, so long as his crimes and murders are directed at non-Muslims.
In the clear-cut words of Muhammad, “Let no Muslim be killed on account of an infidel” [or kafir, “non-Muslim”; recorded in Sahih Bukhari and other canonical collections].
This divisive and demeaning teaching is not limited to “radical Islam.” It is (as discussed here) mainstream. For example, in a 2018 video, Egyptian cleric Samir Hashish said the following about the hadith “Let no Muslim be killed on account of an infidel”:
The hadith itself is of course authentic… However, the hadith does not mean that whoever, without cause, kills any of the People of the Book [Christians and Jews] has done rightly. Not at all—the hadith did not say this; it did not say those who do this are right. The hadith simply excludes the death penalty from among the possible punishments. In other words, the Muslim who kills a non-Muslim without cause—is he wrong or not? He’s wrong. Is he to be penalized or not? He is to be penalized—but without the death penalty. Let him be judged any which way, but do not kill him. Why? Because of what the hadith says. The prophet said, “Let no Muslim be killed on account of an infidel.” Why? Because their blood is not equal. The blood of the Muslim is superior. Call it racism or whatever you want, but of course the blood of the Muslim is superior. This is not open to debate.
Once again, then, Egypt’s Copts are reminded that, despite all the talk that all Egyptians—Christians and Muslims—are “one,” the supremacist and discriminatory teachings of Islam have robbed them of justice.