Thursday, May 5, 2011

Female’s faith threatens delicate religious balance in Egypt

Islamists threaten to protest in front of a Coptic cathedral over Camilia Shehata, who they say converted to Islam but is captive by the church; experts tell Ahram Online they fear violence if she doesn’t appear in public.

(Ahram Online) - Islamists are preparing to protest in front of a Coptic cathedral this Friday, demanding for the release of Camilia Shehata - a Copt who they claim has converted to Islam and is now being held against her will by the Coptic church – as well as to oust Pope Shenouda III.

Islamists protest
Islamists protest in Cairo near the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)
The wife of priest Tadros Samaan, Camilia Shehata, 26 years old, disappeared in July 2010 after reportedly converting to Islam, causing a stir among Islamists. In response, Islamists have already protested multiple times.

“If the Salafists and the Copts clash this Friday, a civil war will break out in Egypt,” Emad Gad, Researcher at Ahram Strategic Center voiced his fears.

Other Islamic scholars are also sceptical about the Salafists protesting before the Coptic cathedral.

“If the Salafists want to protest, they ought to do that before governmental buildings and not religious ones,” Kamal Habib, specialist in Islamic groups studies, told Ahram Online.

Habib echoes the fear that Salafists protesting before the cathedral might increase the sectarian tension in Egypt.

The General Prosecutor has started an investigation on the issue Tuesday by interrogating Priest Aghabious, the priest of the church of Shehata’s husband, Amwas and her lawyer, Naguib Gobrael. “Shehata’s faith was not mentioned during the investigation,” said Gobrael, knowing that it would make a difference in Egyptian’s response to these events.

In an attempt to calm things down, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) posted a statement on its Facebook page, communiqué number (44), declaring that, currently, there are several attempts to challenge Egyptian unity and that the SCAF would work to combat them by any means.