A mob of over a thousand Islamic extremists attacked a Christian village destroying property and setting the homes of over 80 families ablaze over rumors that a Coptic man was converting a home into a church.
The attacks, which took place Friday in Egypt’s Qaryat Al-Bayda village, near Alexandria, left two Copts seriously injured and resulted in thousands of dollars worth of damage, according to a Coptic activist.
“A great deal of fanatic Muslims gathered in front of the new house of my cousin,” Mousa Zarif, a Christian who witnessed the events, told Christian advocacy group International Christian Concern.
“They were chanting slogans against us. Among these slogans were, ‘By no means shall there be a church here,’” Zarif said.
Naim Aziz, the Christian man who was building the house, told Daily News Egypt that he was constructing it for his son to live in and not for a church.
The mob first ransacked the home, destroying the construction materials and also attacked Aziz and his brother, who were both seriously injured.
The attackers then began chanting traditional Islamic afternoon prayer on loudspeakers aimed at Christian families in the village as they torched their cars and homes, even as police began to arrive, according to ICC.
During the attack, police arrested six Copts and six Muslim men.
“This is usual business for the Egyptian government in how they deal with sectarian violence,” Coptic activist Mina Abdelmalak told The Foreign Desk.
According to Abdelmalak, the police force Copts to reconcile with their attackers and by doing so, pressure these victims into surrendering their rights.
“Ever since (President Abdel Fatah) Sisi came into power, you see an increase in the negative tone against Copts,” Abdelmalak said, admitting however that the number of incidents have not been as many as they were under President Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government.
“Under Sisi the Coptic communities get protection from the military which then fuels sectarian attacks against Copts,” he said, adding that Egypt’s Christians have also been blamed for Sisi’s military coup because of their close ties with the army.
Just last month, Egypt’s Christians were victim to a similar attack condemned by President Sisi in which 300 Muslims looted and torched Christian homes in the south, and stripped a 70-year-old Christian woman naked after accusing her son of having an affair with a Muslim woman, according to Reuters.
President Sisi and other Muslim leaders have also spoken out about combating religious extremist ideology leading to incitement and sectarian violence.
“Under (President Hosni) Mubarak we didn’t have as many cases against Copts as we have under Sisi,” Abdelmalak said.
“I don’t think Sisi is personally pushing to marginalize Copts, but he’s not helping the situation either. He is living in denial about there even being a sectarian problem.”