A Muslim mob attacked the homes of Christians in the Egyptian village of Menbal in the Minya governorate on 9 July after a member of the Christian community was accused of insulting Islam on social media.
Police subsequently arrested 90 Muslims and charged them with mob violence, inciting sedition and attacking police.
Abdu Adel Ayad, a 40-year-old Christian from the village, was detained by police on 6 July. He is accused of “disdaining Islam” by posting a link on Facebook comparing Islam to other religions. Police are currently investigating the accusation. If found guilty, he could face a five-year jail sentence and a fine of up to 1,000 Egyptian Pounds under article 98(f) of the Egyptian penal code, which criminalises “disparaging or contempt of any divine religion or its adherents”.
On 9 July a large mob attacked the homes of Christians in the village, pelting stones and shouting “Allahu Akbar”. Police swiftly intervened to protect the Christian community. One Christian said, “We spent a painful evening we shall never forget. An evening of terror.”
At the time of writing there is still a police cordon around Christian houses in the village, including that of Abdu’s family.
Egypt’s Administrative Court issued a ruling in 2008, which included the statement “The state of Egypt recognizes three divine religions, i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and its legislation regulates the religious establishments of only these three religions.” The law against disparaging divine religions was introduced in Egypt in 1981, following community violence in Cairo during the rule of president Anwar Sadat. Muslims in the El Zawya el Hamra neighbourhood attempted to erect a mosque on private property set aside for a church. When Christians intervened to halt the construction, three days of community violence ensued.
The legislation, seemingly enacted in response to a law and order situation and providing protection for Christians as well as Muslims, is now increasingly being used as tool by those seeking to protect Islam from criticism. Three Egyptian Christian teenagers were sentenced to five years in prison in 2016 for insulting Islam after they posted a video online.