An Egyptian Christian teacher has been convicted of insulting Islam, receiving a large fine instead of being sentenced to jail time.
Dimiana Abdel-Nour, a 24-year-old history and geography teacher of the Sheikh Sultan Primary School in Luxor, was not present in court on Tuesday to hear her verdict, which found her guilty of insulting Islam in an incident back in May and sentenced her to pay a fine of 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($14,000).
In May, Abdel-Nour was accused by three students in her fourth grade classroom of insulting the prophet Muhammad by saying the late Coptic Pope Shenouda performed more miracles than the prophet, and reportedly feigned nausea while talking about the prophet Muhammad.
The parents of the three children reportedly filed a complaint with the school, and days later Abdel-Nour was arrested, although she was released shortly after posting a bail of LE 20,000 ($2,870), which permitted her to stay out of prison during a pending investigation.
Abdel-Nour argued that she was being falsely accused of insulting Islam, saying that Muslim extremists reportedly convinced the school children to make slanderous claims against the teacher because of her Christian faith.
The young teacher argued that the fact that many of the students denied she had ever insulted Islam proved the other claims to be false.
Many critics contend that the June 2012 election of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood political party has resulted in a tighter crackdown of Christianity in the North African country.
The incline in blasphemy charges is seen by many as a reflection of the growing power of Islamists, whom critics argue receive special treatment from Morsi.
Under Egypt's newly approved constitution, for example, blasphemy is a punishable criminal offense.
In May, another teacher, this time a Muslim high school teacher, was questioned by police after some students claimed he was insulting Islam via a vague question on one of his final exams.
In 2012, a Christian teacher in Sohag was sentenced to six years in jail for reportedly posting cartoons on Facebook which insulted Islam and President Morsi.
Barry Rubin, an American-born, Israeli expert on Middle East affairs, wrote in his PJ Media's "Rubin Reports" column that he believes the incline in blasphemy cases is a result of Islamists demanding their religion be the only acceptable one.
"The battle, of course, is being waged by Islamists who want their interpretation of the religion to be declared as the only acceptable version," Rubin, also the director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center, wrote last year.
"Westerners don't understand that when that happens anything more moderate or flexibly traditional hence becomes illegal and punishable. The Islamist counter-Bill of Rights proclaims that the country's people have no freedom of speech or freedom of religion, no right to free assembly or of the press," Rubin added.
According to Morning Star News, a survey conducted by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights found that 41 percent of blasphemy cases heard by a court from Jan. 25, 2011, to Dec. 31, 2012, were filed against Christians, who only make up 10 percent of the country's population.