Christian Stores Attacked in Egypt After Muslim Girl Allegedly Assaulted

Muslim protestors attacked a group of Christian-owned businesses in a Southern Egyptian town following allegations that a Muslim girl was sexually assaulted by a Christian man.

Police ended up firing tear gas at hostile crowds who were said to have burned down four stores and thrown rocks at a local church after Friday prayers in Marashda village in the province of Qena.

Tina Ramirez, director of International and Government Relations for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told The Christian Post that incidents like these have been taking place since before the overthrow of long-serving President Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring.

"The Copts and all other Christians, as well as the Baha'i and Jewish communities, have experienced persecution for decades. While Mubarak did not actively call for persecution against Copts and others, he enabled religious persecution in other ways," said Ramirez.

"Years of turning a blind eye to the frequent incidents of violence and discrimination throughout society, allowing state-run education and media to dehumanize and foment intolerance, and even allowing the laws to be used to justify discrimination rather than ensure justice against all Christians, Baha'i, Jews, and other minority faith communities has exacerbated the marginalization of these groups in Egyptian society."

Since the overthrow of Mubarak, Egypt has undergone much political turmoil. This has included temporary military rule, elections in which the ultraconservative Muslim Brotherhood gained power, and the crafting of the nation's constitution.

Signed by Egyptian President and Muslim Brotherhood member Mohammed Morsi the day after Christmas, the new constitution has been criticized for its apparent lack of security for the human rights fought for by protestors since 2011.

Ramirez told CP that the process of drafting the new constitution was "ugly," with Islamists gradually forcing religious minorities out of the process.

"Through a series of different articles, the constitution restricts the rights of religious minorities to exercise their religion and places Islam in a position of superiority, with 'principles of sharia' as the main source of legislation," said Ramirez.

"Religious practice is limited to the three Abrahamic traditions – Islam, Christianity, and Judaism – which means that minorities such as Baha'is are not allowed to practice their religion – but not even these faiths are truly secure under this provision which replicates a former law that never secured justice."

Open Doors USA, a Christian persecution awareness group, recently released its annual World Watch List, which spotlights the 50 countries where persecution is most severe. Egypt was ranked at number 25, putting as one of 23 countries with "moderate persecution" of Christian communities.