Fahmi Howeidi: Egyptian Media Guilty of Incitement

Fahmi Howeidi: Egyptian Media Guilty of Incitement

 We have come to learn, now, that the alleged forced evictions of several Coptic families from their homes in an Ameriya village, near Alexandria, never actually happened. We are in possession of new evidence proving that inciting sedition was the work of media provocateurs and fanatic elite.

At least, this is what the People’s Assembly (PA) Human Rights Committee found following a visit to the area to discuss the facts surrounding the case and study the legality of the alleged relocation, Thursday February 16, as they met with Muslim and Copt representatives. A statement issued by the PA committee and all parties involved was published Saturday (February, 25) revealing details of the scandal in which subversive, incendiary Media had a heavy treacherous hand, with inflammatory unfounded stories.

On first hearing of the forced evictions publicized by the media, I was shocked and dismayed, as Egyptian media continued to denounce and condemn the incident for two weeks, at least. In a bid to learn the truth, I contacted the parties involved to get to the bottom of the case, and was able to hear testimonies from three witnesses namely: Nader Morkos, a member of Alexandria’s Local Council; Sheik Sherif Al-Hawari, a local Salafist leader; and Ameriya MP Ahmed Al-Sherif, of the Salafist Nour Party’s. They relayed the following to me:

  The case passed through a number of phases. First, indecent photographs were circulated of a local Coptic tailor showing him having an illegitimate affair with a married Muslim woman. This angered conservative local residents, who took to the streets, heading towards the tailor’s home, believing their honor and reputation have been tarnished – to their mind, a crime worse than murder.

    Learning of their anger, Khalil Suleiman Abskharoun a respected local Copt, AKA Abu Suleiman, met the crowds and tried to solve the problem before it spiraled even more out of control. However, according to testimonies, one of his sons climbed a nearby building and fired a few rounds in the air, followed shortly by more gunshots by another of his sons, in an effort to disperse the crowds. Some say this was followed by a third round of gunshots.

    Angered by the shots, a Muslim man got out his automatic rifle in response to the offending shots meant to scare off the crowds. Salafist locals who gathered around to protect the Copts moved towards the Muslim man to stop him from firing his gun. But the rifle went off, injuring three Muslims – one of whom is currently in a critical condition.

    Following the accidental shooting, the crowds which were initially angry at the Copt tailor involved in the illegitimate affair, vented their anger on Abu Suleiman’s house and a few of his nearby shops where gunshots set ablaze three apartments and four shops, leaving the tailor’s residence unscathed.

    In the wake of above incidents, Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist youths took charge of protecting the houses and stores belonging to Copts in the village. Meanwhile, village elders held a reconciliation meeting between the parties concerned, in which five people from each side took part. These reconciliation meetings are the norm in the village, with rules like moving out of the village all parties involved in disputes, either temporarily or permanently – like in cases of murder. Only recently, one such incident took place in the same village. That involved moving out a young Muslim man who killed his own cousin.

    During the reconciliation meeting, Coptic priest Bokhtor Nashed suggested removal of the tailor in question from the village, while others called also for removal of Abu Suleiman and his sons who fired the gunshots into the air. In fact, the sons had already fled the village, fearing for their lives, following the incident. However, Sheik Sherif Al-Hawari, the Salafist elder, objected to this arrangement, stating that Abu Suleiman had committed no crime, and that his sons only acted in defense of their property and did not intend to harm the people.

    To calm the situation, Abu Suleiman and his sons were invited to stay with Muslim families on the edge of the village, until tensions settled down, and would certainly return later. Abu Suleiman had stated that he was willing to permanently leave the village and close his businesses there. However, his Muslim neighbors objected and convinced him to stay; and there was a definite consensus that he and other affected locals would be compensated for any losses caused by saboteurs and thugs who infiltrated the angry crowds.

    As for the original crime of the Copt tailor and his illegitimate affair with the married Muslim woman, the case has been handed over to prosecutors.

What is one to say after learning the truth, on the ground, while hate media devote their efforts to inciting strife and fueling sedition with false allegations of ‘forcibly’ evicting Copts and mis-reporting inflammatory stories of collective punishment of Copts? With such media, there is no need for any hidden hands to destroy the country and spread chaos, lawlessness and disorder. After all, Egyptian media is doing that job well enough on its own.