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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Christian Gets Three Years for Insults to Islam

A juvenile court in Egypt has sentenced a Coptic Christian teenager to three years in prison for allegedly insulting Islam on his Facebook page, according to Reuters Africa. This is the maximum penalty for the offense under Egyptian law.

The court claimed 17-year-old Gamal Abdou Massoud posted cartoons mocking Islam and the prophet Muhammad to the social network in December and distributed the images to other students. This allegedly set off an anti-Christian riot in the city of Asyut, during which Massoud's house was firebombed and five other Christian-owned homes were burned to the ground by some Muslims who were angered by the cartoons, according to Compass Direct News.

The court also held Massoud responsible for inciting the riots, but Massoud denies all charges against him.

The controversial decision is the latest incident to highlight a perceived legal double standard for minority Christians in the predominantly Mulsim country.

The Assyrian International News Agency cited Massoud's case and two others in a January report concerning "cases [that] have been brought against Copts [in Egypt], based on accusations mostly from postings on Facebook or Twitter of cartoons or comments deemed by Islamists as insulting to Islam."

"Rights are given to the Christian minority in Egypt only when Islamic sensitivities are not involved," Compass Direct News, a Christian news agency dedicated to reporting about persecuted Christians, wrote following the incident.

Christians make up only about 10 percent of Egypt's 80 million citizens, according to Reuters Africa.

Asyut is well known in Egypt as a Coptic Christian stronghold, and was the hometown of the late Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III, who died March 17.

Tensions between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Egypt have intensified since a church bombing killed at least 21 in Alexandria in 2011, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

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