By Raymond Ibrahim – Special for Coptic Solidarity –
On the evening of June, 23, 2022, Muslim mobs attacked the homes of Coptic Christians, including by hurling stones through their windows, in al-Hilla, a village in Luxor governate, Upper Egypt.
The occasion of this latest Muslim mob attack on Egypt’s indigenous Christian minority was the legalization of the Church of Michael the Archangel. Although the church was originally built in 2003, it only received formal recognition last week. As soon as the decree (signed by the prime-minister) was issued, after years of waiting, to legalize the church—and in anticipation of expected fanatic Muslim ire—the local security department of the district dispatched a security force to protect, and set up barriers around, the church.
On learning that the church that had been built nearly two decades ago was finally going to start functioning as a “church,” Muslims throughout the village “rejected the matter,” says one report, “and the process of charging and inflaming the people’s feelings began,” as mobs cried out that the building or renovation of a church contradicts shari‘a, or Islamic, law (as well captured by the Conditions of Omar, a document purportedly drawn up by Caliph Omar I, which, among several other severe stipulations placed on Christians, holds that new churches can never be built, and preexisting but dilapidated churches can never be repaired).
Before long, the angry mobs, which were augmented by others from neighboring villages, had grown very large and, “amidst hostile chants”—which no doubt included Islam’s jihadist war-cry, “Allahu Akbar!”—began hurling stones through the windows of Coptic homes. According to the report, “the security force charged with protecting the church tried to rebuff them, but the number of assailants was too large.”
Before peace could be regained, many Christian homes had been damaged; several vehicles and motorcycles parked in front of Coptic homes were also “smashed” or set aflame, including the village priest’s vehicle.
On the following day, Friday, Luxor police forces reinforced their presence in the village in anticipation of more Muslim anger following Friday mosque prayers—when imams habitually whip the faithful into a frenzy concerning the alleged sins of the “infidels” who need to be punished. Armed security and national forces—including several armored vehicles—were deployed all throughout the village, especially around the Church of Michael the Archangel, Christian homes, and surrounding mosques.
Meanwhile, and as the report notes, the traumatized Copts maintain that their “only sin” was to have “obtained an official decision to legalize the church.”
It is worth noting that the above scenario has played out countless times in Egypt: whenever a church is built, legalized, or repaired—or is merely rumored to be built, legalized, or repaired—local Muslims riot and attack the Copts. Authorities frequently respond by appeasing the rioters and rescinding the church’s legal status, effectively shutting it down.
Time will tell if the law will, once again, be subservient to Muslim mob rule, or if justice will prevail for the Church of Michael the Archangel.