by Dr. Ashraf Ramelah
In Egypt, mocking Islam or mocking the prophet of Islam spells doom. You will be arrested, have your property confiscated, and forcibly coerced to “emigrate” from your town. Then, count on a five-year prison term. This was exactly the penalty for four Coptic Christian schoolboys, aged 14-17, and their teacher.
Modernity collided with the 7th century when a lost cell phone turned up in the hands of a sectarian street thug ready for Sharia justice against its owner. The sim card showed a video of a 36-second skit mocking ISIS terrorists praying to Allah. Away from home on a school trip, the schoolboys had used their teacher’s phone to record the scene they acted out, thinking ISIS was fair game and knowing that Islam was not.
Unfortunately for them, the cell phone was lost or stolen and missing for a full year. Found by Muslims, who became offended by the “blasphemy”, the Egyptian courts overlooked their violent reaction (they attacked homes and businesses) and instead arrested the boys and their teacher.
On the same day these Muslims attacked the town, the police were notified and arrested the four Coptic boys and their teacher. Before their convictions by the courts, the Christian blasphemers were forced to apologize. One month later, on May 27 2015, the boys were released on bail and, in February 2016, they were sentenced to prison for five years.
They were allowed to pay a two thousand pound fee per student to temporarily suspend the verdict’s start date because they were not present at the sentencing.This last fact was a big factor in reversing their fortune.
The boys were facing the devastation of their remaining adolescence. They would soon be housed behind bars in prison cells with jihadists, possibly members of the Muslim Brotherhood or worse. The prospect was bleak, but all is now well thanks to anonymous channels.
The hidden hand of a courageous heart behind the scenes delivered the four boys from their awful fate. They were helped to obtain their passports and move through customs bound for Turkey (a country with bad diplomatic relations with Egypt). As tragic, glaring examples of religious tyranny with “refugee” status as defined by the UN, the boys arrived in Switzerland where their request for religious asylum was granted.
Upon arrival to safety in the West, one of the boys told a news reporter, “There was no reason to be treated like that; it was all a joke, but now we may have an opportunity for a better life.”
Egyptian authorities have been alarmed by reactions around the world related to the story, and the negative publicity they have received. The state is now bombarded with criticisms of the regime and its court system, broadcast by brave media hosts in Egypt. The conversation goes on with some saying that the boys were wrong to escape their sentencing; it would have been better for them to respect the courts, honor their country, and serve their time.
Of course, the real goal of some parts of the Muslim world is clear; the Middle East must be cleansed of Christians. The question is, will they succeed?
Dr. Ashraf Ramelah is the founder and president of Voice of the Copts, a human rights nonprofit organization in the US. He is dedicated to the Coptic cause and believes that his life’s mission is to speak up for the oppressed Copts who cannot speak up for themselves.