By Mohammad Baali
Albawaba.com - Cairo
The editor in chief of the Cairo-based weekly Sawt Al Ummah on Sunday denounced a Coptic Christian lawyer for accusing the paper of inciting sectarianism.
Adel Hammoudeh said the article that prompted the charge, which alleged that Copts had obtained asylum in the US by claiming their wives and daughters had been raped by Muslims, had simply been an “explanation” of Coptic “extremists’” claims of oppression in Egypt.
Sawt Al Ummah’s front page story last Wednesday alleged that 70,000 members of the Coptic community, which makes up about 16 percent of the Egyptian population, had secured political asylum in the US by claiming the rape of female family members.
The Coptic lawyer, Mamdouh Nakhleh, told the prosecutor general that the newspaper had violated press laws by failing to cite reliable sources, and accused it of inciting sectarian hatred.
Hammoudah, however, told Albawaba.com that the allegations presented in the article were not new.
He said his paper had previously published part of a USA Coptic Union letter to the US president claiming that more than 400,000 Coptic Egyptian women had been raped and forced to become Muslims.
Hammoudeh said that they had, at first, been under the impression that these claims were simply attacks on the Egyptian regime.
“ But we discovered later that they had been used by the expatriate Copts to secure religious asylum in the US,” he added.
“We published the contents [of the letter] and demanded documentation on the “falsified” police reports used for securing the asylum,” Hammoudeh said.
The journalist expressed astonishment at Nakhleh’s “failure” to address the claims of the US Copts.
“Don’t these claims incite sectarianism?” Hammoudh asked, adding that he would publish Nakhleh’s response to the article in order to demonstrate his faith in the role of the press in opening a community dialogue.
The Sawt Al Ummah scandal is the second of its type in less than two months. The Copts recently took offense at an article published by the tabloid Al Nabaa.
Young Copts in Cairo and Upper Egypt rioted after reading the article, which graphically described the sexual antics of an alleged monk who supposedly ran a sex-and-blackmail ring out of a monastery.
The tabloid editor in chief was taken to court on charges of insulting Christianity and was subsequently expelled from the Egyptian Press Association. In addition, his paper’s license was withdrawn – Albawaba.com