Egyptian Christian Teacher Accused of 'Defaming Islam' Goes on Hunger Strike

(AINA) -- The latest victim in the series of defamation of Islam accusations against Christians is a Coptic school teacher, 24-year-old Ms Demiana Ebeid Abdelnour, who teaches social science at a primary school in Tout, Luxor. Demiana went on hunger strike two days after Luxor prosecution detained her on May 8 for "defamation of Islam." Parents of three school children accused her of defamation of Islam and insulting Mohammad.

Yesterday prosecution extended her detention for a further 15 days. It was reported that she was not allowed to be transferred to hospital from prison based on the report of the prison physician. The teacher's union in Luxor said that all investigations confirmed the innocence of Demiana, and that they have assembled a team of lawyers to defend her.

On April 8, 2012 Demiana gave a lesson at Shaikh Sultan school, one of the three schools she was mandated to give lessons in, on the religious life at the time of the pharaohs and polytheism , and how Pharaoh Akhenaten adopted monotheism. This lesson touched on the three heavenly religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam, according to the curriculum. Present during the class session was the subject inspector who left 10 minutes before the end of the session.

Two days later she was advised that her mandate to give lessons at Shaikh Sultan school was cancelled and she has to return to her original school. She was told that the reason was that three students accused her of defamation of religion.

Demiana was questioned by three committees, in addition the school director. She was accused of comparing the former Coptic Pope, Shenouda, to Mohamad, as well as putting her hand on her neck or her stomach everytime she mentioned Muhammad. She denied all allegations and was absolved by all committees.

But the local ministry of educations still suspended stopped her from teaching pending further investigation.

"A witch hunt started against her with parents of children from that school asking for her dismissal," said Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub. "Some parents hired lawyers and presented a complaint to prosecution, accusing her of defamation of Islam and Proselytizing, based on allegations of three children less than ten years old."

On May 10 Amnesty International issued a statement saying "It is outrageous that a teacher finds herself behind bars for teaching a class. The authorities must release Dimyana Obeid Abd Al Nour immediately and drop these spurious charges against her."

Coptic activist Mark Ebeid said "Why is defamation of religion a one-way street, only for the benefit of the Muslims, while Christianity is defamed every day?" He added that Shaikh Abu Islam, who tore and burned the Holy Bible, has not been detained (AINA 9-14-2012).

By Mary Abdelmassih

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