By Associated Press in Cairo
A Muslim mob stripped a 70-year-old Christian woman and paraded her naked on the streets in an attack last week in which seven Christian homes were ransacked and torched in a province south of the Egyptian capital.
According to the local Orthodox Coptic church and security officials, the assault in the Minya province village of Karama on Friday began after rumours spread that the woman’s son had had an affair with a Muslim woman – a taboo in conservative Egypt.
Police have arrested six men suspected of taking part in the violence and are looking for 12 more, the security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.
Anba Makarios, Minya’s top Christian cleric, told a talkshow host on the private Dream TV network that the woman was dragged out of her home by the mob, who beat and insulted her before stripping off her clothes and forcing her to walk through the streets as they chanted Allahu Akbar, or “God is greatest”.
The woman reported the incident to the police five days later, said Makarios, adding that she had found it difficult to “swallow the humiliation” she suffered.
The incident, intensely publicised since Wednesday night, has unleashed a flurry of condemnations on social media networks where users accused ultra-conservative Salafi Muslims of being behind the violence. The hashtag “Egypt stripped naked” on Twitter gained traction shortly after it was introduced.
Extramarital affairs or sex between unmarried couples are taboo among both Muslims and Christians in Egypt. Such incidents often attract violent reactions in rural areas, where questions of honour can lead to deadly family feuds that endure for years or result in ostracising of the perpetrators.
Christian men cannot marry Muslim women in Egypt unless they convert to Islam first, but Muslim men can marry Christian women. An affair between a Christian man and a Muslim woman is almost certain to cause a great deal of trouble if the couple are found out, particularly in rural areas.
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