Egypt Muslim Kills Christian Cobbler amid Rising Religious Tensions

Monday, August 21, 2006

By BosNewsLife News Center

CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife) -- A Muslim ex-convict reportedly stabbed and killed a Christian cobbler northeast of Cairo saying he had planned to murder him because he was an ‘infidel’ who made a comment that offended him, BosNewsLife monitored Sunday, August 20.

Hossam Hafez Ahmad Attaya knifed Fouad Fawzy Tawfik on June 27 as the shoemaker was bending down to take the Muslim man's foot measurement near his shop in Zagazig, provincial capital of Sharkeya, reported Christian news agency Compass Direct News.

Egyptian officials have not confirmed the case. "I want to kill him because he is an infidel, let me kill them all!" Attaya allegedly shouted as he sunk an eight-inch (22.3 centimeters) blade into the Christian’s left lung and stomach.

"My brother was clearly victimized for being a Christian," Noshe Fawzy Tawfik was quoted as saying. Restraining Attaya from stabbing Fouad Tawfik a second time, bystanders reportedly called an ambulance, but the shoemaker died minutes later from loss of blood before he could reach the hospital.


Attaya admitted during questioning he had planned the murder in response to a joke Fouad Tawfik had made several days before, lawyer Fady Nabil Labib told Compass Direct News.

Labib, who is representing the victim's family, quoted Attaya from official investigation records as saying he was specifically angered by Fouad Tawfik's offhand comment that “tomorrow America is going to invade Egypt and kill everyone in it."

The troubles allegedly began June 27 when Attaya visited his cousin’s shoe shop, located only 50 meters (165 feet) away from Fouad Tawfik’s store, and pretended to be interested in buying shoes. The Muslim man had his cousin call Fouad Tawfik to take measurements and then attacked him with a concealed knife, news reports said.

Labib reportedly said that a case against Attaya is due to be heard in a criminal court but that no date has been set for the hearing. The attack was the latest in a series of reported incidents against minority Christians in Egypt. Human rights groups say the Egyptian government is not doing enough to halt Muslim extremism in the country.


In published remarks, Labib and Zagazig church leaders said they were confident that Attaya will be fairly prosecuted, but not necessarily because the ex-convict has pled guilty in initial interrogations, Compass Direct News said.

"If there is any kind of fairness in this situation, it is because of his past crimes, not because he killed a Christian," said Father Daniel Habib, priest of St. Antonius Coptic Orthodox church where Fouad Tawfik’s funeral was held.

Attaya is a follower of the strict Wahhabi Islam, which views the creation of human images as a form of idolatry. The Muslim was sentenced last year for attempting to destroy an ancient statue of Ramses II located at the entrance of Zagazig University and for burning a picture of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Analysts say that recent events have made Egypt’s Coptic Christians, estimated to number between eight million and 15 million, particularly wary of legal loopholes used to acquit those who carry out periodic attacks on Christians.


Last month Egypt reportedly dropped charges against a Muslim for his April knife attacks on churches in Alexandria – which killed one churchgoer and wounded more than a dozen others – after a committee of psychiatrists published a report that he was mentally imbalanced.

In Zagazig, Christians are confident that Attaya will not be acquitted on the pretext of insanity, Compass Direct News said. "They can’t say he is insane, because he was already tried for burning a picture of Mubarak," Fr. Habib commented. "He can’t be sane one minute and not the next."

Church leaders say there has been disparity between police treatment of Hossam Attaya and treatment received by Christian murder suspects in the nearby village of Kafr Salama Ibrahim.

Certain interpretations of Islamic tradition demand that a murderer or his family pay compensation to the family of the victim. Police invoked this extra-legal “blood-money” settlement last December by detaining 11 Christians without trial in Kafr Salama Ibrahim and insisting that they pay 1 million Egyptian pounds to the family of the Muslim man they were suspected of killing.


After four days in police custody, the Christians gave law enforcement officers deeds to five of their homes as compensation. All 11 had expected to be released, but police kept five.

Their case has yet to be heard in Masoura’s Criminal Court.

Christian lawyers involved in the Kafr Salama Ibrahim case reportedly agreed that the Christians had been blackmailed into accepting the extra-legal settlement. With the death of her husband, Fouad Tawfik's wife, Abeer Magdy Mekaye, now faces the challenge of raising her two small children alone.

"I want to be a good mom and to help my kids grow up in a Christian home and to know their faith," said the mother of six-year-old Batul and three-year-old Fawzy. “I need God’s help, because I have problems in my spine and leg. Please pray for my physical healing and the ability to heal from the loss of my husband." (With reports from Egypt).

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