Hundreds of Muslims came out of mosques today with hammers and destroyed a social services building belonging to the Coptic Church while chanting Islamic slogans. Security forces arrived after the building was completely razed. The 100 square meters social services building in the village of Fanous, Tamia district in Fayoum province, 130 KM south west of Cairo, had all the necessary government permits; it had a reception hall on the first floor and a kindergarten on the second.
But the Muslims insisted that it would become a church.
A meeting had taken place beforehand between the village mayor and elders from Muslim and Coptic sides and it was agreed that only the first floor was to remain and the second be demolished.
Mosques in surrounding villages called on their microphones this afternoon on Muslims to go and help their Muslim brethrens in the village of Fanous, because Christians were "building a church." According to rights activist Nader Shukry of Maspero Coptic Youth Organizations, nearly 5000 Muslims took part in demolishing the church property with their hammers, while shouting "Allahu Akbar." He said no one was arrested, not even the imams who called on Muslims to demolish the building; their calls fall under the crime of "enticement to violence."
The district of Tamia and neighboring Senousen is home to a large congregation of Islamists. Shoukry said that the Coptic Church had previously warned the security authorities of the danger of the Islamists provoking sedition in Tamia and neighboring areas.
A witness from Fanous village said they were working on the building site, which had started two months ago, removing the wood which was intended for the second floor when a Muslim man started insulting the Copts, then they were assaulted by the village women. The mob of Muslim men followed with their attack saying that the whole building has to be demolished. He said that the Muslim elders pretended to be peacemakers, but to no avail. "The Muslims with their hammers and spare pipes were demolishing also the walls of the ground floor, leaving nothing standing," said the witness. The village mayor and Muslim elders made excuses for not honoring their agreement of leaving the ground floor intact by saying the "youth take unreasonable actions."
Security authorities arrived after the social services building was demolished.
Some village Copts together with priests from St. George's Church went to the police station to have a report with the incident issued. No Muslim was arrested.
"Although we recognized the village youth who participated in the demolition work we could not name any of them," said a Christian resident, "as we are a minority in the village and we do not want to have problems because we fear for the safety of our children. We go away to work in Cairo leaving our families behind in the village. I believe that as Copts, we are destined to be always persecuted."
According to Shukry, the Copts are staying indoors, afraid to get into any confrontation which might lead to other attacks on their homes and businesses. "This incident will end like all other similar incidents, no one will be arrested and the building will never be rebuilt." He believes that the Copts should stand firm and insist on rebuilding this demolished services building, "otherwise it will be a green light to repeat this incident in the neighboring villages."
In 2007 in the village of Roda in Tamia Muslims demolished the fence of the Protestant church, security initiated a "reconciliation" meeting. The governorate promised to rebuild the fence at its own expenses, and the perpetrators were released. The fence has still not been built.