Coptic Christians are the minority in Egypt, but have generally received better treatment than in other Muslim countries in the Middle East and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has vowed to protect the sect as part of his call for national unity.

Rules against blasphemy, however, are harsh and what constitutes the crime is open to interpretation by those in power, as a Christian student learned when he was beaten severely by his teacher for speaking during a class exercise writing phrases from the Quran.

The incident occurred when the young boy asked a fellow student to move so he could see the Islamic phrases written on the chalkboard at the front of the room.

The Egyptian teacher using an electric cord to administer 40 lashes to the boy until the student lost consciousness and collapsed on the floor, lying in his own blood.

Reports indicate that the other students did not intervene, nor did anyone from outside the classroom investigate the boy’s screams.

The beating inflicted broken bones and kidney damage, according to doctors.

The father of the boy says “no legal steps have been taken against the teacher” although he filed a police report immediately after the incident.

Human rights activists have spoken out against the use of blasphemy laws by Egyptian Muslims to persecute Christians and say the targeting has increased in the past year.

“We are the weaker element in society, so if anything happens, we will be the first victims,” said Mina Thabet, a Coptic activist and researcher at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms.

Thabet confirmed that police response to Christian calls is “often-sluggish."

The attack on the young student is only the most recent in the increasingly hostile atmosphere. Muslim mobs surrounded the homes of five Coptic students they believed had insulted the Islamic faith, threw stones and demanded that the parents turn their children into the police.

Although the students had, in fact, been ridiculing ISIS, not Islam, they were charged with blasphemy and have been detained by the authorities.

Conditions of poverty, unemployment, revolution and unstable government are contributing to a volatile situation in which the Muslim majority uses the minority Christian population as a scapegoat.

The country has been rocked by violence since the 2011 revolution as Christians were victims of mob attacks. More than 80 churches fell to arson in August 2013 alone.


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