An Egyptian Christian was stabbed multiple times when he tried to rescue his son who was held against his will by a Muslim neighbour in Alexandria.

On the night of 15 February, Magdy Fathy Shehata Awad Allah, deacon at the Coptic Orthodox Church in the northeast of Alexandria and a human rights activist, was rushed to hospital after he was stabbed seven times by a Muslim neighbour, a local source told World Watch Monitor.

Awad Allah, a father of two, incurred his wounds when he tried to rescue his 17-year-old son Thomas who was held against his will in the apartment of Mahmoud Abdel Rahman Farghaly. World Watch Monitor’s source, who said the man is known throughout the community for his anti-Christian sentiments, said the incident unfolded this way:

The teenager had been out on the street when Rahman Farghaly asked him to buy medication for him because, he said, he was ill. However, when Thomas entered his apartment the neighbour tried to stab him with a knife. Thomas managed to escape to the balcony, lock the door and cry for help.

Awad Allah was stabbed 7 times by a neighbour who had attacked his son.

His father, who was at home across the road, heard his shouts and rushed to the apartment. When he got no answer, Fathy forced his way in but was met by the neighbour and a knife. Rahman Farghaly stabbed him multiple times in different part of his body, shouting “Oh, Kaffirs (infidels) – Allahu Akbar”, the local source said. Neighbours took Awad Allah to the hospital in critical condition.

“There has been tension in the road where they live,” said the source, who is not being named for security purposes. “Rahman Farghaly owns a chicken shop where he plays Koran recitations through loudspeakers. He has been known for mistreating and insulting Christians and they generally try to avoid him.”

However, Awad Allah had never been threatened by his neighbour before, a friend and fellow Christian who attends the same church (Saint Mary, Archangel Michael and St. Wannas Coptic Orthodox Church in Montaza district) told World Watch Monitor.

“Magdy is a very peaceful man. He has no enemies and hasn’t made trouble with anyone. He is an honest church member and is loved by all, including the people in the area” said the friend who also wished to remain anonymous. “All the members of the church are very sad about what happened to him and his son.”

He said Thomas was traumatised by the event, having trouble sleeping, while his father is out of hospital and recovering at home.

Mental illness

Following the attack, Rahman Farghaly was arrested on charges of attempted murder, news site Vito reported. The local source said he had been held in police custody for more than 2 weeks before the Public Prosecutor sent him to a mental hospital for observation after claiming he was mentally ill.

Claiming to suffer from a mental illness is a tactic commonly used by those who attack Christians, to try to avoid sentencing. Also, Egypt’s security services have told local media not to report on ‘sectarian’ incidents, so these kind of assaults on fundamental rights don’t get much attention.

The story has echoes of the experiences of Catherine Ramzy, a Christian woman who was attacked in the street in Giza district, Cairo, in January 2020. Mahmoud Ramadan accused her of not wearing a veil and shouted ‘Allah Akbar’ as he slit her throat. The perpetrator was released after having gone through a psychological examination, despite the fact that he had committed a similar crime in 2017.

Ramzy said she doubted a mental illness caused Ramadan to attack her. “[It] was a terrorist attack, an extremist acting on his beliefs,” she told international persecution charity Open Doors International at the time. “If he gets out on the street again, he will repeat his crime and more women will fall victim.”