Catholic Charity Concerned about Muslim Assaulting Christian Women and Going Unpunished

Mrs. Sobhy and the perpetrator. Credit: ACN

Catholic Charity and Pontifical foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, has expressed concern about a Muslim man in Egypt who has become notorious for assaulting Christian women and his actions going unpunished every time.

In the latest case, the Muslim pharmacist, Ali Abu Sa’da, is said to have assaulted Niveen Sobhy, a Coptic Christian, for not putting on a hijab before going out to get medication for her child in her village in Ashmon-Monofyia governorate, 250 miles South of the capital city of Egypt, Cairo.

According to the August 8 ACN report, the assault on Sobhy is “not unprecedented” and that many of the pharmacist’s victims are afraid to speak out and to seek justice.

“Last Easter, this pharmacist assaulted another Christian woman from the village. He has done this repeatedly, but women are afraid of reporting against him,” Mrs. Sobhy told the pontifical charity foundation.

ACN has reported that on April 27, as Muslims were celebrating the month of Ramadan, Sobhy was confronted by Ali Abu Sa’da, who shouted at her for daring to leave her home during Ramadan wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt.


When Mrs. Sobhy told him it was none of his business, the pharmacist slapped her in the face hard, twice. Mrs. Sobhy told ACN that the pharmacist knew she was a Christian.

She recounted that still shivering from fear and shock, she contacted her family, who took her to a police station to report the attack.

“The sheriff called both the mayor of our village and the pharmacist. He confessed he slapped me in the face. However, he lied, claiming he was just kidding with me,” Mrs. Sobhy told the charity foundation.

At the police station, Mrs. Sobhy and her family are said to have been pressured to reconcile with her aggressor.

“They left me waiting from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., while my son was very sick, refusing to file a report on the attack and pressuring my husband and I to reconcile with the pharmacist. When I insisted on filing a report, they threatened to detain me,” she said.

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The 30-year-old Christian woman told ACN that her attempts to get justice after the assault were being thwarted by a manipulative lawyer.

According to Mrs. Sobhy, the perpetrator’s lawyer manipulated the writing of the police report, claiming that Abu Sa’da is a family friend and that he was just joking with Mrs. Sobhy.

“We were shocked when we read the report at the prosecutor’s office. At the police station they had forced us to sign the report without reading it,” she told ACN.

The charity foundation has reported that while Mrs. Sobhy appealed to the National Council for Women, the Minister of the interior, and even the Egyptian President to intervene to protect her and other women from such extremist behavior, the matter ended with pressure for her and her family to reconcile with the perpetrator in a customary reconciliation session, which generally results in impunity for the aggressor.

“It was a typical shameful reconciliation,” Kamal Sedra, a human rights activist is quoted by ACN as saying concerning the case, adding, “This is what usually happens in sectarian attacks in Egypt. Women do not have the right to say no. She is a woman in a society that undervalues women, while Copts are second-class citizens. It was expected for her to be forced into such a customary (concession).”


Sedra told the charity foundation that this kind of customary concession works in countries experiencing religious persecution that the victim had no power to refuse reconciliation.

“Even those Christians who are forcibly displaced from their homes do not have the ability to refuse reconciliation. The Coptic Christians are helpless,” Sedra told ACN, citing the case of Mrs. Souad Thabet, the 75-year-old Coptic Christian woman who, in May 2016, was dragged naked down the street by a Muslim mob in her village, after false rumors began to spread of an affair between her married son and a married Muslim woman.  

“Mrs. Thabet left the village and cannot return or demand any of her property,” Sedra has been quoted as saying. 

“The law in Egypt is not the rule; things depend on the mood of the authorities and political will. In the end, there are political calculations and a desire not to anger the Islamists because they represent an important voting bloc,” Sedra told ACN.

She added, “In general, in Arab and Islamic countries, there is a conflict between the international covenants signed by those countries and societal pressure driven by Islamic law. In Egypt, while the constitution stipulates that all people are equal, there is an article that states that Islamic Sharia law is the main source of legislation.”

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ACN has reported that assaults on women and girls who do not wear the hijab are frequent in Egypt, especially during the month of Ramadan, when Islamic hardliners consider it mandatory.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.