By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)-- Tensions remained high in southern Egypt on Saturday, September 21, after two government employees were reportedly killed for refusing to pay a Muslim tax inflicted on Christians by members of the Muslim Brotherhood group of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
Local Christians said Muslim militants fired bullets at the house of Emad Damian, 50, while he was at home with his cousin Medhat Damian, 37, in the village of Sahel Selim in Assuit Province.
Both men died in the September 12 attack. Two days before the shooting, Emad reportedly received a phone call from Ashraf Ahmed Mohammed Khalajah, described by villagers as "a Muslim gang leader and registered criminal."
Ashraf, whose name was publicly identified, allegedly demanded 10,000 Egyptian pounds (about $1,450) for weapons, threatening to kill Emad if he did not pay.
Though Emad informed police and requested protection, "no action was taken," according to Christian rights activists. Police could not immediately be reached for comment. "Both of the victims leave behind grieving wives and children," said Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC), an advocacy group.
The violence came amid reports that the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters have began forcing the roughly 15,000 Christian Copts of Dalga village in Egypt's Minya province to pay the 'Jizya tax', as the Muslim tax is known, to guarantee their "protection."
Charges can range anywhere from 200 to 500 Egyptian pounds daily, exorbitant amounts for many of these villagers, Christians said. In some cases, families who could not pay the tax were reportedly attacked in the area.
That was also he case in the city of Minya where churches, orphanages, and essentially any building that had anything to do with Christianity were burned to the ground in major anti-Christian attacks linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Villagers said that after their church was torched, a neighbor relayed an anonymous threat to Said Botros Attallah and his wife Sahar Atteya Saadallah: Pay 500 Egyptian pounds, or their house would be burned down – with them inside.
Amid the latest threats human rights lawyer Samir Lamei Sakr, who already saw his home burned down in the village of Delja, in Minya province, fled to Cairo with his extended family. He told The Christian Science Monitor paper that mobs had attacked their houses, and killed his cousin, dragging his body through the streets behind a vehicle.
"Numerous Christian activists have spoken out against the Jizya tax which, according to Islamic law, is to be applied to "conquered non-Muslims," commented VOMC.
Since the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood mobs have been forcing Christians to pay this tax, allegedly to safeguard them from any violence and vandalism being directed toward their homes and businesses, activists said. The attacks are also seen as a revenge for the ouster of Morsi, a move many Christians allegedly supported amid concerns over his Islamic views, commentators said.
VOMC said it had urged its supporters to pray for Christians who lost their loved ones in the tax conflict and for those demanding payments that they will meet "Holy Spirit's conviction" and end the practice. Copts, as most Christians are known in Egypt, comprise roughly 10 percent of the heavily Muslim population of 83 million people, according to several estimates, though many have fled the recent violence.
Reports of the tax came shortly after police detained the Muslim Brotherhood's main English-speaking spokesman, Gehad el-Haddad, along with other senior members of the group, for "inciting violence".
Gehad is the son of Essam el-Haddad, a senior foreign policy aide to Morsi. The father has reportedly been held in an undisclosed military facility with Morsi since the military ousted him in a July coup.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).
Help BosNewsLife to be the voice of the voiceless. Click here for a subscription.