Missing Christian girl may spark sectarian strife in Egypt

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Egyptian Salafi Front statements about a missing Christian girl may cause sectarian conflict, the national council for women spokesperson warned Thursday, Al Masry Al Youm news site reported.

Sarah Ishaq Abdel Malak, an alleged convert to Islam, disappeared from a school in Matrouh province on September 30. After her father filed a missing report, a schoolmate suggested a local Muslim man was involved, Egypt Independent reported.

The Salafi Front said Abdel Malak is not a minor, hinting it is aware of her location. It also denied ties with the girl and the alleged abductor, identified as 27 year old Mahmoud Abu Zied Abdel Gawwad.

Council head Meryat al-Talawy said her group alerted the media following the missing report.

“The girl, who is still a minor, was forced to marry at an early age, in violation of Egyptian law and the international Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Talawy said, adding the girl’s age makes it difficult for her to differentiate religions, complicating her alleged conversion to Islam.

She insisted that violators of the early marriage law should be prosecuted, adding the girl’s family are working with the council in pressuring the government to return their daughter.

Talawy said she feared Abdel Malak would echo Kamilia Shehata’s case. Shehata, a Coptic Christian disappeared in July 2010. Demonstrations ensued nationwide following rumors of her conversion to Islam. She denied her conversion in a video post in May 2011, saying she left home after arguing with her husband.
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