Islamic extremists are increasingly using social media platforms to falsely implicate Christians in blasphemy cases by creating fraudulent posts.
According to Open Doors USA, Facebook posts have become a new tool used by Islamic extremists to persecute Christians.
In one case in Egypt, a 26-year-old Christian man named Fady Youssef Todary noticed someone had hacked into his Facebook account and posted a blasphemous message. Later, after realizing what had happened, he posted a video on the platform explaining to his followers that it wasn't him who produced the content.
But an angry mob of roughly 100 people had already formed and destroyed everything inside Todary’s family home in Ashnin El-Nasara, a village in Minya, south of Cairo. Fady’s parents were forced to flee their son's home and seek refuge at a relative’s residence.
Just a few days later, Todary was arrested, along with his 19-year-old brother and two uncles. He has since been released but is awaiting trial on blasphemy charges.
Egypt has the harshest blasphemy laws in North Africa, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which notes that most blasphemy laws are “vaguely worded” but carry “unduly harsh penalties for violators.” Egypt’s blasphemy laws are a form of anti-minority oppression, targeting Coptic Christians as well as Shi’ite Muslims.
“First, Christians are accused of insulting or threatening Islam,” said Open Doors analyst Michael Bosch. “Next, they are attacked, their properties destroyed, and sometimes they are driven out of their houses.”
After this, the “authorities intervene, calming down the situation by arresting and prosecuting Christians for the alleged ‘crime,'” he said. The anonymous analyst added that it is unlikely the claims are true because “all Christians know the consequences of blasphemy.”
Those close to Todary say it's highly unlikely that he committed the crime. “I know Fady very well,” said Father Soliman, a local priest. “He is a peaceful person, and he would never post something negative about Islam.”
Open Doors warns that what happened in Ashnin El-Nasara isn’t an isolated incident and said the emerging trend is a “real cause for concern.”
In December 2018, an Egyptian court sentenced a Coptic Christian to three years in prison after he was found guilty of “insulting Islam in the first degree” in a Facebook post.
In 2017, a Christian man in Pakistan was charged with the capital crime of insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad after a Muslim friend named Yasir Bashir complained to the police about an alleged message received through the mobile app WhatsApp.
Under Pakistan’s penal code section 295, those accused of insulting Islam’s prophet Muhammad or desecrating a Quran could be subject to imprisonment or even capital punishment.