13 Aug, 2010 More News on Nagla Al-Imam
This post gives three updates on Nagla Al-Imam, one of the most outspoken human rights activists living in an Islamic country. This post discusses:
- her second kidnapping and beating,
- her response to allegations that she promoted sexual harassment of Jewish girls on Arab television, and
- suspicions and criticisms from other Christians.
1. Nagla’s second kidnapping and beating.
Nagla al-Imam appears to be alive and in hiding in Egypt, and is continuing to broadcast on Al-Tarik (The Way) TV.
After her arrest and beating by a colonel in Egyptian security, Nagla made a TV broadcast documenting what had happened to her, in which she declared her intention to remain faithful in her Christian faith and sang a Christian song with her two children.
Soon after this, Nagla was kidnapped again for some days, and beaten by figures in burqas. Nagla does not have a full recollection of all that happened during this time. At the end, she was abandoned in the street. When she recovered consciousness, she was found and taken to a Christian hospital, where she began to receive treatment. However the hospital received a warning phone call that someone would come into the hospital and kill Nagla with an air bubble in her IV drip, and the hospital would be prosecuted for her death. After this Nagla went into hiding, where she continues to broadcast on Al-Tarik TV.
COMMENT: After her first arrest and beating, Nagla reported that the colonel had warned some ‘women’ would deal with her if she did not keep silent and stay in her house. See my previous post here. Being beaten by figures dressed in burqas appears to be a form of torture used by the security services: in her recent interrogation the colonel had implied that Nagla would know what to expect from these ‘women’.
2. Nagla responds to allegations that she incited sexual abuse of Jewish women
On August 4, Nagla was asked by someone who phoned in during her show on Al-Tarik TV for an explanation of her apparent call for the sexual harassment of Jewish women by Arab men. (This broadcast had attracted the attention of MEMRI and was posted on YouTube, where the clip has been watched more than one million times).
Nagla replied that the interview had been doctored; the presenter was not the one who had actually interviewed her; the questions she was asked were totally different to what was broadcast; and her 40 minute recording was cut for the broadcast to 2 minutes. She said that the interview had in fact been about how violence against women is regularly preached from the pulpits of mosques, and she pointed out that her work as a human rights activist has been to oppose violence against women.
She also reported that she sued the Arabia TV channel to get them to release the original recording of her interview to her, but after she became a Christian this request was denied.
COMMENT: the MEMRI clip does seem to support Nagla’s story. The interviewer commences the segment with a leading question which puts words into Nagla’s mouth; her responses seem disconnected from the interviewers’ questions; and there seem to be some dysfluencies in her responses which could be the result of editing.
3. Accusations by Christians against Nagla
Father Marcos Aziz of Kansas has a reputation for controversy and being a polemicist. He appears regularly on Al-Raja TV Channel, a different Christian Arabic channel.
Al-Raja TV recently claimed on air that Nagla Al-Imam was an agent of the state, her bruises were fake, and her video documenting her ill-treatment — including singing a Christian song with her children — was also a fraud.
Father Aziz called into Nagla’s program on Al-Tarik TV at the end of July. She was by this time in hiding, and broadcasting from her bed. Although unwell and severely exhausted, she went on air to counter accusations being made against her by other Christians.
Father Aziz said that he respected Nagla and would never think she was a fraud, but Al-Raja TV had been misled by someone else. The Al-Tarik host then put to Father Aziz that he had called Nagla a fraud and an agent of the security forces over the phone. Aziz responded: “I told you this in a private call, not on air!” After this, when the Al-Tarik host asked Father Aziz for an apology for what he had said about Nagla, Aziz refused, saying that it was not appropriate to be asked to apologize, as this is something a person could only do voluntarily.
Nagla expressed disappointment that Christians were doubting her, undermining her faith and attempting to deny her right to defend herself.
COMMENT: The frequently observed readiness of some Middle Eastern Christians to be suspicious of apostates from Islam might on the one hand be considered a reasonable caution, given the penalties which sharia law applies to someone who assists another person to leave Islam. However, apostophobia is also a part of the dhimmi syndrome. Genuine converts to Christianity experience many difficulties being accepted by other Christians. This is related to the fear of retribution: even when there is no reasonable cause to fear, sadly Christians whose world view has been shaped by centuries of existence under dhimmitude can be reluctant to support apostates from Islam.
Mark Durie is the founding director of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness, a Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a Senior Research Fellow of the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at the Melbourne School of Theology.