Tensions between Christians and Muslims continue to escalate in Egypt after rumours of an illicit affair between a Coptic man and Muslim woman led to the eviction of eight Christian families in a village near Alexandria.
Footage of the Christian man, Murad Samy Guirguis, and a Muslim woman allegedly having an illicit affair circulated on mobile phones in the village of Sharbat and surrounding areas.
Angered by the footage, Muslim residents of Sharbat stormed Guirguis's home and the shops he owns. They also targeted properties owned by his family.
As tensions escalated, Guirguis handed himself to the police, rights groups said, but the properties of his families were later set on fire.
After the violence, three reconciliation meetings with village elders and local police were held to resolve the conflict.
After the meetings however, it was decided that eight families in the village should be evicted and their properties sold, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said.
EIPR is investigating the case and expressed its "utmost condemnation at the failure of the police to protect the homes and properties of the Copts".
"This is a phenomenon, not a single incident," Christian lawmaker Emad Jad said.
"There is deliberate insistence on sidelining the power of the law and leaving such issues for local people to resolve through reconciliation sessions."
The lawmaker said he had presented an urgent request to the Egyptian parliament to discuss the incident.
Parliament's human rights committee has opened an inquiry into the incident.
"This issue is underlined by two crimes: collective punishment and arbitrary emigration, which threaten to give rise to demographic discrimination in Egypt," Jad continued.
Activists have also accused members of parliament of being involved in the controversial deal that led to the removal of the eight Christian families.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest political force in the country, denied that eight Coptic families had been evicted, Al Arabiya reported.