(The Blaze/AP) -- An Egyptian university student was fatally stabbed as his girlfriend looked on in horror after three suspected Islamic militants confronted the couple in a park and told them they should not be together if they are not married, security officials said Wednesday.
The murder is fueling fears that vigilante groups may be seeking to strictly enforce Islamic mores, emboldened by the election of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Moderate Muslims, Coptic Christians, and women's groups particularly worry that Morsi's presidency will slowly eradicate Egypt's entrenched secular traditions and change the social fabric of the mainly Muslim nation of 82 million people.
The student, 20-year-old Ahmed Hussein Eid, was attacked on June 25 in the Red Sea city of Suez while with his girlfriend in a park known for hosting romantic rendezvous, according to the officials. It was not immediately clear what the two were doing when challenged by the three bearded men who arrived on a motorbike, but it was clear the men did not approve.
Citing initial testimony of the girlfriend, officials said the men told the couple they must leave immediately and go their separate ways because they were not married. An argument followed, and one of the three men stabbed Eid in the upper left thigh near his genitals. He was hospitalized and died of his wounds on Monday, according to the security officials who asked to remain anonymous.
The Suez killing followed the murders last week of two musicians, also by suspected militants, in a Nile Delta province. Radical Muslims take a dim view of view music, considering it haram or prohibited, as a distraction from religious duties.
Such killings were very rare under the old regime, which repressed the Muslim Brotherhood.
Many Islamist groups, including Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, denied any link to the murders. Sheikh Hamada Nassar from the Islamist party Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya even “accused the remnants of the old regime of associating these accidents with Islamic movements without evidence, in an attempt to defame Islamists.”
However, the Egypt Independent reports that a group calling itself the “Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice Authority,” likely modeled after Saudi Arabia's "religious police," claimed responsibility for the vicious attack.
Hussein Eid, the victim's father, has said he would seek retribution for his son if the police don't catch the culprits, but did not accuse militants of murdering his son when he spoke to reporters on Tuesday after his son's funeral, which attracted about 3,000 mourners.
However, if Islamists are killing people without retribution, it would probably be unwise to openly accuse them.
The generals have retained a great deal of authority after handing over power to Morsi on Saturday, but if the rule of law is not enforced and overzealous killers are not apprehended, legislative authority may not be what defines the country's future.
About a 100 activists, political parties, and non-governmental groups have issued a statement calling on Morsi to protect women against what it said was growing incidents of harassment against women as well, particularly those not wearing the Muslim veil.
"These incidents don't constitute just assaults on women, but on the entire Egyptian society that has over many centuries been characterized by intellectual and cultural diversity," said the statement. "They require swift measures from the relevant state institutions and the president that guarantee the protection and safeguarding of women's dignity and the security and safety of the whole society."