Saturday, March 1, 2008

Egyptian Court Recognizes Conversion of 12 Christian Converts:High Court Decision is a Well-Disguised Blow to Religious Freedom

The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on February 9, 2008, Egypt’s highest civil court recognized the right of 12 Muslims to convert to Christianity, reversing a lower court’s decision.The ruling enables the Christian identity of the 12 converts to be indicated on their government-issued identity cards.The 12 individuals were raised as Christians but converted to Islam and then returned to Christianity and have been fighting for their re-conversion to be recognized by the Egyptian government.Egypt’s highest civil court has broken from Islamic tradition and officially permitted someone to convert to some other religion than Islam.However, this ruling is only a partial victory for religious freedom, and may indeed end up harming more than it helps.The reason the court recognized these 12 conversions is because they had been Christians before they were Muslims.This does not help Muslim-born Egyptians who convert to Christianity. The only Muslim-born convert to Christianity to ask Egyptian officials for recognition of his Christian identity is Mohammed Hegazy. A lower Egyptian court ruled not to recognize his Christian identity on January 28,2008. Presently,Hegazy lives in hiding because he has received many serious death threats from Muslims who consider him an apostate. Most Muslim-background Christians face such intense persecution that they do not even ask for official recognition of their Christianity for fear of discrimination and persecution from the government and from Muslims.In addition, the court provided no protection for the converts, instead making them a target for extremists by requiring that their previous Muslim identity be displayed on their ID cards as well. When asked about his reactions to the decision by the Egyptian court to recognize the 12 Christian converts, Mr. Magdi Khalil, Director of Middle East Freedom Forum, said to ICC that the decision of the court could not be used as proof of the existence of religious freedom in Egypt. Rather, it endangers the converts because, according to the decision, while indicating the Christian identity of the 12 converts on their ID, government officials were also directed to include a bracket indicating that the Christians had also been Muslims. When extremists see their IDs, the Christians could be subject to discrimination and even killed, since they are considered apostates.Khalil also pointed out that the court made no reference to the religious freedom clause in the Egyptian Constitution. In neglecting to mention this part of Egyptian law, the court has effectively made this case into something besides religious freedom, and kept itself from setting any precedent that could extend that right to all Egyptians. “Freedom of religion should allow Egyptians the right to convert to any religion, any time, without restriction,” Khalil said. Khalil discussed the severe lack of religious freedom in Egypt, giving examples of how Christians are forced to convert to Islam. Some Christian girls are kidnapped by Muslim men and forced to become Muslims. There are also cases in which Christians are lured into becoming Muslims by offering them money which comes from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. In addition, Christians are given jobs if they decide to become Muslims.ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Darara Gubo, said, “Egyptian authorities should not interfere with the right of citizens to choose the religion they want to follow. Rather, they have an obligation to protect citizens who choose to convert to Christianity and to recognize those conversions without any restrictions. The international community should step up pressure on Egypt to provide real religious freedom.”Concerned individuals should call the Egyptian embassy in their respective countries to request religious freedom for all citizens in Egypt.
Egyptian Embassies
UK: [44] (207) 499 2401/499 3304
Germany: (030) 477-54-70
As in the days of Noah....

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