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Conversion in Egypt - Mohammed Hegazy

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« Muslim convert face prersecution in EgyptViolent Incidents targeting Christians in Egypt during 2010 »

« Muslim convert face prersecution in EgyptViolent Incidents targeting Christians in Egypt during 2010 »

Conversion in Egypt
Mohammed Hegazy

the first Egyptian Muslim convert to Christianity to seek official recognition of his conversion from the Egyptian Government.
Hegazy grew up in Port Said on the Suez Canal in Egypt. He converted to Christianity from Islam in 1998 and took the name Beshoy after an Egyptian monk. His wife, also converted from Islam to Christianity several years ago, taking the name Catherine. They have a daughter and a son , who were both born while in hiding.
He converted after starting “readings and comparative studies in religions,” and finding that he was, “not consistent with Islamic teachings.”
According to Hegazy, “the major issue for me was love. Islam wasn’t promoting love as Christianity did.”
Although Christianity is not illegal in Egypt, conversion to another religion from Islam is punishable by death under a widespread interpretation of Islamic law.
Theoretically, Egyptian law is derived from Islamic law, according to the second Article of the Constitution since 1971 .
Converts are often harassed by police, who use laws against, “insulting religion” or “disturbing public order” to justify legal action against them.
Hegazy after his conversion was discovered, he was detained for three days and tortured by police. In 2001, he published a book of poems critical of security services and was held for three months for sedition, disturbing public order, and insulting the president and was eventually released without charge.
In 2007, Hegazy sued the Egyptian court to change his religion from “Islam” to “Christianity” on his national ID card. He said he wants to do this so that his child can be openly raised Christian, be given a Christian birth certificate, and to be married in a church. He also stated that he wants to set a precedent for other converts.

His first lawyer, Mamdouh Nakhlah filed the case, but then quit after Hegazy’s conversion caused a major uproar.
The Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, who wrote against the killing of apostates, saying there is no worldly retribution for Muslims who abandon their religion. Gomaa’s comments were sharply criticized by Muslim conservatives, who felt that he was opening the door for Muslims to leave their faith.
Sheikh Gad al-Ibrahim told Al-Quds al-Arabi that “The Egyptian government should find Mohammed Hegazy and apply shari’a, giving him three days to reconvert and then killing him if he refuses”.
Sheikh Youssef al-Badri and Souad Saleh, a professor at Egypt’s al-Azhar university where Egypt’s top Islamic scholars work, agreed with Al-Ibrahim, openly challenging statements by Egypt’s second highest religious authority last month that ‘apostasy from Islam’ should not be punished in this world. Gomaa later clarified his controversial statement by saying that only ‘apostates’ who “actively engaged in the subversion of society” should be punished.
Fatwas have been issued by Muslim clerics calling for Hegazy’s death. Under the same fatwa, Hegazy’s daughter Miriam will be killed at the age of 10 if she does not choose Islam. Hegazy and his wife have decided to remain in Egypt and go ahead with the case, in spite of the various fatwas issued against him and his family.
He has received death threats by telephone. He and his wife have been ostracized by their families and are currently in hiding.
Hegazy’s family is just as angry with him. In a 2008 interview to a local Egyptian newspaper, Hegazy’s father said, “I am going to try to talk to my son and convince him to return to Islam. If he refuses, I am going to kill him with my own hands.”
Shortly after, Hegazy released this statement in response to his father:
“I would like to send a message to my dad. I saw what you said in the newspapers. You say you want to kill me; to shed my blood in public. But I love you so much because you are my dad and because Jesus taught me to love. I accepted Jesus Christ willingly and nobody forced me. I forgive you. No matter what decision you make. No matter what you do. To my dad and mom, I say Jesus Christ died to save me.”
In February, 2008, an Egyptian judge, Muhammad Husseini of a court in Cairo ruled in an unprecedented case that a Muslim who converted to Christianity cannot legally change his religious status, although he may believe what he wants in his heart. Judge Muhammad Husseini said that according to sharia, Islam is the final and most complete religion and therefore Muslims already practice full freedom of religion and cannot convert to an older belief (Christianity or Judaism). Husseini also told the administrative court that “He (Hegazy) can believe whatever he wants in his heart, but on paper he can’t convert.”
Judge Husseini based his decision on Article II of the Egyptian constitution, which makes sharia the source of Egyptian law. Hegazy has denounced the ruling as a violation of his basic rights. “What does the state have to do with the religion I embrace?” Hegazy questioned, according to the United States Copts Association following the ruling.
The convert’s defense team was also disappointed with the verdict. “The judge didn’t listen to our defense, and we didn’t even have a chance to talk before the court,” said Gamel Eid, head of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) to U.S. Copts Association. An ANHRI representative said Hegazy still plans to appeal the ruling or possibly open a new case. Katarina also plans to file a petition for her right to change her religion to Christianity.
In Egypt, a child’s registered religion is based on the father’s official faith. Therefore, since Hegazy is officially Muslim, his daughter would not be able to enroll in Christian religious classes at school, wed in a church, or attend church services openly without harassment under Egyptian law.

This entry was posted on Friday, September 17th, 2010 at 12:52 am and is filed under Legal Advocacy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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