Egyptian lawyer files suit for rights of Christian converts

Published 16 March 2009  |  
An Egyptian lawyer has filed a lawsuit against the country’s Minister of the Interior, in a bid to gain legal acceptance for converts to Islam who decide to convert back to their original Christian faith.

According to Civil Law in Egypt, Muslim converts can return to Christianity only by producing a certificate from a ‘body of jurisdiction’ confirming their latest conversion. The lawsuit is seeking to force the government to accept such certificates from the Coptic Patriarchate, which represents most of Egypt’s Christians.

Dr Naguib Gibraeel, a lawyer and President of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights, said that the Minister of the Interior should create equality for those who wish to convert to Islam and those who wish to convert to Christianity.

According to Dr Gilbraeel, the legal process of converting to Christianity is much harder than for those wishing to convert to Islam.

He said, "For the person converting into Islam it is enough to have a decree from Al-Azhar, while the issue becomes more complex when a Christian needs to prove his reconversion back to Christianity, as he should have a court verdict. This proves that practically they completely refuse any conversion except into Islam," reports Voice of the Copts.

Dr Gilbraeel said that forcing Christians to resort to the courts to change their religion was illegal and violated the Egyptian Constitution which promises equality and freedom of belief.

There are currently 500 lawsuits by Christian “reconverts” who are awaiting a verdict from the courts, who will decide if they can officially return to Christianity. They have been blocked by a Muslim lawyer who claims that if they reconverted it would be apostasy and thus a breach of Islamic law.

Dr Gibraeel warned that if the Minister of the Interior did not do something to redress the problem of inequality, the families of reconverts would stage a sit-in for their human rights in front of the Presidential Palace.

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