Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo
A rally is being planned on Sunday by Coptic Christians in Egypt who have decided “enough is enough” after a 47-year-old mother was jailed because she married as a Christian.
The case, on which WND reported earlier, involves Shadia Nagui Ibrahim, who was charged and convicted of fraud, with its three-year prison sentence, for marrying more than two decades ago as a Christian.
According to reports from the South African Press Association, her national identity documents state she is a Christian, and she was unaware that her father’s brief conversion to Islam in 1962, when she was 2 years old, also required her to be converted to Islam.
“The seriousness behind this is this is the first time in the history of the Copts of Egypt [they are giving] a signal, a very, very important signal, that the people of Egypt … say, ‘Enough is enough.'” Sam Grace, of Coptic News told WND.
He said the rally in Cairo will be a march to the presidential palace where there will be several speakers addressing the issue of human rights in the nation that admits it governs itself by Islamic sharia law.
Grace, whose operations keep him in the United States although the issues he addresses are in Egypt, said he will be monitoring the event live early Sunday.
“We have people there. We will be in contact live,” he said.
“The demands [will be to] ask the president directly to intervene in this case and stop this masquerade and set Mrs. Shadia free,” he said.
He said there’s been no estimate on those who are expected to attend, but told WND, “There will be plenty, because as I say this is kind of a red flag day [in Egypt].”
Egypt has in recent years moved its federal government closer and closer to Islamic sharia law, including an amendment to the constitution that Islamic law now is considered the source of jurisprudence in Egypt.
Such actions have dealt harshly with Christians, who with this rally “have decided to be more active in taking a stand,” Grace told WND. “It seems they’ve kind of reached a point where they can’t take it any more.”
In the case prompting the protest, activists are seeking freedom for the woman who, when she was two, was abandoned by her father when he converted from Christianity to Islam. However, Nagui Ibrahim re-converted several years later to Christianity, and since Egyptian law allows conversions only from Christianity to Islam, he had someone forge personal identity documents to say he was Christian.
The man who forged Ibrahim’s documents was detained in 1996 for falsifying dozens of documents and confessed to changing Ibrahim’s papers, SAPA reported.
Ibrahim also was detained and informed his daughter officially was a Muslim, because children in Egypt automatically take their father’s religion.
When Shadia Ibrahim married in 1982, she stated she was a Christian. Authorities later prosecuted her for “providing false information on official documents,” and after a lengthy trial she was sentenced in 2000, in abstentia, to three years in prison.
Egypt forbids a Muslim woman from marry a Christian man.
She was detained in August this year and sent to prison after a brief court session, her lawyer said, according to SAPA.
Egyptian authorities have not shown themselves tolerant of Christianity.
“In September, an Egyptian court extended the jail term of two Christian human rights activists, Adel Fawzy Faltas and Peter Ezzat, who were arrested in August. The men, members of the Middle East Christian Association, were arrested a day after they took part in documenting the alleged murder of a Copt by two members of the police force. They later were released.
The Middle East Review of International Affairs said the rise of Islam in Egypt arrived with Anwar Sadat’s tenure.
“He then initiated what one could, in hindsight, term ‘the Great Islamic Transformation’ of Egypt. The first step was to stipulate in the Second Article of his new Constitution, promulgated in 1971 (long before Khomeini embarked on his Islamic revolutionary campaign), that the Principles of Islamic Shari’a were ‘a main source’ of legislation. In May 1981, the ‘a’ was replaced with ‘the,’ making Shari’a the term of reference for the entire constitution, meaning all other articles were to be interpreted in that light,” the organization said.
“The curricula of public schools, established by the Ministry of Education, ignore the Coptic era in Egypt’s history. Courses glorifying Islam (the ‘Only True Religion’) and its history, while vilifying the crusaders (i.e. Christians) and the Jews, are imposed on all students,” the group said.
“In the case of a father of a Christian family converting to Islam, his minor children are forced to follow suit: The mother’s custody rights – a well established legal principle – are ignored in this case, as children, according to typical court rulings, are supposed to follow the ‘better (or ‘more noble’) of the two religions,'” the group said.
The court pointedly concluded that “diplomatic assurances” of his religious rights “by a country known to have engaged in torture” weren’t reassuring.
A report from the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights concluded Coptic Christians in Egypt have been harassed, tortured and killed by Muslims for 1,400 years.
“They have been subjected to all kinds of hate crimes including, the abduction of young Coptic girls, the killing of Coptic women and children and the destruction of their places of worship,” the report concluded.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an agency created by Congress, lists Egypt on its watch list of countries, noting it had “a poor overall human rights record.”
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