An Egyptian woman sentenced to three years in prison for putting her religion as “Christian” on her marriage certificate more than two decades ago has been released, according to her lawyer.
The release of Shadia Nagui Ibrahim, 47, came only a few weeks after WND reported on plans for a rally in Egypt on behalf of the woman who was unaware that when she was two years old, her father briefly left Christianity to pursue Islam, before returning to Christianity.
Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo
Under Egyptian law, that made her a Muslim for life, so she was charged with, and convicted of, fraud for putting “Christian” as her religion on her marriage certificate in 1982.
However, according to published reports in Egypt, the nation’s attorney general ordered her released, citing a “mix-up” over her religion designation.
The case stems from the woman’s marriage as a Christian, a restricted practice in Egypt. There Christians are not allowed to marry Muslims, only other Christians.
According to reports from the South African Press Association, the situation developed because of her father’s actions when she was a toddler, and the fact that 20 years later, she didn’t know about what had happened.
Sam Grace, of Coptic News told WND that the Christian community on Egypt was saying, “Enough is enough.”
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 the 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.”
The woman’s father eventually had someone forge personal identity documents that said he was a Christian. Reports say the forger was detained in 1996 and confessed to changing the documentation.
But when Shadia Ibrahim was married in 1982, she believed she was a Christian, and said so on her marriage documentation. Authorities later prosecuted her for “providing false information on official documents.”
Her lawyer, Ramses El Naggar, told Egyptian reporters the attorney general felt the judgment in her case was made on the basis of erroneous information.
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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