No one ever leaves Islam, according to a judge in Egypt who has cited Islamic religious law in rejecting a request from a Muslim convert to Christianity to be allowed to change his religious affiliation on his national identification card.
In a decision that forecasts more and more decisions being based on Shari'a, Islam's religious law, Judge Muhammad Husseini has concluded it violates the law for a Muslim to leave Islam.
According to a report from Compass Direct News, the judge found that the convert, Muhammad Hegazy, "can believe whatever he wants in his heart, but on paper he can't convert."
The report said Husseini cited Article II of the Egyptian constitution, making Islamic religious law the "source" of Egyptian secular law, as the basis for his conclusion.
Since Islam is the "final" and "most complete" religion, Muslims already have full freedom of religion and are not allowed to return to the "less complete" Christianity or Judaism, the ruling said.
It's a new peak in the rise of Islam in Egypt, which The Middle East Review of International Affairs said began with Anwar Sadat's tenure in power.
"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.
On the pro-freedom website called Sons of Apes and Pigs, a commentary noted that the Egyptian court decision "went on and issued a very explicit warning to Muhammad Hegazy, his wife and their lawyer, that going against the tide would provoke civil unrest and exacerbate emotions in the Egyptian society."
"Freedom of religion doesn't mean getting in and out of Islam to another religion, but only means that each person is free to practice his own religious rites, and not playing games with Islam or contradicting Shari'a law," the website said the judge concluded.
The website, which said it took its name from Quranic descriptions of Christians and Jews, said Westerners don't realize the significance of having a national ID card listing the carrier as Muslim.
"If you get caught going to a church while your religion on your ID is Muslim, that could get you arrested, questioned and tortured," the commentary said. "The latest victim was a 27-year-old woman, Mrs. Sherreen, mother of two children from Alexandria, Egypt. She died at the police station on Jan. 3, 2008, after five hours of torture for refusing to renounce her Christian faith and come back to Islam."
The website noted in Egypt, children of parents with Muslim IDs automatically are Muslims, and they are required to follow mandatory Islamic indoctrination classes, and Muslims cannot marry non-Muslims.
It also said to apply for any job, an applicant must provide the state-designated religious affiliation.
The website also noted according to multiple media reports, Hegazy's father issued a statement that, "when I'll meet my son, I will discuss with him the reasons and circumstances that 'forced' him to leave Islam, and will offer him the opportunity to come back to Islam, but in case he refuses, I will kill him immediately."
Press reports say Hegazy's case was the first time someone had sought to make a change from Islam in the religious designation on an official national ID card.
Hegazy has reported he was studying various religions, and found he was not consistent with Islam.
"The major issue for me was love. Islam wasn't promoting love as Christianity did," he said.
As a result of his conversion he's reported being arrested and tortured several times, but it's opened wide the eyes of observers, the Apes and Pigs website said.
"Muhammad Hegazy's case dynamited the Islamic mountain of lies, propaganda and false pride," the commentary said. "Not only in Egypt, but all over the Arab world. Exposed to the world [was] the deception of the Islamic governments, Egypt in particular … [of] 'no compulsion in religion.'"
According to the Compass Direct report, Gamal Eid, head of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, whose lawyers have been representing the convert, said that he was 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,” Eid said.
Meanwhile, death threats have forced the couple, whose new daughter is only a month old, into hiding.
Compass also reported that at least partly because of the case, lawyers in Egypt now are trying to force the government to outlaw conversion from Islam in secular law as well as religious law.
WND previously has reported on a ruling from a U.S. federal court that an Egyptian Christian who had fled his home nation "most assuredly has a right not to be tortured." The ruling allowed the Egyptian Christian to remain in the United States.
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 said.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an agency created by Congress, also lists Egypt on its watch list of countries, noting it had "a poor overall human rights record."
In addition, Egyptian authorities have threatened two young boys who were ordered to take training to be Muslims, but refused, stating they are Christian.
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