An announcement of “The Early Spring Festival in Egypt,” signed by the late sheikh ‘Atiya Sakr, a former head of the Al-Azhar University Fatwa Committee, has enraged Copts.
The announcement, which was circulated in Egypt, stated that the early spring holiday was connected to the Christians and the Jews, and that Muslims were forbidden from participating in infidel holidays and from sharing in the joy.
Coptic Church Holy Synod secretary and Damietta Archbishop Anba Beshawi said that the announcement was aimed at sparking conflict between Muslims and Copts, and that the early spring festival was Pharaonic, not Christian.
Source: Al-Masri Al-Yawm, Egypt, April 26, 2008
Egypt: Surprise, you’re Muslims! And we’ll throw you in jail for insisting otherwise
No compulsion in religionÂ — and under sharia, it can be any religion you like, as long as it’s Islam. An update onÂ this case, which remains predictably unresolved. “Egypt: Father’s brief conversion traps daughters in Islam,” fromÂ Compass Direct News, October 10/o8
ISTANBUL, October 10 (Compass Direct News) â€“ An Egyptian Coptic Christian woman has beenÂ sentenced to three years in prison for failing to uphold her Islamic identity â€“ an identity she didn’t know she had for over four decades.
Sisters Shadia and Bahia Nagy El-Sisi, both in their late 40s and residents of the small east Delta town Mit-Ghamr, were arrested and tried for claiming their official religious identity as Christian. Unknown to them, their religious identity officially changed 46 years ago due to their father’s brief conversion to Islam. Both are illiterate.
Shadia El-Sisi was tried for stating her religion as Christian on her marriage certificate and sentenced to three years in prison on Nov. 21, 2007. She was released two months later. Last Sept. 23 a judge also sentenced Bahia El-Sisi to three years in prison for “forging” her marriage certificate by stating her religion as Christian.
Their father, Nagy El-Sisi, converted to Islam in 1962 during a brief marital dispute in order to divorce his wife and potentially gain custody of his daughters, the sisters’ lawyer Peter Ramses told Compass.
Egyptian law is influenced by Islamic jurisprudence (sharia), which automatically awards child custody to whichever parent has the “superior” religion and dictates “no jurisdiction of a non-Muslim over a Muslim.”
If Bahia El-Sisi’s identity as a Muslim stands, then her religious status could potentially create a domino effect that would require her husband to convert to Islam or have their marriage nullified. Her children, too, would be registered as Muslims. Both women are married to Christians.
“All of their children and grandchildren would be registered as Muslims,” Ramses said. “[The ruling] would affect many people.”
Other sources said it is too soon to determine the fate of the sisters’ marriages and families, as neither of their cases have been finalized.
‘But I Am a Christian’
A few years after his conversion, Nagy El-Sisi returned to his family and Christianity. He sought the help of a Muslim employee in the Civil Registration Office, Ramadan Muhammad Hussein, who agreed to forge his Christian identification documents. Reversion back to Christianity for converts to Islam has been nearly impossible in Egyptian courts.
The daughters discovered they were still registered as Muslims when Hussein was arrested for forgery in 1996 and confessed he had helped El-Sisi obtain fake documents three decades earlier. El-Sisi was later arrested.
When the two daughters visited him in prison, they were detained and accused of forging their Christian identification documents, according to national weekly Watani. A criminal court gave them each a three-year prison sentence in absentia in 2000.
Shadia El-Sisi was arrested in August 2007, three days before her son’s wedding. Her first hearing was on Nov. 21, 2007 at the Shobra El-Khema criminal court; she asserted that she had no idea of her so-called conversion to Islam. Judge Hadar Tobla Hossan sentenced her to three years in prison.
Confronted with the sentence, Shadia El-Sisi kept repeating, “But I am a Christian. I am a Christian,” according to Watani.
She was in prison until Jan. 13, when Prosecutor-General Abdel Meged Mahmood retracted the sentence because she was unaware of her conversion by proxy and due to legal technicalities that voided incriminating evidence.
The advocacy group Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination also pressured the judiciary through a signature drive to release her from prison.
Bahia El-Sisi went into hiding following her sister’s imprisonment, but came out after news of her release. Legal experts believe that when Bahia El-Sisi’s case comes before the Supreme Court, her sentence will be retracted as her sister’s was, as their cases have no legal foundation.
Early in the morning of May 5, however, police arrested Bahia El-Sisi and held her in jail until her hearing on July 20, after which she was released pending the verdict.
On Sept. 23 she was sentenced to three years in prison for “forgery of an official document,” as her marriage license states her religion as “Christian.” Bahia El-Sisi was married years before learning of her father’s brief conversion.
Ramses will appeal to Egypt’s Supreme Court in next week. He said he worries the case could further erode the precarious situation of religious minorities in the Muslim-majority country of 79 million.
“How can the government say to [someone] who has lived 50 years in a Christian way that they must become a Muslim and their children must be Muslim and their whole family must all be Muslims?” he said. “This is very important for the freedom of religion.” …