Friday, August 17, 2007

Is There Any Religious Freedom in Egypt?

This article, published on Compass Direct News illustrates a very interesting dilemma. It is the story of an Egyptian man who had decided to convert from Islam to Christianity only to find himself in a very precarious position--he cannot obtain an ID card stating that he is indeed a Christian. Consequently, he had to resort to the courts in order to obtain his rights.

Thus far, Egypt has always used the excuse of not recognizing the Baha'i Faith in order to deny the Baha'is their civil rights. Egypt has clearly stated that it only recognizes three religions as divine, namely: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Officially it will grant anyone who is a follower of any of these religions his or her full citizenship rights.

Now, this case involves a man who supposedly belongs to one of the three recognized religions in Egypt, but apparently because he had converted from Islam to Christianity, he is being denied his rights. However, legal conversion from Christianity to Islam occurs regularly in Egypt, and those who convert have no difficulty whatsoever in obtaining ID documents stating that they are Muslims.

Here is his story:

Tuesday August 07, 2007


Christian's attorney facing death threats from Egyptian security police.

ISTANBUL, August 6 (Compass Direct News) – A Muslim convert to Christianity filed suit against Egypt last week for refusing to legally recognize his change of religion, sparking a reactionary lawsuit by Muslim clerics and death threats against his lawyer.

Mohammed Ahmed Hegazy, 24, brought a case against Egypt’s interior ministry on Thursday (August 2) for rejecting his application to replace Islam with Christianity on his personal identification papers.

“I think it is my natural right, to embrace the religion I believe and not to have to have a double personality for me as well as for my wife and my expected baby,” said Hegazy, who converted to Christianity when he was 16.

Though Egyptian law does not forbid conversion from Islam to Christianity, it provides no legal means to make the change. Converts to Christianity usually hide their identity to avoid torture and forced recantation at the hands of family members and security police.

Hegazy, whose wife Zeinab is four months pregnant, said that he wants his child to be born with Christian papers. The couple, who were forced to hold an Islamic wedding ceremony because of their legal status as Muslims, know that a Christian ID card will allow their child to take Christian religion classes in school, marry in a church and even openly attend services without fear of harassment. Read the rest here....


  1. Hmmm, what a tangled web we weave when we try and make intolerance public policy. Cases like this only serve to expose the goal of such policies is to maintain the supremacy of some religions over others. As such to claim a commitment to religious freedom is absurd. Why not simply be honest?

  2. Phillipe,
    You caught the essence of the post. This case clearly betrays the intentions and, in effect, the results of one-sided policies.

  3. Religion and government should not mix. Religion is based on faith, which is, no matter the religion's name, a set of beliefs followed purely by personal choice. Basing a government on these concepts is illogical and dangerous. A governement should have laws based on a constitution. If they are just and well applied they work quite well. For proof: countries under religious rule do not have less crime and are not more caring for their citizens than those with secular governement. Also the rule of law should be there to unite the citizens of a country. To rule according to religion, one has to assume that the entire country will embrace the same belief. As it is never the case, the rules instead of uniting people become cause for segregation as they are based not on the common good but on a set of beliefs embraced by the majority but not by all. They result in strife, injustice and exactly the kind of shameful quandary Egypt is facing. The governemnt head who will realize how simple the solution is and run the country purely on secular laws removing any allusion to faith from its official papers (except to promote religious freedom) will gain a peaceful country, thankful citizens and the admiration of the world. It might for a while, unsettle those who, because of their positions of religious authority, had gained power in realms that should not be theirs. However, if they are true believers they will understand that a secular government does not take away the keys to the kingdom that is rightly there for those who deserve it.

  4. Anonymous,
    Your comments make a lot of sense. Thanks!


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