There are many reasons for being skeptical about the ability of Muslim countries to reform, moderate and move into the modern world.
Here is another cause for misgivings, from the website, Coptic Assembly of America. Their essay is taken from Great Britain’s Coptic resources.
(I have edited this article heavily for style to make it easier to read. This is not a put-down to whoever wrote it since their English is leagues beyond my ability with their native tongue. Having edited it this way, only the first paragraph is block quoted. You can read the original at the link provided – D):
Approximately 3 years ago, Bolis Rezek-Allah, a pharmacist, met the Muslim convert, Enas Yehya Abdel Aziz. A loving relationship was established and the couple wanted to get married. The obstacle was the Egyptian law, which does not allow a Christian man to marry a Muslim woman, though the opposite is permitted.
We all know by now that Muslim women are property, thus not able to make decisions on their own. A Muslim man taking a Christian woman into his family would soon have her converted – either to Islam or to dust, whichever she preferred.
The Copt text continues on these general lines:
Another obstacle was Egypt’s law forbidding conversion to Christianity. Thus, official papers cannot be changed legally in Egypt, as conversion from Islam is prohibited by law. Ms. Aziz had no legal procedure which could be followed to change her religion officially from Islam to Christianity.
On the other hand, there is an official procedure for conversion to Islam which is rather encouraged by government agencies, which waive the fees for conversion to Islam.
When the couple encountered this obstacle, the only option they had was to change names and religion on their IDs and thus to assume a Christian name for both of them. They did this with the help of an employee of the Civil Registry Office, Sheriff Metwali.
The couple got married in church. The priest, not aware that Enas’ name and religion on the ID had been changed from the original, conducted their ceremony. As far as the Coptic Church was concerned, they were married.
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The story does not say how they were exposed, but when the couple later attempted to fly from Egypt, they were caught by police. They were then imprisoned and tortured. Interrogators beat, insulted and hung the pharmacist by his arms, and accused him of evangelizing Muslims and falsifying legal documents.
The couple was released and then taken to court again.
During a previous arrest, under torture, Bolis admitted that when he married his wife Enas, he knew she was a former Muslim who had secretly changed her identity… “Seeing no other solution”.
On their Criminal Court hearing at on 9th March 2008, Case No. 12201 2006 North of Cairo Chamber “Shubra”, Bolis and his wife Enas were sentenced to ten years in prison. The witness for their marriage, Atef, was also sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment as well.
Earlier, on October 19, 2007, the public prosecutor hearing Rezek-Allah’s case agreed to drop the charges against him if he agreed to the cancellation of his illegal marriage to Enas. However, the court left Enas named as the ‘first accused’ on charges of falsifying an official document and blaspheming against a heavenly religion.
Obviously, Rezak-Allah refused, since he is now serving his term.
As the Coptic Church in Britain says:
The whole saga, this misery and discrimination/ persecution of Christians because of their religion must stop. This unfair situation would not have happened if conversion from Islam were permissible in Egypt.
The convicted will be a target for threats, abuse, and attacks and even murder by other inmates, in particular Islamists. Prison authorities are expected to ignore such crimes, since apostasy from Islam is viewed seriously. This is the result of the radicalisation of Egypt [think “birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood” – D] which has taken place in recent years.
The United Copts of Great Britain demand the separation of religion from the state in Egypt, the removal of the second article which states, “Egypt is a Muslim country and Islamic jurisprudence is the main source of legislation.”
They also want the removal of religious affiliation from all ID cards.
I would think that with all the aid the U.S. provides, a nudge by the State Department on the question of identification cards is reasonable. The following is from 2004, but things haven’t changed. The poor Egyptians are still rioting for bread:
Aid is central to Washington’s relationship with Cairo. The US has provided Egypt with $1.3 billion a year in military aid since 1979, and an average of $815 million a year in economic assistance. All told, Egypt has received over $50 billion in US largesse since 1975.
The money is seen as bolstering Egypt’s stability, support for US policies in the region, US access to the Suez Canal, and peace with Israel. But some critics question the aid’s effectiveness in spurring economic and democratic development in the Arab world’s most populous country – a higher US priority after Sept. 11, 2001.
“Aid offers an easy way out for Egypt to avoid reform,” says Edward Walker, the US ambassador to Egypt from 1994 to 1998. “They use the money to support antiquated programs and to resist reforms.”
As I said, a nudge would help, though we will probably have to await a new Secretary of State.
Meanwhile, for those of our readers who may be inclined to prayer, a few petitions for this couple and their witness wouldn’t be out of order. That’s Enas, Bolis, and Atef; names are always better. I have it on Authority.
Hat Tip: Magic Statistics