Published: 00:00 GMT Daylight Time - Wednesday 07 May 2003
Christian Couple Imprisoned for Conversion
Naglaa, a Christian convert from Islam, and her husband Malak have been held in prison since mid-February in an effort to force Naglaa to give up her Christian faith and return to Islam.
Naglaa and her husband Malak Gawargios Fahmy were arrested at the airport as they tried to leave Egypt for Cyprus. They were sentenced to be detained for four days by the El Nozha District Attorney. However, on 26 February this was extended for a further 45 days and for another 45 on 18 March, and the couple are still being held despite this period having now passed. Police are trying to force Naglaa to give up her Christian faith and return to Islam, to leave her husband, and to raise her children as Muslims.
In 1996 Naglaa Hassan Ibrahim, then a student at Ain-Shams University, was baptised after spending three years exploring the Christian faith. The same year Naglaa married Malak, a Christian.
Barnabas Fund was informed of the couple's plight by senior church leaders in Egypt involved with their case. "Becoming Christian shouldn't be a crime punishable by a prison sentence", the Fund was told by Egyptian church leaders who lament that "it is strictly forbidden to convert from Islam to Christianity - although the opposite happens hundreds and even thousands of times. Freedom of religion should be a human right to all, and conversions should take place with each person's own accord."
The ostensible reason for the couple's arrest in February was that Naglaa had a forged passport and ID card. Conversion from Islam to Christianity, although technically not illegal, is not recognised by Egyptian law, and it is prohibited for Christian men to marry Muslim women. Since Naglaa acquired her passport as a Christian woman after her marriage it may have been viewed as bogus by the police as she is still a Muslim in the eyes of the law. Similarly since there is no capacity for converts to change their religious identity on their ID card, so this too may have been considered technically bogus.
APOSTASY IN EGYPT AND ISLAM
All the major schools of Islamic law (Shari'ah) agree that converts from Islam (apostates) should be put to death, their marriages annulled, and their children and property taken away. This tradition is upheld and taught by most Muslim religious leaders around the world today. In countries like Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia the death sentence for leaving Islam is actually part of the law. Whilst in Egypt there is technically no law banning apostasy, converts are still actively punished by the police and often face imprisonment, beatings and torture on various pretexts in order to try to force them to return to Islam. Some have died in prison. Several have had to flee the country. Converts have sometimes been arrested under the country's emergency legislation which allows for the holding of suspects without charge or trial for indefinite periods.
Barnabas Fund is currently engaged in a major international campaign on behalf of converts like Naglaa focusing on the Islamic law of apostasy and the treatment of converts in Islamic societies. The Fund is calling upon Muslim religious leaders to vocally condemn the harsh treatment of converts and to make public statements calling for a reform of Shari'ah teaching on apostasy to clearly affirm that Muslims who choose to convert to another faith are free to follow their personal convictions without fear of punishment or harassment.
1. Pray for Naglaa, Malak, and their children Maria (5) and George (2). Pray for strength, courage, faith and endurance for Naglaa and Malak in prison. Pray for provision, care and love for the children whilst their parents continue to be held. Pray that Naglaa and Malak will soon be released and the family reunited.
2. Pray for wisdom, guidance and strength for church leaders, lawyers and others involved in Naglaa and Malakâ€™s case. Pray for the police and the authorities involved that they will have compassion and mercy on this family and allow their immediate release.