Thursday, July 5, 2007

Egypt: Let the apostasy/liberty debate begin.

Date: Thursday 5 July 2007
Subj: Egypt: Let the apostasy/liberty debate begin.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


In April 2007 a lower court ruled against 45 Copts who had converted to Islam or been deemed Muslim on account of the conversion of a parent, but who wanted to officially return to Christianity. The lower court ruled that Muslims, even if they are converts from Christianity, could not be permitted to apostasise (leave Islam). The Copts decided to appeal. (For background see link 1.)

On 1 July 07, despite the government's efforts to get the case dismissed, Judge Essam Abdel Aziz of Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court ruled in favour of the Copts and agreed to consider the merits of their case. The appeal was successful and a retrial has been slated for 1 September 2007.

According to Middle East On-line, human rights groups welcomed the decision. "The decision by the Supreme Administrative Court to consider the case of Egyptian converts to Islam wanting to return to their Church is very positive," said Ramsis al-Naggar, the Coptic lawyer who represented 12 of the plaintiffs. "It proves there is still a window of freedom in Egypt." (Link 2)

"It is a step in the right direction," Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said. "We are hopeful and optimistic that the Supreme Administrative Court will eventually uphold the principles of religious freedom and non-discrimination, both of which are guaranteed under the Constitution and international law." (Link 3)

Associated Press reports, "Court officials said government lawyers objected to Judge Essam Eddin Abdel-Aziz's decision to accept the appeal, arguing the initial verdict issued in April was in line with the principles of Islamic Sharia law." (Link 3)

So let the apostasy/liberty debate begin.

Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Egypt: Egypt to rule on apostasy - 1 July 2007
WEA RLC News & Analysis, 29 Jun 2007
By: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

2) Egypt agrees to hear case of Christian converts. 2 July 2007
http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=21283

3) Egyptian court accepts appeal from 45 Copts trying to reclaim their religion. 2 July 2007
http://english.pravda.ru/news/world/02-07-2007/94407-Egypt_Copts-0