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Egyptian Muslim Admits His Name is Peter

ICC Note

In Egypt when Christians convert to Islam, the government recognizes such conversion and the public doesn’t express any indignation. But when Muslims convert to Christians, as in the case with Mr. Gohary, the officials don’t recognize such conversions and Muslims feel insulted. This is a clear case of discrimination and hate that Christians face in Egypt .

By Joseph Mayton

08/14/2008 Egypt (Middle East Times) One-year after an Egyptian made headlines in an unsuccessful bid to change his religion on his national identity card, a second man has come forward with the same demand. Maher al-Gohary, 56, claims to have converted to Christianity over 30 years ago and now wants to have “Muslim” changed to “Christian” on his ID card in another case that could deepen sectarianism in the country.

Gohary is trying to follow in the footsteps of Muhammad Hegazy, who filed a similar case in August 2007, but was later denied permission to change his ID card, because the court ruled that it was “against Islamic law for a Muslim to leave Islam.”

Gohary, who has already changed his name to Peter, says that he converted to Christianity 34 years ago when he was attending the police academy in Cairo , but later dropped out of the academy because he was scared.

Judges often base their decisions on religious freedoms in Article II of the Egyptian constitution, which states that Islamic law is the source of national laws. The judge in the Hegazy case said that “according to Islamic law, Islam is the final and most complete religion and therefore Muslims already practice full freedom of religion cannot return to an older belief [Christianity or Judaism].”

On a Dream TV television program, The Truth, the debate between Gohary and his lawyer versus a Coptic Christian lawyer and a Muslim Brotherhood representative was heated.

Host Wael Ibrashy, a leading editor in the North African country, called on Gohary to explain his actions and why he chose this time, when sectarian tensions were rising, to challenge the country’s law.

“Christians [are expected] to be quiet, because of their faith,” Gohary replied, adding: “Police are at the door of the cathedral and they won’t let me in; that is a major reason behind my decision.”

The cases of Hegazy and Gohary have upset many in this predominantly Muslim nation. Some Egyptians feel that the attempts to publicize religious conversions are efforts to attack Islam, while others worry that these cases are inflaming already agitated, and sometimes violent, Muslim-Christian relations.

“What they do – and especially now with all the tensions between Christians and Muslims across the country – is wrong,” said Karim, a young Muslim in Cairo .

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