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An Egyptian Muslim’s long journey towards Christianity

ICC Note

When Maher al-Gohari decided to request Egyptian authorities to recognize his conversion from Islam to Christianity, his brother and parents threatened to kill him. In some Muslim countries, it is punishable by death to convert from Islam to other religions.

08/27/2008 Egypt (AFP)-Maher al-Gohari converted to Christianity 30 years ago, but the Muslim-born Egyptian only recently took the decision to make his conversion public.

The 56-year-old former policeman has put applied to the Higher Administrative Court to have his religion changed from “Muslim” to “Christian” on his official ID card.

In Egypt , citizens are required to carry their personal ID cards at all times. Without an ID card, one has no access to basic services.

The Higher Administrative Court is due to hear on September 2 the case of Maher al-Gohari, whose chosen Christian name is Peter Ethnassios, and who has been in hiding after receiving death threats from his family.

“My family has threatened me with death after the press published reports about the legal request I made,” he continued.

The rage felt by members of his family, many of whom belong to the police forces, comes from the fact they feel “dishonoured” by his choice and consider him an apostate, a crime in Islam, he said.

His 14-year-old daughter Dina is officially considered a Muslim and has to study the Koran at school.

Gohari first announced his conversion on a television programme.

“My younger brother knew about it but since then he’s been waiting for outside my building … with a gun,” he said. “He wants to kill me.”

After January’s court decision rejecting Higazi’s official conversion, Gohari’s case will once again test the issue of freedom of religion in Egypt , and even in Muslim countries.

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