“Coptic Christian women are routinely victimized and forcibly converted by Muslims in Egypt,” the Washington Times reports.
By Gracy Howard
8/13/2012 Egypt (Washington Times) – Nadia Ghaly’s cousin disappeared 40 years ago. She was introduced to a Muslim man as a young woman, subsequently vanished and resurfaced later three months pregnant wearing a hijab. She was the victim of a forced marriage.
She is not alone. Coptic Christian women are routinely victimized and forcibly converted by Muslims in Egypt, Miss Ghaly says.
In its annual Religious Freedom Report, released July 30, the U.S. State Department acknowledged the problem, but at the same time appeared to downplay it. The report described forcible conversions as “disputed,” asserting that while there were “occasional claims” of Muslim men forcing Coptic women (and sometimes girls younger than legal age) to convert to Islam, these accounts “often included inflammatory allegations and categorical denials of kidnapping and rape.”
Miss Ghaly has no faith in the current U.S. administration. “I feel that politically the United States will look after its own interests,” Miss Ghaly said. “I feel that they favor the Muslim Brotherhood and [Egyptian President Mohammed] Morsi more than the human rights of the Copts.”
Miss Ghaly has devoted the past 15 years to researching the problem of forced conversion in Egypt. In 2004, she teamed up with John Eibner, president of Christian Solidarity International, a human rights organization that has focused on the maltreatment of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.
Mr. Eibner introduced Miss Ghaly to anti-trafficking activist Michelle Clark. Ms. Clark, an adjunct professor with the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, is former head of the Anti-Trafficking Assistance Unit at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The women wrote two reports for Christian Solidarity International on the forced conversion issue, the latest released last month. The State Department report mentioned their July study, but said “local human rights groups were unable to verify such cases.”
The report’s co-authors took issue with this. “They do not believe reports and findings such as this one, but they believe Muslims who say that these stories are full of lies,” Miss Ghaly said.
“We stand by the report,” Ms. Clark said. “We did this work through good and professional methodology. We know who we talked to.”
Their research reveals a climate where women and their families are often afraid to talk for fear of Muslim retribution. “We met in hushed rooms and church courtyards because people feel safe there,” Ms. Clark said. “The Coptic community is afraid of any reprisal, afraid of what might happen.”
According to Ms. Clark and Miss Ghaly, the modus operandi of Muslim men who target Coptic women is to go after the poor and vulnerable, promising excitement, love or money for a sick family member. Tricked into a relationship, these women are forcibly married and converted.