Egypt: Let the apostasy/liberty debate begin.

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By: 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, 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 fors 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
[email protected]


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

3) Egyptian court accepts appeal from 45 Copts trying to reclaim their
religion. 2 July 2007

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