01/31/2008, 00.00
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Higazi, a convert from Islam, cannot have his religion on his identity card

According to an Egyptian court, he strayed from Egyptian traditions. For the Egyptian government converting from Islam to any other religion is an “attack against national unity.”

Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Egypt’s Court of Administrative Justice has turned down a request by Mohammad Ahmad Higazi, a Christian convert from Islam, to have his new religion written on his identity card. The Court ruled that the 25-year-old had not followed the proper legal procedures and had strayed from the nation’s traditions. “Monotheistic religions were sent by God in chronological order . . . As a result, it is unusual to go from the latest religion to the one that preceded it,” the court said. “The person who has such an attitude is straying from the right path and threatening the principles, values and precepts of Islam and of Egyptian traditions,” the ruling read.

Mohammad Ahmad Higazi converted to Islam some years ago (some reports say nine ago; others six years; Islamic sources say just a few months). He married a woman, Zeinab, who also converted to Christianity taking the name Christina. Six months ago he applied to have his conversion registered but was rejected by local authorities which forced him to turn to the central government.

In Egypt identity cards must indicate the bearer’s religion. For decades liberal Egyptians have tried to end this practice since it is used to discriminate against non Muslims.

It must be noted that whenever a Christian converts to Islam registration of the change is done forthwith.

Fr Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian Jesuit and Islam expert, told AsiaNews “that conversion from Islam is seen as a religious, social and political scandal. If you convert to Christianity, you are encouraging others to do the same and that can become infectious in society. In leaving Islam you commit treason and become a spy against your own nation and so you deserve death. The Egyptian government for example views converts as ‘attacking national unity’.”

There is no death penalty for apostates in Egypt but Higazi has already received death threats. In fact he could not attend the 15 January court session because of such threats.

Some Muslim legal experts have accused the government of not doing enough to stop Christian evangelisation.

In Egypt Islamic propaganda is a duty whilst Christian evangelisation is crime.

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