07/08/2011, 00.00
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Egypt: Christians registered as Muslims can change their status

Egyptian Supreme Court ruling handed down. Words "ex Muslim" may be removed from documents, because of discrimination. Spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church: "Results will only be seen with the real application of the law."
Cairo (AsiaNews) - Christians under duress or by mistake registered as Muslims will be able to write the right religious denomination on their identity cards. This was decided in recent days by the Egyptian Supreme Court. The verdict clears the law that forced the Christians who "converted" by error to Islam from having "ex-Muslim" written in brackets next to religion on their documents. In order to change the status it will now be sufficient to present a birth certificate confirming the registration as a Christian, with a confirmation of church membership.

To date, in many Egyptian registry offices, infants and anyone who has to change their documents are registered as Muslims. Often officials refuse to correct the error and encourage Christians not to change their status because "being Muslim is an advantage" (AsiaNews See " Hegazi case: Islam’s obsession with conversions"). According to some Christian scholars this demonstrates the willingness of some government offices to take advantage of their position to "Islamize" Christians. Muslim organizations claim the "conversion" to Islam of at least 10 thousand Christians every year.

Fr. Greich Rafiq, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, told AsiaNews that "the Court's decision is a positive sign of the change taking place in the country." "In the past - said the priest - the Court has repeatedly proposed a revision of the discriminatory rule, but it has always received strong opposition of Habib Adli, the former interior minister, now in prison for corruption."

However, according to Fr. Greich opposition comes mainly from low-level officials. "The law - said Fr Greich - will not necessarily be applied by all, results will only be seen with the real application of the law, especially in remote areas of the country. " (Sc)

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