Militant Muslims target Egypt's Christian women for conversion

Radical Muslims in Egypt are forcing Christian women to convert to Islam. A campaign that involves kidnapping, brainwashing, and rape has intensified in the past two years, religious freedom groups report.

...More than 600 Christian women reported attempts by Muslims to convert them in 1997, said Freedom House International (see link #1 below), a Washington, D.C.-based religious rights group. Some were tempted with money and promises of marriage into wealthy families, while others were abducted and held captive in Islamic reeducation centers, where teams of professors and thugs tried to coerce conversions, the agency said. ..."Forced conversion is alive and doing well in Egypt, I hate to tell you," Nagi Kheir of the American Coptic Association (see link #2 below) told Religion Today. Teen-age and young women are the primary targets because they have little legal protection in Egyptian society and are easily scared, Kheir said.

...The women are taken to dormitory-like buildings and instructed in the Muslim faith. Professors spend hours reading the Koran and pressuring them to observe Islamic laws, Britain-based Jubilee Campaign (see link #3 below) said. Teams of security guards prevent them from escaping, and those who don't respond are threatened with murder and sometimes are raped, it reported.

...Rape is used to force a woman to marry a Muslim man against her will, Kheir said. "In the Middle East there is a tremendous disgrace on the family if a woman loses her virginity, so they are often forced to marry these men to keep their honor," he said. A Christian woman who marries a Muslim must convert to Islam. "So they are forced to become Muslims," Kheir said.

...A Christian girl in the city of Oina reportedly is being held against her will. Witnesses said that Suhir Shihata Gouda, 16, was kidnapped by her Muslim neighbor, Saed Sadek Mahmoud, and several others. Police beat her father when he tried to report the incident, Freedom House said, and a mob led by Mahmoud threatened to burn Gouda's house and kill his family if he attempted further legal action.

...Mahmoud claimed the girl voluntarily converted to Islam and was to be married to his colleague. When the girl escaped and returned home, 20 men came to take her back and beat her in front of her family, Freedom House reported. The mob later prevented police from entering the area and threatened to kill all Christians in the neighborhood. Members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter March 16, asking Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to intervene.

...The conversion campaign is part of an extremist Muslim strategy to rid Egypt of Christians, Kheir said. "The persecution is subtle, but they are seeking total elimination step by step."

The majority of Muslims are against such tactics and it is only a small radical faction that is pursuing the campaign, he said. "Most Muslims would strongly disapprove of the use of convert Christians," Jubilee Campaign's Wilfred Wong said.

...The Egyptian government does not adequately protect Egyptian Christians, an April 1 report released by Freedom House claims. Police and security forces on the local level often ignore warnings of violence against Christians and only sporadically prosecute crimes committed against them. Police sometimes cooperate with Islamic radicals in the persecution of Christians because they are afraid of reprisals, the report said.

...A government security force deals exclusively with religious matters, International Christian Concern (see link #4 below) said. The government denies that the security force exists, but many Christians believe that the special detail is designed to track and persecute converts from Islam. Converts are arrested, interrogated, and sometimes beaten. Often their families are harassed and denied access to jobs and educational opportunities, ICC said.

...Christians have few rights in Egyptian society. Parents who convert to Christianity lose custody of their children to their Muslim spouse. At least 20 new cities have no Christian church because onerous government regulations block construction of church buildings, Kheir said. As a result, believers in one city arranged truck transports to take their almost 2,000 children to the nearest church several miles away, he said.

...Egyptians who speak out on behalf of the Christians are persecuted. Police arrested human rights advocate Hafez Abu Si'ada for publishing an article defending the rights of persecuted Christians in El-Kosheh (see link #5 below) last year, ICC said. He was kept in an unventilated cell, denied food and water, and threatened and humiliated for two days. He has been charged with crimes against the government but has yet to be tried.

...El Kosheh Coptic Bishop Wissa faces the same fate. The bishop was arrested and tried for espionage when he alerted the outside world to crimes against Christians. He probably will not be tried so long as he does not make any more complaints, Kheir said. "It's like putting a gun to somebody's head and telling them, 'If you say anything else I will shoot you.' "








(Religion Today, April 5, 1999,


Egyptian Students Tell Of Forced Conversions To Islam

A secret network kidnaps Christian students in an effort to make them convert to Islam. Details of a string of houses where young Christians are kept against their will and forced to study the Koran were revealed to Voice of the Martyrs by a Coptic believer who escaped from one of the homes. Identified by the ministry only as Mary, the young woman was befriended by two Muslim students while at university. They told her that they respected her faith, and invited her to go on trips with them. Then one day they took Mary to a home for Christian girls who convert to Islam, and she found herself locked in when she tried to leave. Mary was forced to meet with an Islamic teacher each day and pressured by different teams that used threats and intimidation to force her to renounce her faith. One group warned her that if she refused to convert she would be violated by a Muslim man, whom she would then have to marry to avoid bringing shame on her family. Mary told Voice of the Martyrs that after six weeks she won the trust of her captors, chanting from the Koran and saying Muslim prayers. After her "conversion," she was given a key to the home - and escaped at night two weeks later. She found her way to a Christian leader who helped reunite her with her family. She said that "there are many houses in Egypt just like this one, working in universities to carry out this plan of converting Christians." (September 2000)


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