The father of Andrew and Mario Medhat Ramsis divorced and became a Muslim several years ago, a move authorities say require his sons to follow suit, BosNewsLife monitored. And, although they are Christians, the boys have been forced to study and take exams in Islamic religion at school as a "pre-requisite" to their passing the scholastic year, their mother Kamilia Lutfi said.
The school initially refused to promote the boys to the next class, after they handed in answer sheets which included only the sentence "I am Christian." Amid international and domestic pressure however Egypt’s Egyptian Education Minister Yusri al-Gamal intervened on August 25, saying the two boys would be able to move to the next grade.
However Lutfi said she is still concerned her children will be forced to become Muslims and be moved to their father. "Andrew’s and Mario’s predicament does not merely concern their exams. Rather, it concerns the Alexandria Court’s ruling that they must live with their father and his wife who both follow a different religion," she said remarks published by Watani, a weekly linked to Coptic Christians.
"I was made to understand that Egyptian law grants a mother custody of her children until they are 15, but I lately discovered that this applies only to Muslim mothers," Lutfi added. She said she hoped "the court would take into consideration all the international human rights treaties to which Egypt is signatory."
The court postponed a final ruling Monday, September 3, apparently after the lawyer of the boys failed to turn up to force an adjournment of the session. Naguib Gabrail, a Christian, reportedly said he wants to await an appeal by 12 Egyptian converts to Islam who wish to return to the Coptic Christian Church. Their case was adjourned this weekend to November 17.
In April, a lower court ruled that reversion to Christianity by the 12 converts would amount to apostasy under Islamic law and constitute a "manipulation of Islam and Muslims." Gabrail is also closely monitoring a related case of Emad and Nancy Halim, two 14-year-olds of the country’s tiny Baha’i religious community. On Tuesday, September 4, Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court postponed its decision again on whether they have the right to print their religion on official documents.
The court scheduled another hearing for October 30, which would reportedly be the court’s fourth session on this issue. Coptic and other organizations have expressed concerns about what they see as growing influence of Islamic militants in Egypt in everyday’s life.
Copts comprise up to 10 percent of Egypt’s 76 million mainly Muslim people, but have increasingly complained about harassment and discrimination. Officially Egypt’s government has pledged to crackdown on Islamic extremism, but human rights groups say not enough has been done to tackle the problem.