By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife) — An Egyptian convert to Christianity was looking forward Monday, January 18, to be recognized as a Christian by the state, after spending 31 years officially identified as a Muslim, but another convert was so far refused such an opportunity Christians said.
An Egyptian court in the coastal tow n of Alexandria court awarded Fathi Labib Yousef, a former Muslim, the right to register as a Christian at a December 20 hearing, said Christian news agency Compass Direct News, which monitors reports of religious persecution.
However another convert from Islam was so far denied the change to list his religion on his identification card to “Christian,” observers of the trial said.
On January 6 a judge ordered security personnel to remove his lawyer, Nabil Ghobreyal, from the courtroom at Cairo’s Administrative Court following a “heated argument” with Judge Mohammad Ahmad Atyia, Compass Direct News said.
The ex-Muslim who is trying to legally convert to Christianity, Maher Ahmad El-Mo’otahssem Bellah El-Gohary, first submitted his request to alter his religious status stated on his ID in August 2008. Earlier Muhammad Hegazy was one of the first Egyptian Christian convert raised as a Muslim to request such a change.
It was not immediately clear what kind of impact Yousef’s legal victory would eventually have on this case, but it is seen as a possible opening for Christian converts to have their conviction recognized by authorities in Egypt, a predominantly Muslim nation.
Yousef, in his early 60s, was raised Coptic but reportedly converted to Islam in 1974 in order to divorce his Christian wife. He reverted to Christianity in 2005 after an Orthodox clerical council gave its official permission, according to advocacy group US Copts Association.
However Christian converts, especially former Muslims, have complained of widespread discrimination in Egypt. Coptic Christians in Egypt have in several case also complained of persecution, including kidnapping of Christian girls who in some cases have been forced to marry Muslims and to convert to Islam, several rights groups and Christians have said.
The Egyptian government has been under pressure to improve religious rights in the country, although it has made clear it wants to fight Islamic extremism in the country.