The Big Pharaoh
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Monday, December 13, 2004

What will save Egypt?

The story of Wafaa Costantine is getting a little bit clearer. Several respected newspapers mentioned that the woman did in fact willingly convert to Islam (or expressed her desire to do so) and she decided to leave her sick husband on November 27. As far as I know, the lady is now with members of the clergy who are trying to convince her to rethink her decision. Again, I am just stating what the press mentioned here.

It appears that Wafaa was tired of living with her gravely ill husband. Just like the catholic church, divorce is forbidden in the Egyptian orthodox church. I personally believe that not only Islam needs a huge dose of reform, Eastern churches need some as well.

Anyway, the problem is not just about a Christian woman who willingly or forcefully decided to become a Muslim. The issue has to do with how religion, whether Muslim or Christian, is viewed in the Middle East and how the rules are not equal between the region’s two main faiths. Here, religion is crucial. Shame would be brought to any family if a member decided to convert to another religion. It’s like your son waking up one day and telling you “hey mom/dad, I’m gay”

Converting people became a “game” or a “match” played by the 2 camps. Muslims take enormous pride when a Christian (especially a priest or his wife!) becomes a Muslim. Christians act in exactly the same way. Every camp is trying to score points by snatching a member from the other camp. However, I feel obliged to say that I feel sorry for the Christian team in Egypt. The Muslims have a huge competitive edge over their fellow Christians and it is as if Christians are being asked to play basketball by their foot.

The media is literally controlled by Muslim Egyptians. Stories of Westerns who converted to Islam are easily printed while a story of a Muslim who decided to become Christian can never get published. Books that criticize the Christian faith and attack the authenticity of the Bible are found in any newsstand around Cairo. Books taking a critical look at Islam and the Quran are banned from the Egyptian market. Keeping and distributing them can get you in jail.

In addition, a Christian can become a Muslim anytime and change his ID whenever he wants. On the other hand, a Muslim is not allowed to become a Christian and he cannot change his ID. If a Muslim converted to Christianity, he will be arrested, may be tortured, and asked who “influenced” him. He’ll become toast if he was living in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, or any other place where a strict implementation of Islamic law is applied. In Egypt, Muslims who converted to Christianity keep a very low profile, others seek asylum in Europe or America.

Besides this game, I feel something is tearing the social fabric of my country and I am starting to feel worried. That’s for another post.


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