Christian Couple Imprisoned for Conversion

7 May 2003

Naglaa, a Christian convert from Islam, and her husband Malak have been held in 
prison since mid-February in an effort to force Naglaa to give up her Christian 
faith and return to Islam.

Naglaa and her husband Malak Gawargios Fahmy were arrested at the airport as 
they tried to leave Egypt for Cyprus.  They were sentenced to be detained for 
four days by the El Nozha District Attorney.  However, on 26 February this was 
extended for a further 45 days and for another 45 on 18 March, and the couple 
are still being held despite this period having now passed.  Police are trying 
to force Naglaa to give up her Christian faith and return to Islam, to leave her 
husband, and to raise her children as Muslims.

In 1996 Naglaa Hassan Ibrahim, then a student at Ain-Shams University, was 
baptised after spending three years exploring the Christian faith.  The same 
year Naglaa married Malak, a Christian.

Barnabas Fund was informed of the couple’s plight by senior church leaders in 
Egypt involved with their case.  “Becoming Christian shouldn’t be a crime 
punishable by a prison sentence,” the Fund was told by Egyptian church leaders 
who lament that “it is strictly forbidden to convert from Islam to Christianity 
… although the opposite happens hundreds and even thousands of times.  Freedom 
of religion should be a human right to all, and conversions should take place 
with each person’s own accord.”

The ostensible reason for the couple’s arrest in February was that Naglaa had a 
forged passport and ID card.  Conversion from Islam to Christianity, although 
technically not illegal, is not recognised by Egyptian law, and it is prohibited 
for Christian men to marry Muslim women.  Since Naglaa acquired her passport as 
a Christian woman after her marriage it may have been viewed as bogus by the 
police as she is still a Muslim in the eyes of the law.  Similarly since there 
is no capacity for converts to change their religious identity on their ID card, 
so this too may have been considered technically bogus.

All the major schools of Islamic law (Shari’ah) agree that converts from Islam 
(apostates) should be put to death, their marriages annulled, and their children 
and property taken away.  This tradition is upheld and taught by most Muslim 
religious leaders around the world today.  In countries like Iran, Sudan and 
Saudi Arabia the death sentence for leaving Islam is actually part of the law.  
Whilst in Egypt there is technically no law banning apostasy, converts are still 
actively punished by the police and often face imprisonment, beatings and 
torture on various pretexts in order to try to force them to return to Islam.  
Some have died in prison.  Several have had to flee the country.  Converts have 
sometimes been arrested under the country’s emergency legislation which allows 
for the holding of suspects without charge or trial for indefinite periods.

Barnabas Fund is currently engaged in a major international campaign on behalf 
of converts like Naglaa focusing on the Islamic law of apostasy and the 
treatment of converts in Islamic societies.  The Fund is calling upon Muslim 
religious leaders to vocally condemn the harsh treatment of converts and to make 
public statements calling for a reform of Shari’ah teaching on apostasy to 
clearly affirm that Muslims who choose to convert to another faith are free to 
follow their personal convictions without fear of punishment or harassment.  
Further details of the campaign can be obtained by contacting Barnabas Fund or 
visiting the Apostasy Campaign pages on our website

Pray for Naglaa, Malak, and their children Maria (5) and George (2).  Pray for 
strength, courage, faith and endurance for Naglaa and Malak in prison.  Pray for 
provision, care and love for the children whilst their parents continue to be 
held.  Pray that Naglaa and Malak will soon be released and the family reunited.

Pray for wisdom, guidance and strength for church leaders, lawyers and others 
involved in Naglaa and Malak’s case.  Pray for the police and the authorities 
involved that they will have compassion and mercy on this family and allow their 
immediate release.

The Barnabas Fund’s e-mail news service provides our supporters 
with short urgent news briefs and prayer requests for suffering 
Christians around the world.  

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