A small ray of hope that the freedom of conscience might gain some ground in Egypt.
ISTANBUL, February 20 (Compass Direct News) — Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud last week granted the mother of 14-year-old twins Andrew and Mario Medhat Ramses the right to appeal a custody decision awarding her sons to their Muslim father.
Muslim convert Medhat Ramses Labib gained custody of the boys last September, contrary to Article 20 of Egypt’s Personal Status Law, which states children should remain with their mother until age 15. The boys” mother, Kamilia Lotfy Gaballah, won the right to appeal on Feb. 11.
“We all have a little bit of hope, new hope,” said George Ramses, the twins” older brother. “Of course, they are a little afraid about everything, but generally they are excited.”
With support from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Gaballah will appeal the Family Court’s decision awarding custody to the father before the Court of Cassation. Family Court decisions are not usually given recourse to the Court of Cassation, one of Egypt’s highest courts, and require special referral from a public prosecutor.
EIPR Director Hossam Bahgat stressed that the Court of Cassation will be examining the law on which the decision was based, not the decision itself.
“The Court of Cassation will pronounce a decision on the legal rule that Christian children, when one of their parents converts to Islam, should be automatically moved to the Muslim parent’s custody,” he said. “So it is very important in terms of changing the legal rule, but according to the law it will not have a direct impact on Andrew and Mario themselves.”…
The boys” father, Labib, converted to Islam in 1999 after divorcing Gaballah to marry another woman. In 2006 Labib altered the official religious status of the boys and later applied for custody….
The Mufti of Egypt, the vaunted reformist Ali Gomaa, says that custody should be with the Muslim father “unless they change their religion with full will after puberty” — in which case he is previously on record saying they should be punished.
The issue once again shows the contradictory stances of Egyptian civil law, which reflects both freedom of religion and Islamic thought. A fatwa (religious edict) issued by Egypt’s Grand Mufti, Ali Gomaa, regarding the case of Andrew and Mario states, “The religion of the two children should follow their Muslim father’s, unless they change their religion with full will after puberty.”
Although this statement allows Andrew and Mario the right to choose their religion “after puberty,” conversion from Islam is not only extremely difficult in Egypt but also dangerous….
And why is that? Because Muhammad said: “If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.”