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by Magdi Khalil

"Hell is held in reserve for those who take a neutral stance when values are at risk." -- Dante


Abducting a female is one of the most awful crimes in the civilized society, which is met by a stern punishment. Respect for women, children and minorities as the weak entities of society is a quality that distinguishes a civilized society from a primitive one, to the point that even harassing a female is in itself a punishable crime. Before starting any job in America whether small or big, one must sign a statement, agreeing to abstain from sexual harassment, and consequences of violating these regulations range from dismissal from the job to criminal charges. If the female is a minor, harassment becomes a very big problem, as for abducting and raping, it is considered one of the gravest crimes in the Western societies. What happened to Egypt? How could the most despicable form of crimes be committed against Coptic girls without much moral, conscience, or legal deterrence, nor social restrictions? What are the causes of such evil phenomenon? How could a society considered to be the cradle of human civilization and the dawn of consciousness accept such heinous crimes?

How Abducting Coptic Girls and Forcing Them into Islam Should Be Classified?

First Question: Is it a phenomenon or rare cases?

If a phenomenon is a pattern of behavior frequently repeated throughout a long period, then what is happening in Egypt against Coptic girls is definitely a phenomenon. It is a phenomenon that the Coptic Church has protested against over quarter of a century ago, and specifically at an Alexandria conference held under the auspices of H.H. Pope Shenouda III on December 17th, 1976 where it was stated that "There is pressure being practiced to convert Coptic girls to embrace Islam and marry them under terror to Muslim husbands," and demanded to bring back the abducted girls to their families. So we are facing a phenomenon that is already over three decades old in its modern form; but of course it has been taking place throughout fourteen centuries since the Arab invasion.

Second Question: Is it a widespread phenomenon?

The answer is a complex one. If we talked about the pressure and the enticement practiced to convert Coptic girls to Islam, then we are facing a widespread phenomenon. But if we are talking only about the cases of abducting Coptic girls and forcing them to convert to Islam, then we are discussing a limited phenomenon.

Third Question: Is it an organized phenomenon?

Certainly, it is an organized phenomenon. Later, we will discuss the extent of this scheme.

Fourth Question: Who organized this phenomenon?

Even if the Egyptian government does not convene to plan abducting and forcing Coptic girls into Islam, it is a conniver and a colluding partner that contributed in creating the environment. As for the actual planning, it is carried out by individuals, groups and associations (both Egyptian and regional). What the government does plan for and implement is the marginalization of the Copts within the Egyptian society.

Let us discuss the main reasons behind this phenomenon of abducting Coptic girls and forcing them into Islam.

We attribute the following points:

1. Responsibility Of The Government

It is well known that one of the main tasks of the state -- according to its modern definition -- is to uphold law and order, as the need for security and safety is the second of human needs according to Maslow's hierarchy. Therefore the main task, according to the virtual social contract between a citizen and the state, is to keep internal and external security. The former is carried through what is called "preventive security" and the strict penal codes "against those who violate the peace and security of the society." The government in Egypt seems not to provide sufficient preventive security or strict legal security to the Copts; therefore it bears the prime responsibility for what is happening to the Copts in the country. It is a partner in the crime by its negligence in carrying out its tasks. More important, it is a partner because its active security system knows a great deal about crimes committed against the Copts, including the abduction of the Coptic girls, and yet it conceals it. Ponder what Esaam-el-Deen Hassan, an activist of the Egyptian Human Rights Organization, wrote: "The government is responsible for the protection of its citizens against the violation of their rights from other citizens. Despite that, the organization observed that the government -- generally -- acts only when it feels that it is threatened or when the regime and/or its authority is under threat, -- it stood by idly watching the radical Islamic groups use violence and coercion, which amounted to hijacking the legislative authority in many villages holding trials and executing the verdicts."

The government is responsible not only for its shortcomings, but also through the involvement of elements of its own security system in the crimes against the Copts. As it is widely known and circulated, some members of the police took part in the massacres committed against the Copts in El Kusheh (21 killed in 2000), and in El Zawya El Hamra where more than a hundred innocent Copts were slain (in 1981); El Nabawy Ismael, the then Minister of the Interior openly said that the police did not intervene in the beginning 'for political reasons.' These were understood to mean providing a chance for the extremists to unleash their thirst for violence against the Copts in order to enjoy the ecstasy of victory. I was an eyewitness to two incidents involving Coptic girls where the Egyptian police did not interfere -- even though it knew everything -- except when the matter was raised before the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and the high authorities in the government through the intervention of Pope Shenouda; in less than 24 hours the two girls were returned. What can we call this? And what about the poor ones whose voice could not be heard, or have no connections?

What is more dangerous is that over the past three decades the government did not bring to justice even one single suspect accused of kidnapping Coptic girls despite the multiplicity of incidents and the gravity of the crime. Does not this represent a shameful act by the government? Protecting and preserving the national unity is the responsibility of the president as stated by the constitution, which is to be respected according to the oath taken by the president before the nation. That is why the known political analyst Muhammad Heikal demanded that the president himself should oversee the Coptic issue, and not delegate it to the security agencies. Currently Coptic affairs are, largely, the responsibility of the "Coptic division" of the State Security Intelligence, headed by a brigadier officer with a group of lesser rank officers. Is it logical to leave one of the most important national files in the hands of a group of officers, and low-rank ones at that? Turning this file completely to the president is a first step, if we seriously want to begin discussing this issue away from the abuse of the security agencies.

We urge President Mubarak to find out for himself how things are truly going on, away from the fabricated reports presented to him; and we are ready to assist him realize the gravity of problems that the Copts suffer from.

2. Deadly Religious Incitation

Anyone who monitors the media and different aspects of culture and education in Egypt will find an endless number of edicts (Fatwas) and public sermons inciting the public against the Copts. These range from considering them infidels who should be fought and subjected to all kinds of injustices, to justifying the kidnapping of their daughters. Those who issue such edicts commit a crime against the Copts and against the country; but carrying them out becomes a religious duty.

Extremists and those who incite seem to follow a weird pet divinity that justifies their flagrant deeds and lustful desires, and follows their wicked whims.

Let us consider some of those deadly, venomous edicts:

Sheikh Abdel Haleem Mhamood, the former Grand Imam of Al-Azhar wrote in his book "Believing in Allah": "Christians are like a malignant and contagious disease. Muslims should oppress and despise them, treat them roughly and boycott them to force them to convert to Islam."

Sheikh Muhamed Metwaly El-Shaarawy, a very popular preacher, even after his death a few years ago, wrote in Al-Ahram newspaper on Sept.2, 1992: "Having sex with a female POW (to a Muslim) bestows honor on her, since the master does to her what he does to his wife."

One wonders why was he then screaming and complaining along with his clique when Serbs raped Bosnian women? Or is it permissible for Muslims but forbidden for others?

Such are horrifying crimes against humanity that should be condemned regardless of religion or race. The orator of the mosque of the Juristic Society in Assiut repeated publicly for many years in his Friday sermons that: "Christian women are a loot for every Muslim."

I personally heard one of those obsessed religious extremists preaching in a small mosque that: "Raping Christian women is permissible to oblige them into conversion to Islam."

Another example is the edict issued by Sheikh Gad El-Haq, a former Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, when answering a question regarding the marriage of a Muslim woman from a Christian man. He issued an edict based on 'through Islamic jurisprudential research', which concluded that "Jews and Christians are infidels; therefore it is unlawful for a Muslim woman to be a wife to a non-Muslim whether a Christian or a Jew or others, and the followers of these two religions are considered infidels and polytheists" [Judge Muhammad Saeid El-Ashmawy, in "An edict and an article." [El-Ahaly Newspaper, Oct. 4, 1996]

One of such edicts was issued by Al-Azhar Committee of Edicts in 1996 concerning the legality of marrying a Christian man to a Muslim woman: "This is forbidden since Islam is superior to all other religions. And children should follow the better religion of either parent, according to the jurisprudential rule."

Hisham Khalifa, an attorney-at-law, referred in "Legal Matters" column in Al-Ahram newspaper on Sept. 16, 1996: "an act that involves disbelief such as going to church." "Islam is unique amongst world beliefs in being the only one that we can call a 'religion'. Christianity as sent by God to Issa (Jesus), peace be upon him, was lost after his death." [Hussein Moaness in October magazine on March 15, 1992] "In dealing with Christians, a Muslim feels supremacy and does not consider those infidels worthy of any respect or appreciation they cannot be admired or held in high esteem, on the contrary, they are like cattle or even worse, regardless of any successful worldly achievements." [The Muslims Magazine On Oct. 29, 1993]

Consider the venom propagated against non-Muslims by Zaghloul El-Naggar in his weekly articles in Al- Ahram newspaper: "Infidels, polytheists and hypocrites, especially the People of the Book who falsified their religion, such as the Jews, those criminals who were the pivot of disbelief throughout history, as they are still today, and will be until the end of days... they represent the worst image of disbelief" [Al-Ahram July 15, 2002]

"The positions of some of the People of the Book towards their charters and the devastation incurred on the infidels amongst them due to their breaching of their charters, such as the followers of both Moses and Issa (Jesus), peace be upon them, then the exoneration of Jesus from the false claims of divinity." [Al-Ahram January. 1, 2002]

"It becomes clear that Judaism is not a religion but rather a sickness that infects the sound natural instinct and causes it to deviate from its humane track to fall into the demonic circle." [Al-Ahram July 22, 2002]

Another example is the statement of Mostafa Mashhour, the previous leader of the Muslim Brotherhood" to Al-Ahram Weekly on April 3, 1997, where he said : "Copts must pay the jizya instead of joining the army, lest they should ally with the enemy in case of fighting against a Christian country." Let's also read what students in Assiut University, Suhag branch, had to study in the 3-3-book 'Basics of Education':

Christianity hallowed Jesus exactly as the Marxists did (with Marx).
Christianity, like Judaism, is an Egypto-Judaic concoction.
Christianity is based on Judaism and the latter is not a religion.
Christianity was inoculated with paganism.
Christianity has turned into a pagan religion.
Human manipulations turned Christianity into a mixture of Judaism and paganism.
Apostle Paul pretended to be a Christian to distort Christianity.

One could also imagine what children are taught in what is called 'Islamic schools' and also public schools (22% of the educational system in Egypt by enrollment is Islamic education, set on interfusing hatred against followers of other religions and calling for their expulsion and eradication).

We read in one of the books in the children curriculums: A Muslim washes his hands before and after eating. A Muslim walks quietly and with dignity. Christians are the misguided. The only religion accepted by Allah is Islam and no religion other than Islam satisfies Allah.

If Muslims had followed such venomous edicts they would have totally eradicated Copts from Egypt; but thank God that many Muslims are more humane and civilized than their Imams and traditions. No wonder that the extremists are called 'The Friday Party' since a Muslim would be a normal person until he starts to frequent Friday prayer behind one of these Imams, when he turns into a strange creature who would prey on anyone who is not a Muslim; and if he does not find one, he would prey on his own community, as has been the case in Afghanistan, Algeria and Sudan etc.

What should we expect from criminals and villains who are waiting for a legalistic excuses to accomplish their vile and despicable desires. Isn't it true that these edicts and venomous writings have created the "Permissibility" principle that makes 'confiscating the properties of the Copts and exterminating their souls and daughters permissible'?

The culprits are not the sole villain criminals, but those who provide them with such edicts are full partners of the crime.

3. Racist Judicial Verdicts

It is not just edicts and writings that incite against everything Coptic. The judicial system has also contributed in this auction with a countless number of racist verdicts. The comically minimal verdicts against the murderer of Copts throughout half a century are enough indication that the judicial system is not acquitted from what is happening to the Copts.

Consider these examples:

* In one verdict, it was pronounced that a Muslim is the honorable person and a non-Muslim lacks honor. [Case number 2473, the year of 1953 El Sayeda Zeinab Court]

* Justifying a ruling to end the custody of a Coptic mother to her son when her husband converted to Islam, the court stated that "it is feared that the child might be affected by the customs of disbelief had he stayed with his mother." [Case number 17 of the year 1961, Alexandria Court of Appeals]

* The custodianship of a Coptic father to his two children was cancelled when the mother converted to Islam as, according to the court ruling, "the children must follow the better religion; and Islam is the best of all religions." [Case number 462 of the year of 1958, Alexandria Lower Court]

* "As the witnesses in the case were are all non-Muslims, their testimonies are not acceptable being against a Muslim, according to the Hanafi School of Jurisprudence, where it is agreed upon that testimony is part of the authority, and a non-Muslim should not have any authority over a Muslim." [Ruling 221 of the Court of Cassations, Division of Civil Affairs, May 19, 1970]

* "Those who embrace Islam are subject to the second article of the constitution which states that Islam is the state religion and the Islamic Sharia is the main source of legislation, and therefore have no right to revert back to Christianity, otherwise the apostasy law applies." [Administrative Court ruling dated April 8, 1980]

* "A husband leads his wife to bed; therefore he must not be of a lower faith than hers. Allah Almighty said in the Koran chapter 2:221 "Do not marry [your girls] to infidels until they believe" and the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) said "Islam is the superior and it cannot be superceded."

The Islamic jurisprudence derived a consensus that a Muslim woman should not marry an infidel, therefore it is a must to separate between the couple. The non-Muslim husband should be punished in case of consummation, and the Muslim woman should be acquitted. If he converts to Islam after marriage, he should not be relied on with such marriage as it is invalid since the very beginning and will not be rectified by his conversion to Islam." [Alexandria Court ruling, April 21, 1957]

"A person that converts from Islam is dead in the eye of law." [Report of the Alexandria General Prosecution, May 29, 1972]

4. Abducting Girls Is An Organized Crime

Abducting and converting Coptic girls to Islam is not only a result of the paranoid and racist incitation against the Copts; it is an organized and pre-planned process by associations and organizations inside Egypt with domestic and Arab funding, as the main role in seducing and luring Coptic girls is carried through cunning, deceit, and enticement, or through force if required.

In a lecture delivered by the departed Metropolitan Athanasious of Beni Sueif (of which I have a record), he exposed some of the tactics of these organizations in abducting Coptic girls by containment through friendships that lead at the end to sexual seduction, abduction or involuntary detention in many homes scattered allover Egypt and forcing them to convert to Islam. He referred to the case of one of Coptic girls who were able to flee. He exclaimed in his lecture, considered a witness against an entire era, and the extent of degradation and decadence it reached: "Lord, when are You going to save us from this humiliation?"

We have heard before about the "Islamic Guidance Society" established by Hussein El Shafei, a former vice-president, and its role in the Islamization process. It is said that one certain center (which carries the name of a Palestinian town), is currently carrying out the same role.

The late Dr. Farag Fouda, in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, exposed the amount of funds flowing to those Islamists from Saudi Arabia, Libya and from wealthy Arabs. Sixteen years after this interview, the French paper Le Monde publishes on Sept. 25, 2000, right after the September 11th events, an article titled "The financial arm of Bin Laden extends from the Gulf to Europe." It reported on the funds flowing to the pernicious Islamists in Egypt and around the world from a financial network with a virtual body consisted of tens of companies, charity organizations and banks. Amongst the banks mentioned were "The Islamic Solidarity Bank", "Faisal Islamic Bank", "Dubai Islamic Bank", "Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami Trust" and "Islamic Relief Organization." Among the aims of these funds was to proselytize for Islam with all means, and much of the money flowed to Egypt to convert the Copts to Islam and eradicate this minority that is deeply rooted in the Egyptian history and the Egyptian soil. What a deplorable goal!

How could we envision the Middle East without Christians? As truly stated by Muhammad Heikal along with prince Talal Bin Abdel-Aziz. The number of Muslims has increased by hundreds of millions within the last five decades as a result of reproduction and conversion, as Huntington said, "Yet their poverty, misery, weakness, and tyranny multiplied. Do they lack those few millions of Copts to the point of subjecting them to excessive pressure through all shameful means to abandon their ancestral faith?"

5. The Conscience Of The Muslim Majority

Unfortunately, and with the exception of a small number of Egyptians, the conscience of the majority is overly sensitive when it comes to what happened to the women of Bosnia, Kosovo and the extremists of Afghanistan and the Chechen Mujahideen. It appears, however, to be an elastic conscience that swallows the camel when it comes to the Copts, their problems and the attacks on their daughters. Religious fanaticism has blinded them from seeing the dangers threatening the country and from feeling the pain that their co-citizens feel. It has also debilitated their humane sense shared by all human beings. Humanity was there before religions and nations. Galal Amin says "Muslims and Copts are not communities, but a majority and a minority. The majority is responsible for safeguarding security more than the minority; as it controls the police, the government, newspapers, radio, television and schools. The majority ought to be more capable of self-control out of its feeling of self confidence being a majority, and is supposed to hold sufficient power to practice patience and tolerance with a higher degree, because the stronger ought to accommodate the weaker."

Unfortunately, dear Dr. Amin, the majority has created the unrest while the Coptic minority has kept the stability of the country through its excessive tolerance, its absorption of crises and its continuous perseverance against the silliness of the majority.. What the majority is doing could be called "the collusion of the silent majority". The late Dr. Farag Fouda was right when he said "Cairo would be consumed with fire if a Muslim doorman converted to Christianity." And let me add that Egypt would be consumed with fire if a Coptic young-man abducted a minor Muslim girl, raped her and converted her to Christianity; but of course when the opposite takes place, the government media cheers it and the fanatic mind gets exuberant. When we expose, with documents, the shameful acts of fanatic Islam against Copts, the puppets of the Egyptian Secret Police and the Egyptian Media incriminate and insult the victim (Copts)!

6. Negativity Of The Copts

The diminished Coptic trust in all government institutions and their feel of discrimination by policemen and the judiciary system has increased their negativity and their perplexity, which led them to look for external help or await a heavenly miracle.

Last year, I received a phone call at 5:00 AM from a Copt in Beni Sueif, Egypt. He said, "Help me get my only daughter back! She is a student at the faculty of commerce and was abducted by a Muslim." His wife grabbed the phone and started crying. I felt the extent of injustice when the government, with all its might colludes against a helpless citizen.

But despite the fact that we are doing all we can to help those poor people, Copts should abandon their negative attitude and protest against unjust practices with all peaceful and legal means domestically and internationally.

What is left for this man and others after losing their daughters? Why can't the parents go on hunger strike, which is their legal right, in order to draw attention and awaken human conscience to address their tragedy?

Amid the government's inaction and its collusion, awakening the international conscience may be the more effective means in exposing those wolfs and those who support them.

The world's gigantic media system did a good job exposing one villain; Uday Saddam Hussein. But who will help the poor Copts expose tens of villains widespread inside the Egyptian body?

Magdi Khalil is a political analyst and researcher. He is Executive Editor of the international edition of the Egyptian weekly "Watani" and writes for a number of Arabic newspapers. He writes on civil rights, society and the situation of minorities in Islamic societies. He lives in the United States. Contact him at

[Editor's note: His essay on the ordeal of Arab Christians in the Middle East is available on the September Blog Ed page --]


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