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Christian Convert Released From Prison

4 December 2003

The last remaining Christian convert of those originally arrested in late October has been released.

Yesterday, 3 December, police decided to release the last of the 22 converts and their supporters who were arrested between 21 and 24 October in Alexandria. Up until then it seemed that police were determined to make an example of Christian convert from Islam, Mariam Girgis Makar. They even employed the services of a scholar from the Al-Azhar Islamic University in Cairo to help them bring charges concerning crimes against Islam. Mariam, who was seriously abused whilst in custody, was bailed for 1000 Egyptian pounds (£94 / $162). All of those released are now on bail, but charges against them still have not been formalised.

They were originally arrested on charges related to falsifying their names on documents. A Christian who converts to Islam in Egypt can receive new ID papers with a new Muslim name within 24 hours. However there is no reciprocal arrangement for a Muslim who converts to Christianity. There are a myriad of factors making it virtually impossible for converts to follow their faith freely and safely whilst they retain an official Muslim name. Thus many converts feel compelled to apply for official papers using an assumed Christian name.


Converts such as Mariam living in Egypt have recently issued a declaration calling upon the government to make three changes. Firstly they would like Muslims to be able to change their names to Christian ones, to make conversion from Islam less dangerous. Secondly they would like just treatment for Christians who once converted to Islam, but then chose to reconvert to Christianity. Such people would have received Muslim names on their conversion to Islam, but are unable to recover their old Christian names when they return to Christianity. Thirdly the converts would like the office reopened which used to administer conversions to Christianity. Conversions to Islam can be officially performed in an office at Al-Azhar University. A similar office used to be available for Muslims who wished to become Christians; it was based in the headquarters of the Coptic Church, but was closed in 1970.