The Abduction and Islamization of Christian Women in Egypt
A Report: The Disappearance, Forced Conversions and Forced Marriages of Christian Women in Egypt
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A pioneering new report released by Christian Solidarity International and The Coptic Foundation for Human Rights details the abduction, rape, forced marriage and forced islamization of Coptic women and girls in Egypt.
Despite their significant numbers in Egypt (8-12%), the Christian community, known as the Copts, is frequently subject to widespread marginalization from society and even violent forms of abuse. According to the Egyptian Constitution, Islam is the “religion of the state” and its “principle source of legislation”.
While the hardship of minority communities in the Middle East is well documented, the abuse detailed in this report reveals a disturbing union of religious oppression, gender-based sexual and physical violence and forced marriage that corresponds with international standards of human trafficking. There have been fifty such cases in the previous year in one Egyptian parish alone.
Among the dozens of cases documented in the report:
Seventeen year old R. received a call, the polite young man introduced himself as Amir and said that he was an admirer of hers. He wanted to meet her in a church. She was drugged, kidnapped, and when she woke up,“Amir” told her that he was in reality Wali … She was given the name Fatima, beaten every day, forced to wear a black veil, and marry a man named Mahmoud whom she had never met. When she refused to have sex with Mahmoud, his family held her down while he raped her. She began bleeding profusely. She is unable to have children as a result of the rape.
The tactic complicity of the Egyptian Government is apparent in its systematic lack of investigations and prosecutions, suspension of programs designed for protection, and virtual absence of social services for survivors of this abuse.
Speaking in Cairo in June, President Obama called on the Arab world to defend the fundamental human rights of women and religious minorities in the Middle East. Although the US Government and Pope Shenouda III, the Patriarch of the Coptic Church, have protested this specific phenomenon, there has been negligible action on Capitol Hill or by the international human rights field in response.
This report demonstrates consistent patterns used by perpetrators, their victims, government and law enforcement, and members of Egypt’s faith communities. Also valuable, the report concludes with a set of recommendations for the international community, the Government of Egypt, the Coptic community in Egypt and the Christian community abroad.
American anti-trafficking specialist Michele Clark and Egyptian women’s rights activist Nadia Ghaly conducted research for the report in Egypt and published their findings in Washington, D.C.
The phenomenon of abduction of non-Muslim women is reported in many sources, present and past, from all over the Muslim world. It is connected to the teachings of Islam, as discussed in my new book The Third Choice. Sadly a hadith appears to support the use of deceit in arranging marriage with a young woman, because she can be considered to have given consent by "her silence":
Narrated 'Aisha: Allah's Apostle said, "It is essential to have the consent of a virgin (for the marriage). I said, "A virgin feels shy." The Prophet; said, "Her silence means her consent." Some people said, "If a man falls in love with an orphan slave girl or a virgin and she refuses (him) and then he makes a trick by bringing two false witnesses to testify that he has married her, and then she attains the age of puberty and agrees to marry him and the judge accepts the false witness and the husband knows that the witnesses were false ones, he may consummate his marriage." (Bukhari: Volume 9, Book 86, Number 101)