A female Christian university professor was forced to convert to Islam last week, according to a claim by an official from the Palestinian Authority that has been refuted by the Hamas militant group.
If true, Todd Nettleton from Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) says the professor, Sana-al-Sayegh, would find it hard to come back because she signed a document stating that she is a Muslim. Reconverting to Christianity is apostasy – which is punishable by death under Islamic law.
"It is extremely difficult now for her to come back and say 'Wait a minute! I'm not a Muslim, I'm a Christian,'" Nettleton told Mission Network News (MNN). "Because of the signed documents, even if they were signed under duress, in the minds of the Muslim populous, she is a Muslim."
According to reports, the professor's family said Sayegh would never convert to Islam by choice.
It was also reported that the woman called her parents five days after she went missing saying that she was being held against her will so she could be married to a Muslim man.
The family later received a copy of the conversion documents, which had been signed by witnesses.
Since Hamas claimed Sayegh converted willfully, it was hard to say what kind of help the government will offer, explained Nettleton.
"In the government's mind then, 'OK, she changed her faith. That's fine.' So it's hard to know how the government will play this - what type of a role they will take. I assume that there will not be penalties," the VOM spokesman said.
In June of this year, Hamas had seized complete control of the Gaza Strip. A Hamas-allied militant leader, in an interview with World Net Daily, said that the region's Christian minority could live there safely on the condition they accept Islamic law.
Of the nearly 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip, the CIA estimates the Christian population to be about 10,000 (or 0.7 percent). Muslims, meanwhile, reportedly make up 98.7 percent of the population.