Egypt Jails Christian Woman for Father's Conversion

An Egyptian Christian woman has been jailed for her father's brief conversion to Islam over 40 years ago which made her legally a Muslim despite her official papers stating that she is a Christian, her lawyer said Thursday.

Shadia Nagui Ibrahim, 47, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in jail on the charge of fraud for stating she is a Christian on her marriage certificate, according to Agence France-Presse.

Under Egyptian law, a person's official religion is based on the father's religion.

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Nagui Ibrahim's father converted to Islam in 1962 after leaving home when she was two years old. Three years later he reconciled with her mother and returned home, re-converting back to Christianity. He had someone forge his document to say he was Christian.

In Egypt, it is extremely difficult to near impossible to officially change one's religion from Islam. However, it is easy to officially change one's religion to Islam.

The man who forged Ibrahim's document was arrested in 1996 for creating dozens of false documents. In the process, the man confessed he made false papers for Ibrahim.

Authorities detained Ibrahim and informed Shadia that on paper her father and her are still Muslim.

Under Egyptian law it is illegal for a Muslim woman to marry a Christian man.

Although she was unaware of her father's conversion, she was charged with "providing false information on official documents" for stating she was Christian on her 1982 marriage certificate, according to AFP.

Nagui Ibrahim was sentenced to three years in 2000 but her case was dropped. However, in August she was again detained and on Wednesday sentenced to three years after one brief court session, her lawyer said.

Her case follows another convert legal battle earlier this year which threw Egypt in an uproar. An Egyptian man who converted to Christianity from Islam, in an unprecedented act, sued Egypt for rejecting his application to officially change his religion on his identification papers.

Covert Mohammed Ahmed Hegazy was forced into hiding because Muslim extremists threatened to kill him for leaving Islam after his case made national headlines.

Egypt has no law banning conversion from Islam, but the country's Muslims look upon apostasy very negatively with some even calling for punishment by death.

Egypt's population of 80 million is about 90 percent Muslim and only about 10 percent Christian. Although the percentage of Christians in Egypt is small, it represents the largest Christian population in the Middle East.

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