Freedom of religion is so ingrained in our American outlook that it is hard to imagine life without it. For Maher El-Gowhary, the lack of such basic rights is a grim reality. Although born Muslim, El Gowhary converted to Christianity 34 years ago. Recently, he petitioned the Egyptian government to change his religion to Christian on his official identity documents. Since his petition was rejected on June 13, 2009, he has lived the life of a fugitive. The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reports as follows on the conditions endured by Mr. El Gowhary and his daughter Dina.
"Maher and Dina have been living in hiding ever since he filed his lawsuit, Muslim radicals have called him an apostate and several calls for 'spilling his blood' have been issued. He has to change frequently where he lives, to evade being killed, and friends supply him with food. "We cannot sleep, eat or go out in the street. What have my daughter and I done? we have just filed a lawsuit to get out rights, so why are they holding us against our will?"
He went on to say, "I filed a lawsuit to get my Christian details recorded on my ID, I asked for the same treatment as the Baha'is who could be issued ID cards that didn't identify them by religion. I was refused because I am a Christian." He said that Baha'is are protected by the government, unlike converts to Christianity, who are left on purpose by the government to fend for themselves, in order to be killed. "The State Security incites drug dealers to kill us, as they give them the impression that we are working for police investigations as spies on them. They tried to kill us on several occasions."
The latest chapter in the ordeal of Mr El Gowhary is that of his being barred from leaving the country. On September 15, he and his daughter attempted to leave Egypt for a two week holiday in China. When they arrived at the airport, they were detained by security personnel. Their passports were confiscated, and they were informed that they are barred from leaving Egypt. They have not been told who issued the order barring them from leaving Egypt. The El Gowharys are stuck in a frightening shadow existence in which they are under threat of death in their homeland and barred from going to a country that would permit them basic freedoms.
Mr. El Gowhary claims that there are several million underground Christians in Egypt, and that millions more would join them if it were not for the fear of underground terrorists and their government collaborators.
The situation in Egypt has concerned not only Coptic Christians in Egypt but secularists and non Copts abroad. AINA continues as follows about the simple demands and some of the actions taken to protest and combat Egyptian persecution of Christians.
"The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) in co-ordination with The United Copts GB, submitted to the UN Human Right Council in its 12th session (September 14 to October 2, 2009) a paper titled "Religious discrimination against converts to Christianity in Egypt," criticizing Egypt and specifically citing the case of El-Gowhary as an example. IHEU calls for all states to eliminate laws which require citizens to specify their religion on official documents and to permit all citizens to freely change their religion or belief without discrimination. It also calls on OIC member states in particular to end discrimination against non Muslims."
The US government should speak up on the persecution of Christians in Egypt. There is foreign aid and tariffs that can and should be linked to the level of religious freedom in a country. Freedom of faith and freedom of travel are basic freedoms. If Egypt's Muslims wish to bring credit to their faith, let them show such basic human decency as would resonate with a dispassionate observer of their society. The treatment of the El Gowhary family falls far short of minimum standards of decency. The Egyptians should be shamed into respecting religious freedom for the Eh Gowharys and others. the US government should offer them passports and residency, if that is what is required to guard their safety. If there is anyone who deserves and appreciates America's freedoms, it is the El Gowharys. We should welcome them and champion their cause. Sphere: Related Content