Iâ€™ve been covering this issue for some time. You can see part of the results in a piece I filed recently for The World. Since that piece aired, there have been several new developments. Yesterday the case of Mohammed Hegazyâ€”the first Muslim-born Egyptian citizen to go to court to try to officially change his religion to Christianityâ€”was allowed to proceed. The next court session will be in January. Also, on November 17th a verdict will be handed down in the case of 12 former Christians sueing for the right to convert back officially to their religion. This case is expected to have wide repercussions on all similar cases (and the petitioners are optimistic about their chances of winning).
Â Â I recommend reading the excellent HRW/EIPR report, but I just wanted to add a few remarks. One is that the discrimination against would-be converts and Bahaiâ€™s (and those who would just like to leave the religion line blank or saying â€œotherâ€�) may in part simply stem from the biases of Muslim government employeesâ€”but it is so widely and adamantly enforced that I canâ€™t but assume itâ€™s an actual policy, formulated and promulgated along internal channels, although I canâ€™t quite understand to what ends.Â
The other thing Iâ€™d like to get off my chest is my disappointment with Grand Mufti Ali Gomaaâ€™s back-pedaling on this issue. In the summer, the Mufti had staked out a sensible position: conversion from Islam is a sin that will be punished in the afterlife, but not a crime that should be punished by the state. Apparently such subtlety is out the window these days. I saw the mufti on â€œAl Beit Beitakâ€� recently, and he's back to saying that conversion from Islam cannot be countenanced (it also seemed to me that he was misrepresting Egyptian law and furiously spinning the meaning of personal freedom). Poor guy, heâ€™s been issuing so many embarrassing fatwas lately heâ€™s had to cry his way out of the mess. Unfortunately it doesn't look like there will be any helpful religious leadership on the conversion issue, which threatens to get ever more â€œsensitive.â€�