CAIRO — A woman and her seven children have been sentenced to 15 years in an Egyptian prison for converting to Christianity – a frightening sign of things to come under the country’s Islamist government, say humans rights advocates.
The harsh sentence was handed down last week in the central Egyptian city of Beni Suef, according to Fox News.
Nadia Mohamed Ali, who was raised a Christian, converted to Islam when she married Mohamed Abdel-Wahhab Mustafa, a Muslim, 23 years ago, Fox reported based on news reported by the Arabic-language Egyptian paper Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The husband died and his widow sought to convert her family back to Christianity in order to obtain an inheritance from her family. After the conversion, which occurred some 8 years ago, came to light, the woman, her children, and even the government clerks who processed the change in religious identity were all sentenced to prison.
"Now that Sharia law has become an integral part of Egypt's new constitution, Christians in that country are at greater risk than ever," Samuel Tadros, a research fellow at Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, told Fox News, explaining that conversions like this had been permitted under the predominately secular government of dictator Hosni Mubarak.
"The cases will increase in the future," Tadros told Fox. "It will be much harder for people to return to Christianity."
President Mohammed Morsi, elected last June, pushed the new constitution through last year. Mubarak is in prison.
The case is the latest example of the increasingly dire plight of the nation's roughly 7 million Christians, say human rights advocates.
"Now that Sharia law has become an integral part of Egypt's new constitution, Christians in that country are at greater risk than ever," said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice.
"This is another tragic case that underscores the growing problem of religious intolerance in the Muslim world. To impose a prison sentence for a family because of their Christian faith sadly reveals the true agenda of this new government: Egypt has no respect for international law or religious liberty.”
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