Arrest Warrant Sought for Egyptian Muslim Cleric for Hate Speech
Mary Abdelmassih |
11 August 2010
(AINA) -- A Christian Coptic human rights group is seeking to initiate an international arrest warrant in the United Kingdom against the leading Muslim fundamentalist cleric Sheikh Yousef al-Badri for inciting Muslims to kill apostates from Islam in Egypt. Al-Badri, who is a member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and is associated with the primary Islamic institute of al Azhar University, is reported to have stated "God has commanded us to kill those who leave Islam."
Although Christianity in Egypt is not illegal, it is under a common interpretation of Islamic law that conversion to another religion from Islam is punishable by death. Muslims, mainly fundamentalists, see no difference between apostasy and subversion; they fear that allowing conversion will ultimately undermine Islam.
"We expected the Egyptian Prosecutor General to take legal action against al-Badri, but unfortunately in Egypt impunity for Muslims prevails at all levels when it comes to the rights of Christians," said Dr. Ibrahim Habib, President of United Copts of Great Britain who will initiate the arrest warrant. "Incitement to kill is a crime under legal and ethical norms."
Sheikh Yousef al-Badri has called on several occasions for the "spilling of the blood" of Muslims who convert to Christianity, causing them to live in hiding under the constant threat of vigilantism and death from fundamentalists. "Even if we are killed, the government will not convict our killers," said Mohamad Hegazy, a renown apostate from Islam, whose face is familiar all over Egypt.
In 2007, Mohamad Hegazy, a Muslim who converted to Christianity in 1998, was the first convert to sue the Egyptian government for rejecting his application to change his official documents to reflect his new Christian faith (AINA 2-27-2010).
This case sparked national uproar in Egypt, with al-Badri making a number of controversial statements, besides filing charges of inciting sectarian strife against Hegazy's first lawyer, Mamdouh Nakhla, who had to withdraw from the case after receiving several death threats.
On August 25, 2007, Hegazy, who took the Christian name of Beshoy Boulos, was interviewed on Egyptian television together with Sheikh al-Badri, who openly called for Hegazy to receive the death penalty for leaving Islam because his new commitment to Christianity meant he had declared war on Islam, according the arrest warrant for --al-Badri. The legal basis of the arrest warrant is that Sheikh al-Badri has engaged in "hate speech" which threatens coverts to Christianity in Egypt with death, in a society where individuals will act on these incitements, as well as denying the fundamental right to change religion from Islam to Christianity which is protected by international law. Also "hate speech" causes individuals subject to this vitriol to sustain severe mental suffering which comes under the crime of 'torture' as defined by the Criminal Justice Act 1988, rising to a breach of international law. The United Kingdom is, therefore, under obligation to bring violators of the International Covenant to justice.
The arrest warrant states that al-Badri has also been engaged in a number of other provocative acts, such as calling for 'Muslims to declare Jihad' against America, preaching against Abu Ziad who had to claim asylum in Europe, supporting suicide bombings and endorsing wife beatings.
Hegazy is married to Katarina, a convert from Islam before meeting him, and has a 2-year old daughter named Mariam. He said he filed the lawsuit to set a precedent for other converts, and because he wants his child to be openly raised as a Christian.
In February 2008 Hegazy lost his case, with the court ruling that according to Sharia Law, a Muslim who converted to Christianity cannot legally change his religious status. The reasoning given behind this ruling was that 'Islam is the final and most complete religion' and since "monotheistic religions were sent by God in chronological order," one cannot therefore convert to "an older religion."
Hegazy believes that even after the media stopped reporting on his case, he still remains a target -- as all converts do -- of Islamic militants. According to Compass Direct News, He was forced into hiding after extremists, unaware of his escape, surrounded his former house for several days and set fire to his neighbor's residence, killing the female occupant.
The European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), an affiliate of the American Center for Law and Justice, submitted an application in January 2010, to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights "seeking judgment against the Egyptian government for refusing to recognize the fact that Mr. Mohammed Bishoy Hegazy and his family members are Christians converted from Islam" (video).
Another victim of "hate speech" is Muslim-born Maher el-Gowhary who publicly converted to Christianity in 2008, after secretly being a Christian for over 35 years (AINA 9-26-2009). In August 2008, he filed the second lawsuit of a Muslim-born against the Egyptian Government to seek official recognition of his conversion. He lost the case on June 13, 2009. According to the Court ruling, the religious conversion of a Muslim is against Islamic law and poses a threat to the "Public Order" in Egypt.
The Fatwa (religious edict) issued by Sheikh Yousef al-Badri calling for the "shedding of his blood" caused Maher and his teenage daughter Dina, who also converted to Christianity, to live in hiding and be constantly on the run, fearing danger from reactionaries and advocates of the enforcement of Islamic apostasy death laws.
"We live in constant fear ever since radical sheikhs have called for my blood to be shed because I left Islam. We are mostly afraid of the uneducated people on the street," Maher said in an interview aired end July 2010 on ZDF German TV (video).
Maher escaped many attacks on his life, the last taking place on Sunday, July 5, 2010, when a Muslim fundamentalist tried to behead him in broad daylight. His daughter Dina also escaped an acid attack (AINA 4-17-2010).
Commenting on the reason for the arrest warrant initiated by his group, Dr. Ibrahim Habib said that the Egyptian government must respect freedom of religion as a fundamental right. "Besides, criminals have to know that they are not immune from the legal systems in the West."