Interfaith Is Not For The Faithful

By: Alexandra Kinias

Photograph of the twins Mario and Andrew.

Religion plays a dominant role in the lives of people  in the Middle East. It not only controls and dominates them, but it also shapes and guides their everyday lives.  In such societies, interfaith marriages, which are discouraged for some and banned for others is becoming an issue of growing sensitivity. It is a symbol of both gender and religious inequality in a society that is living in a hypocritical harmony, while in reality it is enveloped by a cloud of sectarian tension.   In Egypt, an interfaith relationship, when discovered, may become a source of sectarian violence that often erupts  in this society that’s maintaining its calm on the surface, but its volatile bubbles are brewing underneath.

The religious and gender inequality is demonstrated in several ways. While a Muslim man is allowed to marry a non-Muslim woman, a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim man.  Christians and Jews are welcomed to convert to Islam, but it is forbidden for Muslims to convert to Christianity or any other faith. A conversion of a Muslim to another faith would not be acknowledged by the government, and in some cases the converts would expose themselves to death penalty. And if a Muslim husband of a non-Muslim woman dies, she is not entitled to his estate and thus most non-Muslim women convert for financial gains rather than for beliefs.

The dilemma still continues because by law, once a man converts to Islam, his wife and kids automatically become Muslims, even without out their consent.  This religious law that was causing a lot of controversy in Europe,  was finally overruled when a fatwa (religious decree) was declared that a  wife of a convert who lives in Europe can maintain her faith. But Back at home, women were not that lucky.

Because divorce laws for Coptic Egyptians are quite complicated, some men and women often convert to Islam to terminate the marriage, against the approval of the church. Sometimes the stories end there. But when excess baggage is hauled along disasters often occur, as in the case of the twins Mario and Andrew.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, the twins’ Christian parents had an unstable marriage and the father eventually converted to Islam to divorce their mother. According to the laws of the land, the custody of the boys was automatically  granted to the Muslim parent. However, in an unprecedented verdict, the court granted the mother their custody.  But the fifteen years old boys are still fighting to regain back their religion on their legal papers. For five years and after more than forty cases being battled in court, the courts in Egypt are still refusing to grant them their religious identity. It may not be a problem for someone who is living elsewhere, but when religion is still documented on IDs and is a subject taught in schools, the twins who are devout Christians might be facing some future challenges with Islam being forced on them.

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4 Comments

Filed under Interfaith marriage in Muslim societies

4 responses to “Interfaith Is Not For The Faithful

  1. Wow! And I thought it was tough here with prayer not being allowed in school. But to be forced to be taught a different religion – I can’t imagine. I am so glad I live in the US.
    Thanks for reminding me about my freedom and how it is not universally enjoyed.

    • Alexndra

      Margaret, The freedom we are enjoying is indeed something we must to cherish. We often take it for granted, but seeing what is happening in other parts of the world is a reminder that we have to be thankful to what we have.

  2. heba Abdel-Aziz

    Didn’t know you write like this. I love what you wrote.

    Not only this is against human rights, but also it is not mentioned in the holy book of Koran. . The only specific prohibition is for a polytheist. There is not a single dissenting opinion on this, which is rather unusual for Islamic jurisprudence because Muslim jurists often disagreed on many issues, but this is not one of them. All jurists agreed that a Muslim man or woman may not marry a mushrik [one who associates partners with God]. However, because of al-Ma’ida verse 5, there is an exception in the case of a Muslim man marrying a kitabiyya. There is no express prohibition in the Koran or elsewhere about a Muslim woman marrying a kitabi. However, the jurists argued that since express permission was given to men, by implication women must be prohibited from doing so. If men needed to be given express permission to marry a kitabiyya, women needed to be given express permission as well, but since they were not given any such permission then they must be barred from marrying a kitabi.

    How could you ask a person who was born a Muslim or a Christian or whatever to change his faith?

    Besides are we not all responsible of our actions. If we decide we want to go to hell, we should be alowed to do so?

    Egypt should become secular and those who want to have a civil marriage should be allowed and those who want to have a religious marriage should be also alowed, but the country should not ban interfaith marriages for whatever reason.

    Additionally, children are normally raised by the mother, so if the mother is a Muslim then they will know more about the religion then if their mother is a Christian even if the father is a Muslim.

    In case of the Coptic church in Egypt, Muslims don’t exist as they don’t believe in Islam to stary with. They also ban the marriage of Catholics to Orthodox and Catholics should be baptized by being completely dipped in water or they are not considered Christians. The Roman Pop as well announced that the only religion is Catholic religion?

    Since religions are a relationship between a person and his God, hence clergymen are intermediates that need not exist.

    I believe this is of a political nature. As both religious parties are dying to have a larger number of believers join their faith, so that they say our religion is better. Thank you. Heba

  3. Thanks Heba for visiting the blog and leaving a comment. i totally agree with what you said. it is against all human rights, no matter which way you look at it.

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