I've Moved!

My new blog is called Reflections from a Global Nomad, in order to acknowledge that we no longer live in Maadi and that we are, in fact, global nomads, not staying in one place longer than two or three years. Please join me at http://DeborahReflections.blogspot.com

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mussa's Story

We Westerners take so much for granted.

We are free to be of any religion or no religion. We are free to change our religion at will. Most of us don't even have to tell the government that we've done it, because our religious affiliation and beliefs have no bearing on anything the government does. We have no official religion to list on our driver's license or identity card. The government doesn't consider the religion of the man and woman involved when recognizing marriages--the couple's religions are none of the government's business. This separation between government and religion, while taken too far at times, was instituted to protect individuals from unwarranted government intrusion into their personal lives. And we take it all for granted.

I read a news article last week. It reports on a situation that can happen only in a country where the government is able to intrude at will into the personal lives of its citizens. It can happen only in a country where the government explicitly favors one religion over another. It can happen only in a country where religious freedom may exist for some, but not for all.

Should this situation be possible in a country that is a signatory to the U. N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which allows for freedom of religion, including conversion?

Read about the situation; then you decide:

Raheal Henen Mussa was born into a Muslim family 22 years ago. Three years ago, she decided to become a Christian. She did not attempt to change her official religion, knowing that government authorities would not allow it. It would cause major problems if she tried. She could even face the death penalty for apostasy.

Mussa had another problem. She wanted to get married. To a Christian. But she wasn't allowed to do that. Sharia, or Islamic, law forbids Muslim women from marrying Christians. Even if the woman is really a Christian whose government says she's a Muslim. And her government says in its constitution that Sharia is the basis for legislation. Mussa knew that she would not be allowed to marry a Christian in the traditional manner. So Mussa and her beloved, Sarwat George Ryiad, found another solution.

Traditional marriages that are recognized by the government are performed by clerics in front of witnesses. But these official marriages cannot take place until the couple is able to secure and furnish a home, which can take years in a difficult economy. So many young people instead opt for zawag al 'urfi marriages. These marriages are not officiated by clerics, and there are no witnesses. Instead, there is a lawyer and a marriage contract. These marriages are not recognized as "official marriages" by the government, but the couple involved are bound by the contract and consider themselves married.

It isn't an ideal situation, but it is a solution, so Mussa and Ryiad took it and were married. They realize that in the eyes of their government, they are not married. They never requested any official recognition of their marriage. Because they did not request official marriage status, they have violated no civil law of their country.

But they have violated Sharia law. And their country responded by arresting Mussa. She was held by the secret police for seven days before being turned over to her Muslim family. Her family burned from her arm the tattoo that identified her as a Christian. Two days after she was placed in her family's custody, Mussa escaped. She and her husband fled the city and went into hiding, afraid of being arrested, beaten, and forcibly separated. This government apparently has the ability to interfere in any marriage, whether or not it recognizes the existence of the marriage.

There are multiple issues here. One of them is the government deciding who a person can and cannot marry based on religion. Another is the government being able to influence a person's official religion, whether it is by saying that a child's religion must be the same as the parents' religion or by deciding when a person can or cannot change religions.* The fundamental issue, however, is government interest in what we Westerners view as an intensely personal matter--an individual's spiritual and religious life--an interest that, even in the Western world, would open the door to government intrusion.

No one but God knows how this situation will turn out. Mussa lives in a country where there is nominal freedom of religion, but she isn't allowed to change her official religion or to marry a man who shares her personal religion. Her options were severely limited. She could have remained unmarried--a huge social stigma, and a denial of basic human needs and desires. She could have married a Muslim man and quite possibly have been abused for her "apostasy." She could have married a Christian whose identification card also read "Muslim," thereby putting off the problem to the next generation. She chose to marry the man she loved, an official Christian, without receiving government recognition of the marriage but also without breaking any civil law. Why, then, is she being treated like a criminal?

*There is one man who is trying to change his official religion from Islam to Christianity. He has another hearing in early May. The outcome of his case could have profound implications for people like Mussa.


  1. no wonder cuz it's the religion of peace so all this is expected.

    and what USA is doing??
    it's pandering terrorists and pick a Muslim president!!!!!

    soon I'll enjoy watching religion of peace destroying your evil nation.

  2. I won't get into what Islam is and is not the religion of. I will tell you to check your facts--Obama isn't Muslim. I'm not saying that Obama is or is not Christian--that's a matter between him and God--but the fact is that there is no reason to believe him to be Muslim. Not all Americans agree with Obama any more than all Egyptians agree with their government--almost half of us voted against him--but one of America's great strengths is that it's stronger than any one leader. We have elections that matter; we have vocal, principled, and lawful dissent; and we have a population that forgets all about politics when it's necessary to protect and defend our country. Nothing will be destroying my nation anytime soon.

    Do I really need to get into whether or not America is evil? America and Americans have done much good in the world. Anyone whose eyes aren't blinded by emotion and dogmatism is able to see that.

  3. Bastawisi,
    All I can say is that I am praying for you that you will eventually allow our good Lord Jesus Christ to come into your heart, so that you don't spend eternity in HELL.

  4. Listen, if Obama is a Muslim he will never tell he is a Muslim and you guys know this well.

    it's the responsibility of the American people that Obama is president even if they didn't vote for him

    America is an evil nation and ask you dear hubby why his people allow Muslim Americans persecute the copts INSIDE THE EMBASSY

    again I'll enjoy a lot watching Muslims show you the real hell on your own land.

  5. Bastawisi-

    It seems that I need to explain something to you. As an American, I believe in “innocent until proven guilty.” That means that when you make accusations, you need to present evidence before I will take you seriously. If you have no evidence but continue to make accusations, I put you in the category of “people not to be listened to, taken seriously, or allowed to waste my time.”

    So far, you have made four accusations without presenting any evidence of any kind:
    (1) The United States is pandering to terrorists.
    (2) President Barack Obama is Muslim.
    (3) The United States is an evil nation.
    (4) There is religious discrimination going on in the U. S. embassy in Cairo, and this discrimination is on the part of Muslim Americans against Coptic Christian Egyptians.

    I would love to hear your evidence that backs up these assertions. Without such evidence, I can’t respond in any way that is guaranteed to address the reasons for your misguided beliefs.

    I will respond a little to accusation #4, so that if you or any other Egyptian employee of the U. S. embassy really believes that discrimination is occurring, you’ll know what steps to take to correct it. There is a procedure to report violations of the Equal Employment Opportunity laws, which prohibit discrimination based on religion and a whole host of other factors, and all embassy employees—including Egyptian employees—have access to information about that procedure. It’s posted on the bulletin board in the basement of Cairo I, if you’d like to take a look at it. Come out of the elevators, take a left, and it will be on your right. Upper management, including the ambassador herself, is dedicated to upholding the EEO principles, regardless of their personal religious beliefs, and they do take complaints seriously.

    Bastawisi, you have said repeatedly that you look forward to seeing the destruction of America. Yet you also seem to set yourself apart from and above Muslims who persecute Christians. How do you justify considering yourself above those who cause others to suffer, when you admit that you want to see the suffering of others?

    If you have specific evidence to back up your accusations, Bastawisi, feel free to post them. Also feel free to answer my question above. Otherwise, please stop trolling this site. Further posts from you that contain accusations without evidence will be deleted.

  6. well, I'll try to make this short and direct as much as i can:

    1- http://www.amcoptic.com/n2005/The_Free_Copts.htm
    2- there is something called in Islam "Taqyyia and kitman"(deceiving and concealing) which allow the Muslims to do deceive and conceal in order to reach their goals and for sure Obama doing this, i won't wait to a prove cuz once there is a doubt in the sensitive matters then no need to take the risk
    3- the same link of #1
    4- the same link of #1

    i used to like America but now i like poetic justice.

  7. Bastawisi,
    so, since there is the possibility of "Taqyyia and kitman," the U.S. should not issue any visas to any Egyptians, especially those who deny being Muslims, right? I mean, Egypt is roughly 90% Muslim, and many of the Islamic terrorist groups have leaders or significant influences who came from Egypt, so that should certainly create a doubt about all Egyptians, right? So certainly in the sensitive matter of national security, then the U.S. shouldn't let any Egyptians at all in, ESPECIALLY those who claim to be Copts, since they could be Muslims who're lying. Thanks for explaining why the U.S. Embassy shouldn't grant Copts visas. And of course, if someone's too dangerous to allow in the the country, there's no way they should hire any of them. Thanks for explaining why the U.S. embassy shouldn't employ any Copts, either.
    There's no need to take the risk.

    P.S. -- just so there's no doubt to any other readers, this is called "illustrating absurdity by being absurd." I hope by following the chain of thought Bastawisi proposes people see how little sense it makes, and how, if he truly believed it, his other complaints all disappear, by the rules of logic.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Bastawisi-

    I am working on a reply to your comment that provided a link to that website. But I just saw that you left this comment, and I need to inform you that name-calling is not going to be allowed on this blog. Because you engaged in name-calling, I am deleting your comment. I will reprint your comment without the name-calling below. Next time I'll just delete the whole comment without reprinting it.

    And you should reread Anonymous's comment. He was pointing out that if your position were taken to its logical conclusion, absolutely no Egyptian Coptic Christians would be allowed to enter the United States or work in the embassy, because it's possible that they could be Muslims who are lying about their religion. The logical result of your own position is that the U. S. should discriminate, which is exactly what you think the U. S. is doing, but which you find so offensive!

    Bastawisi's comment, minus the name-calling, was:

    they allow muslims and disallow copts, and yes, it will be cool if they gonna disallow both of us, i agree on this."

    So now Bastawisi wants the United States to discriminate against all Egyptians, I guess.

  10. Bastawisi,
    of course, according to your theory, the ones who say they're Muslims are the only ones we can be sure are being honest (since Copts don't have an ideology that condones lying, do they?). If they were going to do something nefarious, they'd lie and say they were Copts, so if they admit they're Muslims, they probably just want to go to America to enjoy all of the comforts and freedoms whose destruction you long for.

  11. Bastawisi-

    I’ll deal with the quickest one first. I’m familiar with the idea of taqiyyia and kitman. I’m aware that just because someone says he isn’t Muslim, that doesn’t make it the truth, just as nothing else is true merely because someone says it is. But the fact that a Muslim can lie about being Muslim doesn’t prove that any specific individual is engaging in this practice, only that it is a theoretical possibility. Your assertion that, despite the lack of evidence, there is “no need to take the risk” is contrary to the idea of “innocent until proven guilty.” I think the anonymous commenter above showed why your assertion that there’s “no need to take the risk,” when taken to its logical conclusion, is not something that America is willing to accept.

    As far as the website you provided … I haven’t been in the consular section of the embassy, so I haven’t seen the posters. However, it makes sense to me that posters such as those described would be present there. Egypt is a majority Muslim country. Muslims in general seem to think that America is at war with Islam. Posters that show a tolerance for Islam in America are meant to reassure Muslims that they will not be discriminated against, not to show that Christians will be discriminated against. Personally, I would prefer that there be no message regarding religion displayed there, but even as a Christian, I understand the reasoning behind it. The presence of those posters doesn’t indicate that America is evil, that America is pandering to terrorists, or that discrimination occurs within the embassy.

    The assertion in the article that the head of HR is a “veiled fanatic Muslim woman” is questionable. I don’t know who the head of HR is, but if this allegation were true, I would expect to see the woman’s name in the article, so that readers could investigate her for themselves and see whether or not she’s fanatic, veiled, or even Muslim. There is no proof here. The allegation that Copts’ resumes are being burned without consideration is made, but it is credited to an unnamed employee, and there is no evidence provided to back up the assertion. I don’t trust unnamed sources, because that removes accountability. Any unhappy employee could accuse anyone of anything, deliberately lying, without fear of consequences if he or she doesn’t have to provide his or her own name. This article is making allegations by an unnamed source that an unnamed woman is engaging in discriminatory behavior. There is no proof here, not even a witness that an independent investigator could question.

    I would like to see statistics justifying the article’s statement that the number of Coptic employees is decreasing and the number of Muslim employees is increasing. Even if that is true—which the article asserted without supporting evidence—that isn’t evidence of discrimination unless you also can provide information about how many Copts versus Muslims are applying for positions, and information about their qualifications. If more Muslims than Copts are applying, it doesn’t require discrimination for more of them to be hired. If the Muslims who are applying are more qualified than the Copts, it doesn’t require discrimination for them to be hired. There are factors other than end results that must be considered before discrimination can be proven. This article is making the allegation of discrimination without any evidence to back up its assertions.

    The same case can be made against the article’s allegation that Copts are denied visas if they want to speak out about persecution. The article states that the name of one accuser and details of that incident are available upon request, but there is no mechanism provided to make such a request. So we have second- or third-hand information that isn’t even specific enough for someone else to verify independently. That isn’t evidence; it’s an accusation.

    Nice try, Bastawisi. But your “evidence” consists only of more unproven allegations. Just because someone put the unproven allegations in writing on the internet doesn’t make it evidence.

  12. listen what you tell is ridiculous and generalizing of what iam telling, Muslims are liars but Copts are not fake, so stop this American childish thoughts.

  13. Deborah;
    you need clues and evidence like it's a CSI episode or like we are in a court while i don't need such to believe, i trust what my own people tell, thanks.

  14. My "American childish thoughts" are a logical extension of the principles you've presented. If logic and following a train of thought past "all Muslims bad, all Copts good, America bad for not agreeing" is American and childish, I'll gladly accept that judgment, but then what does that say about your position? What's more simple than childish thought?

    If you can't explain your positions and principles to someone who doesn't already hold them, how are you to ever convince anyone else your ideas are right? Feel free to stick your fingers in your ears and shout as loud as you like, but don't expect anyone else to mistake that for reasoned discussion.

  15. Bastawisi-

    That's the difference between us. I use logic to inform my opinions, because I want to be fair to everyone, including those with whom I disagree and those who are of a different religion than I am. Unless you are willing to apply logic to your own opinions, please refrain from posting them here. I'm willing to have logical discussions with people who disagree with me, and I'm willing to discuss controversial topics. I am not, however, willing to allow unchallenged hate-mongering or prejudice.

  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  17. Bastawisi,
    and some Muslims believe anything a fellow Muslim tells them about Copts. With your mindset, no one makes any progress towards living as equals or understanding anyone outside their group. If both Muslims and Copts would make an effort to apply logic and examine their beliefs, maybe Egyptian society would be more equal.

  18. Bastawisi-

    It is unfortunate that you resorted to such a vulgar and childish response. I have deleted your comment and engaged the comment moderation feature. Your comments will not be posted unless you demonstrate a maturity that you have not yet demonstrated. I pray that in the future, you will experience God's grace and therefore be able to extend it to others in a way that you have not done so today.

  19. Deborah, I was touched by Mussa's story. I pray that God will help her find a way in the desert.


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