Cairo (AINA) -- The phenomenon of abduction, rape and forced Islamization of Christian girls in Egypt was shown for the first time on the Christian TV channel "Life TV", which broadcasts from outside Egypt and has nearly 60 million Arab-speaking viewers in Egypt and around the world.
The testimonies of the victims and their families came as a shock to many, including Egyptian Christians, since this issue is taboo for the Egyptian media, "Our role is to expose those behind those crimes," said Rasheed El Maghreby, the program's moderator.
The program was aired in mid-November 2009, and interviewed Mr. Magdi Khalil, an authority on Coptic affairs who has made a complete field study on forced Islamization of Christian minors in Egypt. Mr Khalil explained that this phenomenon in its present form is nearly 40 years old, and most of these conversion crimes, with a few isolated exceptions, are carried out by organized Islamization gangs or "Islamization Mafia", a termed coined by him, which are fully funded by the state and supported by State Security.
"Those highly organized gangs carry out systematic planning," says Khalil. "Besides violent forced abductions, other devious means include allurement, deception, psychological pressure, financial temptation, emotional relationships ending in rape and photographs taken to blackmail the victims into conversion, and spreading fear in the hearts of their families. They turn the minor into a broken, humble, and submissive person who drifts along a road which would have been impossible for her to take under normal circumstances or in an atmosphere of family or legal protection, and of her own free will."
The TV program aired three cases of victims throwing light on the complete disadvantage of the affected families in front of the "Islamization mafia", in view of the complete lack of support, if not collusion, of the authorities.
Ingy Adel, now 16, was abducted at the age of 12 on her way to school by being anaesthetized and bundled into a car. "I was taken into a room by a man called Sultan, who tied my hands behind my back and raped me," said Ingy. Four men followed Sultan in raping her, "I felt as each one of them raped me, that I was their enemy. They have beaten me ferociously." She said that for a whole month she was given drugs and raped, "more than 50 men raped me." After two months and only through the efforts of her father she was found and brought back home. When they reported the crime to the State Security she was beaten by the officer to change her testimony and say that she ran away from her family with her own free will. "Until today they have done nothing about it and will not do anything, because I am a Christian," sobs Ingy (see testimony).
Another victim was Amal Zaki from Mahalla el-Kubra. "I received a phone call at work, informing me that my father was taken ill and lies in hospital and wishes to see me urgently. A work colleague with a Burka offered to accompany me. Outside was a car full of sheikhs, and when I refused to get in, I was pushed inside the car, and woke up in a dark room in Dar el Eftah [Al-Azhar affiliated Islamic Legislation Authority]. I knew that I was married to a certain Ahmed Ramadan, the cousin of my Burqa colleague. He tied me to the bed, after three hours I was taken to hospital suffering with haemorrhage." Amal's father continued the story: "I went to State Security and they assured me that they will get her back, but they were just fooling me; they knew all along were my daughter was. When I reported Ahmad Ramadan to the police, he said in the police report that State Security told him to marry Amal, take her to Cairo for conversion to Islam, and after 9 days, they told him to divorce her. He presented documents to support his claims" Amal was returned 9 months later after her father paid a ransom to her abductors. Although she never went to Al-Azhar to convert to Islam, she still got a conversion certificate.
Another incident was described by a villager who said that his daughter, who was less than 16-years-old, was abducted as she went to the nearby grocery store. When he reported the matter to the police, he was told he was causing 'sectarian strife.' He said: "I asked to see my daughter just for 10 minutes, but they refused. I was detained at the police station until the officer received a phone call that my daughter was taken away." He said that the police forced him to leave the village. "My daughter returned to the village 3 days after I left. They have taken my home by force and now my daughter lives in it with her Muslim husband (see testimony).
"This is thuggery. As long as it is for the benefit of Islam, all authorities join together as if it is an 'armed invasion.' Sharia over the law and Islam over the nation," said Khalil.
The latest fraud mentioned on the TV program is that Muslim gangs who dress as Coptic priests, offer a car lift to Christian girls and then abduct them. "The Coptic Church has warned its congregation against letting any unknown person dressed as a priest into their homes or accepting a lift," said Khalil.
Several international organizations have criticized Egypt regarding forced Islamization of minors, among which is the International Religious Freedom report from 2005 to 2009, the Helsinki Commission Report of November 9th, 2006, Human Rights Watch Report of November 12th, 2007, and on November 10th, 2009, Christian Solidarity International issued a report quoting 25 cases of forced Islamization of minors.
H.H. Pope Shenouda protested as far back as December 17th, 1976, during a conference held in Alexandria, saying: "There is a practice to convert Coptic girls to embrace Islam and marry them under terror to Muslim husbands." He demanded that the abducted girls be returned to their families.
Sheikh Fawzy al-Zafzaf, former head of the Azhar committee for inter-religious dialogue told Al-Destoor Newspaper on November 17th, 2009, that he did not deny the existence of cases of abduction and forced Islamization of Coptic girls in Egypt. He called on the government to intervene to stop such acts by imposing just penalties on people who commit them.
Pope Shenouda warned during a lecture on March 17, 2004 that he received thousands of letters of abduction of Christian girls through certain Islamic store chains which lure them away by being told they won a prize and have to go to an upper floor in the building to collect it.
"Christian activists who work in cases of abductions and forced Islamization have a good idea about who the organizations, State Security officers and businessmen supporting the Islamization gangs," he explained.
According to Ms. Rasha Nour, chief of Egypt4Christ, which specializes in abductions of minors, funding for Islamization comes from a financial network of dozens of companies, charities, and banks such as Bank of Islamic Solidarity, Faisal Islamic Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank, and Islamic Relief Organization, as well as numerous companies created through money-laundering operations, and which are supervised by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Explaining the difficulty in tackling this issue by human rights organizations, Khalil said "Unfortunately no one can discuss this issue, not the Egyptian Family Minister Mosheera Khattab or any research institute, as they would be told 'this issue belongs to the State Security which manages the Coptic Portfolio the way they like." He sees no prospects of any improvement on the Coptic portfolio before it is taken away from State Security and handled as a political issue.
Khalil accused the Egyptian State, with its executive, legislative and judicial authorities of being an accomplice.
The role of the State Security is evident and vital in all abduction cases "They know where the girls are, and withhold information from their families."
Despite the existence of laws in Egypt setting the minimum age of conversion to Islam at 21, as well as legally forbidding marriage of a girl younger than 18 without the consent of her parent or guardian, "we still find fatwas (religious edicts) being issued to justify those criminal acts," says Khalil.
The Chairman of the Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, Sheikh Abdulah Mogawer, talking to Al-Arabya-net justified the marriage of two underage Christian girls (15 and 17 when abducted) by saying that they accept Islamization at the age of 16 . "According to Sharia, the main criteria for marriage to be valid is for the girl to reach puberty and is not tied to a specific age. Aisha married [consummated] the Prophet at the age of 9. Some girls might reach puberty at 14 or 15 years old, depending on her physical growth," said Mogawer.
"In spite of international and local condemnation, still nothing is being done about this by the State. It is a big shame on the Egyptian government to be an accomplice to these crimes against humanity," commented Khalil .
By Mary Abdelmassih