(AINA) -- An Egyptian court has ordered a 16-year old Christian girl to be held in a state-owned care home, instead of returning her to her family, allegedly for expressing her wish to convert to Islam. She is to be held in state care until she reaches the age of 18. The decision has been widely criticized by Copts, who say it encourages Islamists to continue unabated the abduction of Christian minors for conversion to Islam.
"The decision taken by a prosecutor in Boulaq El Dakrour district, Giza, makes him an abductor and makes the law an accomplice to the crime," said Dr. Oliver, a Coptic activist. "What this prosecutor committed is a crime -- he legitimized child abduction and detention."
Dr. Oliver explained that these crimes are committed by thugs, criminals and kidnappers of children, and when the State legitimizes them it makes itself a partner. In addition, placing a girl under care for allegedly wishing to convert to Islam while still a minor is tantamount to abduction by the State.
The abduction of 16-year old Amira Gamal Saber, from Saft-el-Khamar village, Minya province, who disappeared from her home over 40 days ago, has turned into a tug of war between the Christian family and Islamist lawyers from an organization named Alliance for the Support of New Muslim Females. They claim that they are "defending the rights of their Muslim sisters" and that "according to the Egyptian constitution, the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia), which should apply to both Muslims and non-Muslims, and therefore at 16 years of age, Amira can chose her own religion."
According to Al-Azhar Islamic Institution, a person cannot convert to Islam before reaching the age of 18 years.
In December 2011, Amira attended a school lesson but failed to return home. Her teacher said she had left school with two veiled girls. Her family looked for her in all the neighboring villages and were informed that she had accompanied three Muslim men to Cairo. They filed a report with the police on December 4. The head of security in Minya confirmed her kidnapping and assured her family that the culprits were being watched and not to take any action until they were detained. However, time passed and nothing was heard from security.
Attorney Tawfik Kamel, who accompanied the Sabry family to Giza, said that on January 15 a man named Mohammad Ahmed Ibrahim phoned the family and said that Amira had been staying at his home in Boulaq El Dakrour for the last 38 days and asked for 200,000 Egyptian pounds for her return. "The family asked to speak to their daughter, and she spoke to her mother," he added.
According to Kamel, "We had no idea that Islamists were involved. We went to Giza to pay a ransom to someone and collect our daughter, instead we were directed to the police station where Amira is, and then we were told there that government prosecuters are handling the case."
They were detained and interrogated for seven hours.
"We were surprised to find a bearded lawyer," said Kamel, "backed by another 12 Salafist lawyers, appearing in the session, claiming that Amira wants to convert to Islam, and that she does not want to return home as she is afraid of retribution." He presented prosecution with the birth certificate proving Amira is 16 years old and a certificate from the Fatwa department of Al Azhar saying they have no record of her, and conversion is not permitted for people under 18 years old.
"We thought we would bring Amira home but were stunned by the decision to send her to a care home in Giza until she reaches 18," said her uncle.
Tawfik Kamel said that he heard that Amira is presently not in a state-owned care home, but in a home affiliated to the Sharia association in Giza, which is in violation of the court decision. He said that he is in the process of appealing the decision to the Attorney General.
The decision of the prosecutor in Boulaq El Dakrour was not the first time that prosecution has taken such a measure. On June 12, 2011, 14-year-old Nancy Magdy Fathy, and her 16-year old cousin Christine Ezzat Fathy disappeared from their home in Minya. The family accused two Muslim brothers from a neighboring village of abducting them. Two weeks later they were found in Cairo, but said they converted to Islam, refused to go back to their families and applied for protection from them.
Prosecution decided to put them in a state care home and provided protection for them, until completion of the investigations. It was discovered they had lied about converting to Islam, according to Al Azhar. "To this day they are still in the care home," said activist Waguih Yacoub, "and no progress on their status had been made, except that the two brothers implicated of their disappearance were released" (AINA 6-26-2011).
According to Dr. Oliver there is an active ring called "Sharia Association of Ain Shams" in the Cairo suburb of Ain Shams, which kidnaps Christian minors. "It depends on the protection and backing of a prosecutor serving there who colludes with this association," he said. "It is also not uncommon that prosecution detains parents of abducted minors so that they cease to search for their abducted daughters."
Similarly organized Islamization rings, which depend on the protection and collusion of high profile personalities, including prosecutors and policemen, exist in Alexandria. They target Christian minor girls through sexual coercion (AINA 7-13-2011).