Middle East

Surprise! You're a Muslim!

Brief conversions can be a family affair for generations.

An Egyptian Coptic Christian woman has been sentenced to three years in prison for failing to uphold her Islamic identity—an identity she did not know she had for more than four decades.

Bahia Nagy El-Sisi was arrested and tried this September for claiming Christianity as her official religious identity on her marriage certificate. Her sister, Shadia, received an identical sentence in November 2007 for doing the same. Unknown to the sisters, their religious identity had officially changed 46 years ago due to their father's temporary conversion to Islam.

Their father, Nagy El-Sisi, converted to Islam in 1962 during a brief marital dispute in order to obtain a divorce and potentially gain custody of his daughters, the sisters' lawyer Peter Ramses said. Egyptian law is influenced by Islamic jurisprudence (Shari'ah), which automatically awards child custody to whichever parent has the "superior" religion, and dictates "no jurisdiction of a non-Muslim over a Muslim."

A few years after his ...

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