An Arabic daily newspaper in Kuwait has printed a photograph of Hussein Qambar Ali, also known as Robert Hussein, shaking hands with a local Muslim sheik, declaring that the widely publicized convert to Christianity has returned to Islam.

According to the January 31 issue of Al-Rai Al-Aam, Hussein repeated the one-sentence creed of Islam on January 29 before Sheikh Mohamed Al-Awadhi and Sheikh Salah Al-Rashed, identified as leaders in the local Islamic Presentation Committee (IPC).

However, a spokesperson at the offices of ipc says the two sheiks are not leaders representing the Muslim organization. "We are not dealing with Qambar," the spokesperson says. "He did not come to IPC."

Rashed says that in order to make official his reconversion to Islam, Hussein would have to repeat his profession before a religious court. According to Islamic belief, anyone who recites the words of the shahadah, or creed of Islam—"I witness there is no God but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God"—becomes a Muslim.

In a phone interview, Hussein, 45, refused to comment on the report of his reconversion.

However, Rashed confirmed that Hussein went to court on February 16 to "regain his rights," including visitation of his two children, whom he has not seen for the past year and a half. "The courts have already issued what is called a declaration certificate," Rashed says.

Hussein's public declaration of his conversion to Christianity in December 1995 led to Kuwait's first formal court case over charges of apostasy (CT, March 4, 1996, p. 78).

The former Muslim's subsequent conviction last May by a Kuwaiti Islamic court, amid threats against his life, brought a hail of international protests from human rights and Christian groups (CT, July 15, 1996, p. 54). Hussein finally left the Gulf state after the United States granted him a visa in August (CT, Oct. 7, 1996, p. 88).

MARRIES AMERICAN: While in hiding in the United States, Hussein married an American woman he had met after making his conversion public in Kuwait. As required by Islamic law, he had been forcibly divorced from his Muslim wife, whose refusal to grant him visiting rights to his children had first prompted him to go public about his conversion. Hussein and his new wife returned to Kuwait on January 10. Hussein's new wife divorced her American husband to marry Hussein.

Hussein confirmed by phone that his American wife has since left Kuwait and returned to the United States. Al-Rai Al-Aam identified Hussein's new wife as a "former senior Protestant missionary" who had been "appointed by the church" in Kuwait to be his "special companion" after he converted to Christianity.

A member of the pastoral team of the National Evangelical Church of Kuwait where Hussein had attended after his conversion rejected details about Hussein's American wife as "factually untrue." "She attended the church here, but she was not a Protestant missionary, and she was not appointed by the church," the spokesperson says. Hussein distanced himself from the church in Kuwait after his conviction as an apostate.

Church leaders say Hussein's American wife was hounded repeatedly after his publicized reconversion by some Muslim leaders, who encouraged her to follow his lead. For several days, camera crews came to their home trying to persuade her to put on traditional Islamic attire so they could photograph her as a Muslim.

"She said that she would never reject or renounce Christ," a pastor says, "and she has continued to refuse to do so."

Reactions to Hussein's alleged return to Islam remain mixed across the Christian world, which had mounted a massive media campaign on his behalf. "It illustrates the complicated dynamics of motives and pressures on [Muslim] converts," says one Christian with long-term involvement in ministry among Muslims.

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