NAIROBI, Kenya, February 26, 2015 (Morning Star News) – When Ahmed Ali, a Christian convert from Islam, fled his native Egypt to a sub-Saharan nation after months of torture by his father and brothers, loneliness was not his worst problem.
On the streets of the capital city of the African country (undisclosed for security reasons) last month, Ali’s uncle appeared – accompanied by members of an Islamic extremist group his family had hired to assault him, Ali said.
“Why have you left Islam?” various ones among them said, according to Ali. “Why did you become an infidel? You should pay for your act.”
The assailants seemed to want to kill him but succeeded only in breaking his right shoulder, which has not been properly treated, said Ali, who has gone into hiding. He has been in hiding since August 2010, when he left his parents’ house in Cairo, Egypt. His father had tied him to his bed post and had beaten him every day with an iron bar, telling him he had brought disgrace on the family, Ali told Morning Star News.
“My father beat me with an iron in the morning when he went to work, and in the evening when he returned back from work,” he said. “My younger brother also mocked me, saying, ‘Shame on you, oh infidel.’”
Family members managed to monitor his movements after he left home, and in September 2010 his father and uncle confronted him in the street in Cairo and beat him unconscious, he said. They left him at the gate of a nearby church.
Having been baptized in 2005 at a Coptic Church, Ali was welcomed and given refuge for a season. After he went into hiding at another house in Egypt, however, his older brother in 2012 sent a group of radical Islamists to set the place on fire. As his house burned, Ali received a call from his younger brother, threatening him with further assaults, he said.
“Every place you go, I will burn that place,” his brother told him, according to Ali.
He later fled to the sub-Saharan country in 2012 only to find that his family had contacted radical Muslims who learned where he was. The Islamic extremists – accompanied by officials from the Egyptian embassy in that country – went to his church and asked about his whereabouts. They said they were looking for a certain convert from Islam, he said.
“This person is wanted because he is charged with apostasy, evangelism and insulting of religions,” the Egyptian embassy personnel told the church leaders, saying the alleged crimes were punishable by 37 years of prison. Apostasy in Egypt tends to be prosecuted under blasphemy laws, with courts sometimes ruling that leaving Islam constitutes disparagement of Islam, and officials act according to sharia (Islamic law), which prohibits Muslims leaving their religion. Evangelism per se is legal but tends to be punished under statutes against “disrupting social cohesion” and against “tempting” a Muslim away from Islam.
The Islamic extremists caught up with Ali and beat him with iron implements, seriously injuring him. With the help of Christians in that country, he managed to go into hiding again.
Meantime, one of his brothers in Egypt seized his belongings and burned his vehicle. The brother managed to reach him by phone in his new country to advise him of this and to remind him that under Islamic law he was disinherited.
“You don’t deserve to inherit because you are infidel,” he told Ali.
Unlike mob violence on Christians and their property in Egypt, or the politically-related attacks on Christians following the deposing of Mohamed Morsi as president in 2013, Ali’s case is typical of myriad instances in Egypt of social violence against Christians that go unreported. Roughly 10 percent of Egypt’s population is Christian in a country whose constitution is heavily influenced by Islamic law.
Following the assault last month, Ali is again trying to remain in hiding. A pastor who is helping him said that his character and faith are exemplary.
“We are keeping him in a hiding for protection so that his safety is ensured,” he told Morning Star News.
Another church leader said Ali was doing well under the circumstances.
Photo: Church of the Holy Virgin and the Archangel Michael in the Al-Warraq area of greater Cairo. (Morning Star News)