15 years in jail: Egyptian family charged for attempting to restore Christian names

An Egyptian mother and her seven children have been given lengthy jail sentences for illegally changing their names on official documents. The family wanted to use their Christian names again after a conversion following their Muslim father's death.

Nadia Ali Mohamed was born Christian but converted to Islam when she married her husband Mustafa Mohamed Abdel-Wahab. When he died in 1991, she wanted to go back to being a Christian, and pushed her seven children to convert.

In 2004, after the family had converted back to Christianity, they replaced their Muslim names on their identity cards with their Christian names. They had also moved to a different city of residence, which was changed on the documents as well.

Two years later, one of Mohamed’s sons was arrested by police at the information Center of Beni Suef, a town about 115 kilometers south of Cairo, where they were living at that time. Officials suspected that the boy's documents had been forged.

The boy confessed his conversion to Christianity, and said that the subsequent name changes in the documents were at the behest of his mother. When the police passed the case on, judges decided to bring charges against the mother and all of her children, as well as the seven clerks from the registration office who had changed the family's documents.

The entire family now faces 15 years behind bars for violating the Egyptian laws governing name changes; the clerks will be jailed for five years, Asia News web portal reported on the ruling Tuesday.

Christians in Egypt who convert to Islam often complain they face enormous difficulties if they decide to convert back to Christianity, particularly in changing their names on official documents.

According to Wikislam, Christian converts Naglaa and her husband Malak were arrested in February 2011 for trying to leave Egypt for Cyprus, and were held in custody until at least June 2011 while police tried to force her to renounce her Christian faith.