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Wafaa Constantine - Part Two

Who can make heads or tails of this? An earlier article we covered about Wafaa Constantine mentioned a seduction (read love affair) but now that little detail has been dropped. I think she had an affair with her boss, converted to Islam willingly, maybe hoping to marry him, couldn't take the pressure once her conversion was discovered and now doesn't know what to do. But this detail bothered me most of all: police picked her up from where she was hiding and handed her over to priests. Egypt is considered as one of the Arab countries with "undeniable achievements" in relation to women's rights. I guess these achievements don't apply here.

Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt soured last week after Coptic Christians around the country held demonstrations against what they said was the government's failure to stop forced conversions to Islam.

Yet the wife of a Coptic priest, who is at the center of the storm, told the Middle East Times that she willingly embraced Islam.

Some 3,000 protestors in Cairo, Minya, Assuit and Beheria claimed that Muslims had kidnapped Christians and forced or paid them to convert to Islam.

The demonstrations were sparked after Youssef Constantine, minister of Abul Matamir church in Beheria governorate, north-west of Cairo, said that his wife, Wafaa, had been kidnapped by her Muslim employer and forced to convert to Islam.

Police later handed Wafaa over to priests at the Coptic cathedral in the Cairo district of Abbasiya where hundreds of Copts held an open round-the-clock sit-in demanding the authorities return Wafaa to her husband.

Dozens of people were injured in clashes with police, who detained 34 Christians on charges of attacking police and using religion to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims.

The priests whisked Wafaa to a safe house affiliated with the cathedral where she spent five days talking with the church council. On Monday the church announced that Wafaa had never abandoned Christianity.

"She returned to practice the Christian rituals and has asked the church for forgiveness," said Bishop Bokhimous of Beheria governorate who headed the church council meeting.

Other reports say, however, that she still insists on her conversion to Islam. In a phone interview with the Middle East Times before Bokhimous' announcement on Monday, Wafaa said that she became interested in Islam two years ago when watching a TV program about the Koran.

"I've studied science and felt that the Koran was using the language of science, so I asked a colleague of mine to bring me books about Islam. Later I secretly converted to Islam," Wafaa recounted.

"But I felt that I could not live like that forever, so I left to stay with a Muslim family in Cairo, until I was taken to police," she said.

She told the Middle East Times that she was shocked that her conversion has resulted in public demonstrations.

"I want to say to Christians that I willingly took this decision and I am not an immature girl who can fall under pressure from anyone," she added.

Bokhimous on Monday, however, said that Wafaa had been coerced to abandon her Christian faith, but did not elaborate.

He said that she never officially announced her conversion.

An analyst at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies who wished to remain anonymous said that Bokhimous said this to protect her life.

"The church had to say that she never officially announced her conversion to Islam, because otherwise she would be considered an apostate for leaving Islam and would have to be killed," the analyst said.
Muslim, Christian relations sour over 'forced' conversions

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