Families Face Disintegration by Law and Norms
Your husband has converted to Islam, and you must escape with your children so that you will not be deprived of their custody forever, this warning rang through Olft Najeeb* head when she opened the door, in panic, on a summer day of 1996.
Olft (23 years old at the time) packed a small bag and took her three children – Ashraf (6 years old), Karim (3 years old), and Du’aa (4 years old) – in the darkness of the night as she fled to Cairo. I hid there for a month, then resorted to the monastery of St. Demiana in the region of Barari – the city of Belqas, northeast of Cairo.
Meanwhile, a Swiss family that does not have any children, offered to adopt Olft’s three children and arrange for their travel outside of Egypt; however, she has refused.
“Secretly, I returned to Alexandria in March 1997,” Olft recalls, having to live in the monastery where she had sought refuge. Then, “I placed (Ashraf-Karim) in a care-house for boys that is associated with the church. As for Dua’a, she was left in another care-house related to a different church.” Following which, Olft returned to the monastery to share the monastic order of women to live half a nun and half a normal woman.
Olft’s tragedy began when her husband decided to convert to Islam in 1996. “Once the father’s religion is converted to Islam, the children’s religion automatically changes from Christianity to Islam, being the official religion of the state. This is in accordance with the provisions of Article 2 of the Constitution,” explains Olft, who was forced to live in dispersion for 10 years (1996-2006) to obtain custody of her young children after they have passed the statutory legal age for choosing their religion, which is 21 years of age.
Husband’s conversion to Islam deprives Christian mothers from children’s custody