Moreover, the Egyptian government — again, in accordance to Sharia law — prevents Muslims from converting to Christianity. Mohammad Hegazy, for instance, tried formally to change his religion from Muslim to Christian on his I.D. card — yes, in Egypt, people are Gestapo-like categorized by their religion — only to be denied by the Egyptian court. (Many other such anecdotes abound.) In other words, while the Egyptian government portrays itself as “modernizing” the church’s “archaic” position on divorce and remarriage, it — the government, not Al Azhar, nor some radical sheikhs, nor the Muslim mob — prevents (including by imprisonment and torture) Muslims from converting to Christianity.
As for those who accuse Pope Shenouda of behaving no better, consider: he is not enforcing a totalitarian law that Copts must accept; he is simply saying that, in accordance to the Bible (e.g., Matt 5:32), and except in certain justifiable circumstances (e.g., adultery), Copts cannot remarry in the church: “Let whoever wants to remarry to do it away from us. There are many ways and churches to marry in. Whoever wants to remain within the church has to abide by its laws.”
If this still sounds a tad “non-pluralistic,” know that at least Copts have a way out: quit the church. No such way out for Muslims: Sharia law — Egypt’s “primal source of legislation” — mandates death for Muslims who wish to quit Islam.
Nor has the inherent hypocrisy of the government’s position been missed by Egyptians: “The pope evaded answering a question presented by a reporter in the press conference on whether the court would dare order Al Azhar [Egypt’s highest Islamic authority] to agree to a Muslim marrying a fifth wife and not only four, comparing it to the interference of the Court in the Bible teachings through its recent ruling.” A good question, indeed.
Finally, the grandest oddity of this situation is the fact that, for all its inhumane practices, Sharia law does, in fact, permit dhimmis to govern their communities according to their own creeds, a fact not missed by the pope himself, who “pointed to Islamic Law, which allows religious minorities to follow their own rules and customs.”
In short, the Egyptian government is behaving even more intolerantly than its medieval Muslim predecessors who, while openly oppressive of Christians, at least allowed the latter to govern their own, personal affairs according to Christian doctrine. As Pope Shenouda declared at the emergency Holy Synod, “the ruling must be reconsidered, otherwise this will mean that the Copts are suffering and that they are religiously oppressed.”
Indeed, when Copts are violently persecuted by Muslims, the government claims that it cannot control the actions of a minority of “extremists.” However, now that the Egyptian government is personally tampering with the church’s ability to live according to Christian doctrine, what more proof is needed that it seeks to subvert Coptic society and is an enabler of Coptic persecution?