Egypt's top religious body has called for tough penalties on people who convert to Islam for personal reasons, only to re-convert to their old religion, Quds Press news agency reported on Saturday.So many converts to Islam are not altogether sincere. Rather than annulling their conversions - because of this lack of sincerity - the fatwa is saying that they need to be punished as full Muslims when they revert to their original religion.
The religious ruling, issued by the fatwa committee at Al Azhar, affects mostly Coptic Christians, who often convert to Islam in order to get a divorce, to remarry, or to marry a Muslim. They then convert back to Christianity once they have achieved the desired result.
According to the fatwa, the practice of re-converting after converting to Islam is "a grave crime that cannot be met with leniency."
It says offenders should be penalized according to Sharia (Islamic law), but did not specify the penalty.
Some scholars say there is no specific punishment for apostasy in Islam, while others claim it is an offense punishable by death.
The head of the Fatwa Committee, Sheikh Abdul-Hamid Al-Atrash, said people are never forced to convert to Islam, but once they do, it has to be out of absolute belief in the religion and total conviction of its principles.
Therefore, he said the decision to convert should not be retractable.
The fatwa says offenders will first be given the chance to "repent," and if they insist on leaving Islam, they should be penalized.
In April 2007, Egypt's Administrative Court ruled that people re-converting to Christianity will not be allowed new identification documents, a decision that infuriated Copts.
"This is an inhuman decision that violates the right of citizenship granted to all Egyptians according to Article 1 of the constitution," said Coptic secularist activist Kamal Zakher.
Of course, they are being forced to pretend to convert to begin with because of sharia-flavored legal systems to begin with.
And we all know the time-honored penalty for apostasy is death.
Apparently the oft-quoted Muslim maxim that "there is no compulsion in religion" is a bit more limited than those words imply.