A desire for divorce is the cause of much of the tension between Muslims and Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt, according to a newly published article in the Catholic Near East Welfare Association’s ONE Magazine.
Because Islam is tolerant of divorce and Coptic Orthodoxy by and large is not, many Coptic women have converted to Islam to leave their marriages. The magazine reports:
If the woman runs off with a Muslim man, Christian families have been known to accuse the man and his family of abducting her and forcing her to convert to Islam. Though on occasion such kidnappings and forced conversions do occur, more often the woman has chosen to build a life with the man. Such accusations are made to save face within the Christian community. Whether well-founded or not, they attract a great deal of public attention and inflame relations between the two religious communities.
In addition, when a Coptic Orthodox father converts to Islam in order to marry a Muslim woman, his minor children automatically become Muslims in the eyes of Egyptian law–even if they are devout Christian teens. These children, now legally Muslim, cannot marry in the Coptic Orthodox Church.
“Children who have been converted by one of their parents have two choices,” explains an Egyptian researcher. “They either go to court — and the court usually rejects the appeal — and they leave the country, or they continue to practice their religion — because no one will ask why they go to church — but they just don’t get married.”