4. Freedom of religion lies in eliminating unilateralism

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A priest is sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for overseeing the marriage ceremony between a Muslim woman and a Christian man.

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[For more information about this issue see articles 67 and 68 in week 42 and article 57 in week 43 of AWR 2008]
Dr. Najīb Jibrā’īl, author of the article, reports on the five-year imprisonment sentence a priest in a Coptic Orthodox church subordinate to the Giza archbishopric received for presiding over the marriage ceremony of a Muslim woman and a Christian man.
Jibrā’īl argues that the procedures on which this verdict was based are legally inadequate. He says that according to his legal knowledge, having studied law and being a former head of court, the marriage document the priest issued is designed only to certify the approval on marriage by the two parties involved. The priest’s role is restricted to identifying that the couple to be wed are the one and same persons as in the documents they present, and it is not his job to verify the authenticity of these documents. According to the author of the article, Rihām, the bride, forged her ID and changed the religious information from Muslim to Christian.
The author of the article adds that the court ignored an essential point the priest’s defendant advanced which is the document that certifies there are no prohibitions to the marriage among of which that one of the spouses is of a different religion. The defendant defended that according to church laws, this document is not mandatory for proceeding with marriage ceremonies. Yet, the court held the priest responsible.
Jibrā’īl asks why Rihām had to forge her ID, to which he replies that by declaring her conversion she would be deemed an apostate and subsequently could be subject to murder. He then objects to the double-standard laws that address the religion conversion issue, where it is favourable only if a Christian becomes a Muslim. He adds that while Islam forbids Muslim girls to marry Christian men, Christianity forbids Christian girls from marrying Muslim men. However, the latter case yet does not seem to be defended by laws like the first.

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