Media reports of Christians converting to Islam

Date of Publishing August 2008
Author Sara Aguzzoni
Reviewer N/A
Editors Cornelis Hulsman (Editor-in-chief), Clare Turner (ed.)
Full Text paper6.pdf


Conversion in Egypt is a complicated and thorny issue. There is a great deal of secrecy regarding the numbers of conversions that take place each year with newspapers and religious figures offering up radically different figures. Only the Egyptian Ministry of Interior has a clear view of exact numbers and it does not disclose its information. However, it is not only conversion figures that are in dispute, it is often the allegations, claims and rumors that erupt following an alleged conversion case that stir up feeling in religious communities and result in conflict and tension.

In recent years the Egyptian media has taken a greater interest in conversion cases but a lot of media reporting does not truly investigate the stories but instead revolves around writing articles that are full of emotional outpourings that will sell the most newspapers. In many cases the newspapers just record the claims of some of the different people involved in the case without taking the time to research the facts and produce an accurate and unbiased account of the story.

Therefore, this paper has attempted to investigate not only the primary reasons for conversion from Christianity to Islam but also how newspapers deal with this phenomenon and where they get their facts from. Using Arab West Report's archive of articles it has been possible to calculate that the chief reasons that the media cites behind conversion which are: forced disappearance, broken marriage, financial pressure and faith. The number of cases that fall into the first category of forced disappearance or kidnapping is so high that the word kidnap has almost become synonymous with 'conversion' in the Egyptian press.

In the second part of the study, the focus shifts to the Egyptian press coverage, in particular which cases the media has reported and how it has covered them. Particular emphasis has been put on the articles that have turned an unknown name into one of public interest and the different ways in which these stories have come into the public sphere.

The contradictions that frequently occur in Egyptian media reporting regarding conversion cases along with the lack of verification, approximation in reporting fact and selective information have combined to make this task more arduous and there is certainly room for further investigation into this complex subject and its effects on Egyptian society.