An Egyptian human rights organisation has exposed a highly organised Muslim ring that promotes sexual exploitation and blackmail to force Christian girls to convert to Islam.
Egypt4Christ, which monitors the abduction and forced Islamisation of Christian minors, published the findings in a new report last week. It launched an undercover investigation after a church leader in Alexandria reported that a ten-year-old Christian girl had been sexually abused by a 20-year-old Muslim university student.
The group discovered that a highly organised Muslim ring based at a mosque in Alexandria are orchestrating a systematic campaign in which they urge young Muslim males in high school and university to approach Christian girls aged 9-15 and manipulate them through sexual exploitation and blackmail. Named “operation soaking lupin beans” (referring to small dried beans that are soaked until they grow in size before being eaten raw), the plan aims to compromise Christian girls sexually so that they feel defiled and humiliated, forcing them to flee their homes. Conversion to Islam is then used as a “solution” to their problems.
The group published the names of those involved in the ring, which includes high-ranking officials and a Salafist leader who is reportedly considering running for president in the forthcoming Egyptian elections.
“more than two to three girls disappear everyday in Giza alone” Cairo church leader
The problem of the forced conversion of Christian girls, who are then married to Muslim men, is a long-standing one in Egypt. But it has intensified since the January Revolution, with the number of Christian girls affected said to be soaring, amid wider efforts to Islamise the country. One church leader in Cairo estimates that at least 21 young girls have disappeared from his parish since the revolution, while another said that “more than two to three girls disappear everyday in Giza alone”. He added, “The cases that are brought to public attention are few compared to what the numbers actually are.”
Christian cousins Christine Ezzat Fathy (16) and Nancy Magdy Fathy (14) have been the focus of much media attention in Egypt recently after they went missing on their way to church on Sunday 12 June. Their families accused two young Muslim men of kidnapping the girls, who were found by police nearly two weeks later in Cairo; they were wearing burqas, claimed to have converted to Islam voluntarily and refused to return to their families. They were placed in a state care home while the matter was investigated further.
Christian activist Mark Ebeid said that the problem has escalated since the revolution because of the emergence of Muslim Salafists, who follow an ultra-conservative, strict and puritanical version of Islam related to Wahhabism, the official state creed of Saudi Arabia. Mr Ebeid said they “believe strongly that converting a Christian Infidel is in some ways like earning a ticket to paradise – not to mention the earthly remuneration they get from the Saudis”.
Christians complain that the military council are not intervening in the problem and they do not get any assistance from the police.
The problem is not unique to Egypt; it is also common in Pakistan, and there have been consistent reports of its occurring in India and Sri Lanka. A Christian girl who has been forced to marry a Muslim man faces a virtually hopeless future, held captive by a family who treat her as nothing more than a slave. In Pakistan and Egypt, the woman’s name and identity is changed, with her Christian religious status being replaced with Islam on her identity card.