By Raymond Ibrahim – Exclusive to Coptic Solidarity –
On Mar. 18, 2023, an Egyptian administrative court ruled that it did not have the “jurisdiction” to interfere with the state’s decision to strip a child from his adoptive Christian family, place him in an orphanage, and forcibly convert him to Islam.
Reacting to the news, Adel Guindy, co-founder of Coptic Solidarity and author of A Sword Over the Nile, said:
Coming after seven months of deliberating the case, the ruling is both puzzling and very disappointing. The adoptive family’s lawyers said that they would appeal the rule in front of a higher court. But such lengthy procedures, whose outcome appear to be far from certain, are increasing the agony of the family and its supporters, who feel that they are being meshed in a web, made up of the various organs of the state, whose manipulations and procrastination gimmicks appear to be aimed at wasting precious time and letting the child settle in his new (Muslim) identity and forget his adoptive parents. Shame on Egypt’s government, judiciary and political leadership!
The plight of “Baby Shenouda” is more fully discussed here. To summarize, in 2018, a newborn baby boy was found abandoned inside a Coptic church. He was entrusted to a barren couple, who loved and raised him as their own. Some four years later, the state learned about this happy development, seized the child and sent him to an orphanage, where his religion was formally changed to Islam, and his name—Shenouda, a distinctly Coptic Christian name—changed to an Islamic one, Yusif.
A little known Islamic doctrine is behind the state’s inhumane decision. According to Muslim teaching, every human is born as a Muslim (until their parents conform them to their own religion). Accordingly, because the religious identity of Shenouda’s biological parents cannot be determined, he must be considered Muslim; and entrusting Muslim children to non-Muslim parents—in this case, Christian infidels—is strictly forbidden by Islamic law (Sharia).
Since Shenouda’s original seizure by the Ministry of Social Solidarity over a year ago, his adoptive parents have been, as might be imagined, living in misery and despair, especially his mother, Amal Ibrahim. In a recent interview, she explained how “I tried many surgeries to help me to conceive, to no avail. But the Lord honored me with Shenouda, whom we considered a miracle of the Lord.” As such, from the day he was found in church—when he was literally a day old—until the state seized him, the boy was, she said, the “apple of their eye.”
Since Shenouda was taken in Feb. 2022, his adoptive parents have only been allowed to see him once, on Dec. 31, 2022. During that meeting, and “much to their despair,” they found the boy “confused” and “slightly distant”—no doubt because his indoctrinators at the orphanage had been doing everything they could over the preceding ten months to make the boy dislike his Christian upbringing and Christian adoptive parents. As his adoptive mother, Amal Ibrahim, reported:
There was something off about him…. They [the authorities] talk about human rights, yet they took my son away from me and placed him in an orphanage.
The couple had since appealed to President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and were given reason to hope that the March 18 hearing would lead to a reunion with the child.
However, according to an Arabic-language report,
The First Circuit of the Court of Administrative Judiciary ruled to reject the lawsuit filed by a lawyer representing the Christian family, to demand that the decision to change the religion of the child Shenouda be stopped, and that he be returned to them.
Such treatment is not new. In another recent, high profile case—that of an elderly Coptic Christian grandmother who was stripped naked and publicly abused by a Muslim mob—court after court delayed and “recused” themselves over the course of some seven years, with the result that the woman’s Muslim abusers were never brought to justice.
In an interview immediately following the Mar. 18 decision to reject their lawsuit, the Christian family’s lawyers stressed that this was “a shocking and regrettable decision for all of Egypt—but especially its Christians.” Almost as if to add insult to injury, the court had allowed the Christian family and their lawyers to wait for over ten hours in the courtroom, giving them hope, before simply rejecting the case out of hand.
One lawyer repeatedly pointed out that “Baby Shenouda does not increase the Muslims or lessen the Christians,” so why are they so determined to ruin a Christian family’s life by seizing him and making him Muslim?
At one point during the interview, the adoptive mother, Amal, cried out,
Their whole purpose [in continuously delaying and sending the case to higher courts] is to make the child forget his father and mother! This is why they keep delaying! How can they do this? How can they want to make him forget his father and mother? How can they try to make us forget him? He is now a part of us!
As a “solution” of sorts, a few sympathetic Muslim families have offered to take custody of the child, but give his Christian adoptive parents the right to visit him whenever they wish. The Christian family and their lawyer have politely rejected this offer, not only due to obvious reasons, but because they know that once the child is formally handed over to a Muslim family, his fate as a Muslim will be sealed.
Meanwhile, others are (perhaps maliciously) blaming the Christian family of “illegally” adopting the boy and registering him as their son. But they forget that in the face of such inhumane laws that prohibit adoption, there is no other way but to go around them.
In a statement on his Facebook page, Dr. Emad Gad, (Coptic) member of the parliament, and a political studies researcher, bravely summarized the situation:
This case represents a flagrant attack on the most basic principles of humanity as well as freedom of belief, and reflects the ideology of [Islamic] institutions. [The] nation suffers from an all-encompassing deterioration at all levels, even as it searches for fake electorial victories.
When the neutrality of state institutions is absent, humanity is lost and internal crises explode, exposing us to the world. This case is fundamentally humanitarian, but the officials of the Ministry of Solidarity dealt with it as religious, and so they mercilessly seized the child from the bosom of his foster family and threw him into an orphanage, changing his name and religion.
Indeed, a few weeks before the recent decision was given, Dr. Ehab Ramzy, a Christian member of Parliament’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, made a prediction:
The next trial hearing on March 18 will not only determine Shenouda’s fate, it will also determine the fate of the entire country, signalling whether Egypt is on its way to becoming a secular state or a theocratic country, one where Sharia is imposed not just on Muslims but on all citizens.
Now there seems to be no mystery: Egypt is a theocratic state, governed by Sharia.
Note: If you’d like to help reunite the child Shenouda with his adoptive parents, click here and join the Coptic Solidarity campaign to Congress.