In a single day
The legal procedures of the conversion had been presumably completed within a single day. Fahmy received his ID—citing his new Muslim religion—on the same day he turned 18—the legal age a person can convert. The Muslims of Saayda, the young man’s home village, celebrated the conversion by cruising through the village in a procession of trucks blaring Islamic slogans through amplifiers.
In the meantime, the 700 Coptic men demonstrating in front of Semesta police station demanded to know the details behind the alleged conversion of Fahmy. The policemen failed to disperse the demonstrators until the early hours of dawn the following day.
The Muslims living around the police station threw stones at the Copts. Two young Coptic men, Abanoub Sabry and Mina Anis, were injured, as well as a Coptic woman—a relative of Fahmy—from Nusseir.
The attempts to disperse the demonstrators with tear gas did not work, and it was only after the intervention of Anba Stafanous, Bishop of Fashn and Biba, that the Copts were persuaded to go back home.
Fr Malak Shehata, priest of St George church at Semesta, told Watani that Fahmy is a peasant who comes from a poor family in Saayda. His family, Fr Shehata said, had reported his disappearance on Friday evening.
Fr Malak denied claims that the Copts had attacked the policemen, explaining that the injury of three policemen and two officers was caused by the stones hurled by the Muslim neighbours. The Coptic demonstrators, Fr Malak said, were angry since they demanded to know whether Fahmy had converted of his own free will, or was pressured into the conversion.
“Legal conversion procedures need at least one week for completion,” Fr Malak said. “How come Fahmy got all his papers within a few hours of his 18th birthday? The procedures must have begun before that date, and the security officials had everything ready by the time he turned 18. This invalidates the procedures because they all took place before he was of age.”
The lawyer and human rights activist Mamdouh Nakhla explained the steps needed for a conversion to be legal. First, a convert should go to al-Azhar—the highest Sunni Islam authority, and pronounce the shehadatein, (the two testimonies) that “There is no God but Allah, and Mohamed is His prophet”, after which al-Azhar issues a certificate that he or she is a Muslim. The convert should then take this certificate to the police station where he gets an official report of the conversion, which should be in turn authenticated from the local security directorate. The following step is to have this conversion certificate officially authenticated and registered in the State official register. Finally, the certificate is handed to the Civil Registry with an application for a new ID citing the new religion. It is a practical impossibility for these steps to be executed in less than a week.
Abdullah Bushra, the lawyer for the Church, told Watani he intended to take the matter to the administrative court to contest the validity of Fahmy’s conversion.