Divorce Not in My Religion!
When My Religion Says No and Islam Says Yes
Writer, Civil Engineer - Egypt
It is not often apparent to outsiders how much an individual will play with their societal status to get what one wants. No better happy breeding ground for such activity is the institution of marriage, especially when it comes to jumping on the bandwagon of stereotypes when it comes to Muslims. Here the author presents us with a scenario, that is more commonplace than not, especially with recent reports that as much as 1 million Coptic Christians, convert to Islam for the sole purpose of getting a divorce.
Muslim or Christian? This is one of the major debates in Egypt today. A debate that goes beyond Egypt’s borders. Western governments, human rights, and civil rights organizations contribute to that debate, sometimes diplomatically and most of the times aggressively, when it is simply a matter of convenience between a husband and a wife.
When a person decides to convert from Christianity to Islam, they must believe that Islam is the right way to worship God. However, this ideal situation does not exist all the time, as there are some people who decide to convert for different reasons. The following story tells of a case in point.
One Coptic Orthodox couple found they could not live together any more so they went to church seeking a divorce.
Husband: Father, we, my wife and I, have come today to ask for divorce.
Priest (kindly): My son, do not think in this way. You have to hold on to your marriage.
Husband: But, father, frankly, we do not love each other any more and each one of us wants to marry someone else.
Priest: Shame on you. Stop that childish behavior. You will not find a church in Egypt that will give you a divorce.
The Christian couple go back home feeling sad, and begin to think about other solutions to their problem.
Husband: You know what? I was thinking about what if you go to church and accuse me of adultery ? do you think they will give us divorce for that reason?
Wife: You are dreaming.
Husband: There is no way to get rid of this marriage. Neither of us can get married to the persons we love.
Wife: Hmmm … there is a way for me. You are depressed, sad, and cannot marry the girl you love. You should commit suicide yourself. Your love will know how much you love her. And I will become a widow; then I can marry my love.
Husband (Angry) : Nice try. Why don't YOU commit suicide?
Wife (Shyly): You are a man and thus you are supposed to show more generosity.
The argument between the husband and his wife intensifies. The wife blames her husband for marrying her without love while he blames her for accepting to marry him in the first place. The fight increases day after day and life between the two reaches a deadlock.
One day, the husband hears something at work that throws some light on his problem.
Muslim colleague (sad) : My wife and I got divorced. I still love her, but she always refused to reconcile and insisted on a divorce.
Christian (whisper): Strange. In our case, we both dream of divorce, but we cannot get a divorce.
The Christian has just found a solution. He runs back home and tells his wife that he has found a way out.
Husband (happy): I will convert to Islam. Then I will be able to divorce you and marry any other woman, Christian or Muslim.
Wife: Are you crazy? Your family will kill you. No one will accept that ? even your girlfriend, Ms. Perfect.
Husband: Don't worry. This is going to take place on paper only. Actually, I will still be Christian and all our community will know that.
Wife: Are you sure? Huh … anyhow. This might solve our problem. But my problem still exists. I can’t convert because that will result in not being able to marry the Christian guy I love. Also, to remain Christian after your conversion, could prevent you from marrying any other person.
Husband (exultant): Hmmm … No problem, I have a solution. Ask the man you love and want to marry to convert to Islam too. Both of you can marry as Muslims then after a while both of you can return to being Christians.
Wife: Are you drunk or something? If that happened, the Egyptian Christian, and the Church will forget that he was a Christian and will see him only as a Muslim. They will believe that he forced me to convert.
Husband (whisper): You are right. The Egyptian church, police, all Egyptian government, UN, Human Rights, and even Al-Azhar will be against both of you. Not a good scenario when the situation ends with your hubby being killed by radical Christians or his family.
Back and forth the argument continued, but it ended with an agreement that the happy couple would both convert to Islam and change their religion on all official documents then after a while both of them would return to being Christians. Each one can marry the person they dream of. The families will understand especially after they get an explanation and show that it’s only on paper.
* * *
A few years later...
Husband (on the phone to his ex-wife): This government is all wired up. Imagine, they refuse to let me return to Christianity. I told them that I’m still Christian and I want be Christian, but the officer refuses to listen.
Ex-Wife: When did that happen? It seems that you missed the latest news. The TV, newspapers and the Internet ? all talk about that amazing verdict made today. The court stated that it’s right for any Egyptian to choose the religion he/she wants to use in their ID.
Husband: Really? Amazing news! And what about the kids?
Ex-Wife: What do you mean?
Husband: When we converted to Islam, all our kids, as long as they are under 18, became Muslims. Did the court say anything about that?
Ex-Wife: No, they didn’t. However, you know something? It’s much better like that.
Husband: Are you crazy? They will remain Muslim until they reach the age of 18.
Ex-Wife: Look at it in a different way. Do you remember whenwe tried to immigrate to the US a few years ago but the embassy rejected our application on grounds that we didn't fulfill the required conditions?
Husband: Are you concentrating -what I'm saying? Do you understand my words? I’m talking about our kids while you are talking about immigration and … ohh! I got you - brilliant.
Husband: A Christian couple converts to Islam then decide to return to Christianity. Egyptian law entails that they must remain Muslim until they reach 18 years of age. Wow
Ex-Wife: Now all western countries, not only the US, will run after us asking to accept their protection umbrella, full accommodation, all costs paid and tax-free.
Husband: The entire entire world will deal with us as oppressed Christians in a Muslim-majority country. In Egypt, other Christians might consider us heroes as we refuse any pressure from that bad Islamic government and people.
Ex-Wife: We should take steps to contact the western governments now. I’m worried that the Egyptian government might change its mind and decide to give our kids the right to be Christians, in which case we will lose all the benefits.
* * *
The two families submit their papers to the US embassy with a recommendation from the human rights organizations, UN bodies, the Egyptian Church, and a lot of Western churches (even the ones against the Eastern churches) to accept them as refugees. The husband submits his resignation letter to leave his work. When his colleagues ask him for the reason, he says that there are personal reasons, in addition to the fact that he can't find himself in Egypt anymore.
Muslim colleague: But you Christians here in Egypt have a lot of benefits that we as Muslim never dreamt of.
Husband: Yes … we have the full right to get high-level positions in the government, become candidates in presidential elections, build churches anywhere we want, talk about Christianity in government-owned media day and night, and so on and so forth.
Muslim Colleague: But Christians control most of the business' here in Egypt and even in the Middle East. They have the wealth.
Another Muslim colleague : They take all the Islamic holidays, all the Christian holidays, and have the permission to come to work late each Sunday, in addition. I doubt that any other country in the West does the same with its Muslim minority.
Husband (mad): Words are easy. You have to be Christian for few days in Egypt to know what we are talking about and what we are asking for.
Other Muslim colleague : The Christians here are shielded by all western countries, especially the US. Remember, a few months ago when they had a demonstration in a downtown Church in Cairo, no one stopped them. Just imagine if the same demo happened at any mosque, eh!
Other Muslim colleague: Have you ever heard of any Christian arrested or monitored because he was praying in a church? Believe me, in Egypt, it's better to be a Christian rather than Muslim. You will live your life and exercise your religion freely.
* * *
As expected, the US Embassy gave the two Christians refugee visas and they traveled to the US. Egyptian Christians in the US sponsored them and prepared a press conference for them. Journalists kept asking about the abuse and stress they faced in Egypt, from the government or Muslims.
Husband (on awakening) : We escaped from Egypt because ………………………
Wife: Honey, Honey … Wake-up … Wake-up … are you screaming while sleeping? A nightmare?
Husband (sleepy): I was dreaming about how we got divorced, the other girl I will marry, and what happened afterwards …
Wife (very mad): What? You dreamed about our divorce? Who is that girl you dreamt of marrying? It was my fault that I accepted to marry you in the beginning. Now I really want a divorce.
I can’t say the above story happens for real with the same exact scenario, a scenario exaggerated for the sake of argument. But as Egyptians, we know it does happen in essence, despite the many who convert to Islam out of pure belief. Is there an end to that story?
All religions must be respected. Moving between religions, back and forth, should not be accepted. The religious organizations in Egypt, Christian and Muslim, and the west have to stop supporting people who play with religion. We might know how the story starts but no one can tell in which way each case will end.
Yasser Aboudouma is an Egyptian-Canadian who lives between Cairo and Ontario. He holds a B.Sc. in engineering and a diploma in project management. He is interested in issues of social and cultural differences and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.