FAITH UNDER FIRE
Christian fears torture if deported
Man seeking asylum to avoid forced conversion to Islam
A Coptic Christian from Egypt is battling for a court ruling to allow him to remain in the United States and avoid the sure torture he would face under Egypt's Islamic law, according to his supporters.
Sameh Khouzam, 38, who has been in the United States for about nine years already, is facing a court date June 18, when a decision will be announced on that deportation order.
His supporters say the issue is the torture he would face if returned to Egypt, which he fled under threats from Muslims who demanded that he and his family members convert to Islam.
"We need your help right NOW!!!" says a campaign being run by an organization called Coptic News.
A spokesman, Sam Grace, said because Egypt's constitution says that laws derive from the Quran, the persecution of Christians there is not only allowed, but endorsed, by government officials.
"In the last 10 years, more than 5,000 Christians have been massacred in Egypt," he told WND. "Hundreds of businesses and homes first have been looted, then burned and destroyed. Churches have been burned and destroyed.
"And you know what? Not one Muslim has been indicted, let alone convicted," he said.
The campaign is calling for Christians in the United States to e-mail or call:
- Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
Or by e-mail
- Michael Chertoff, Secretary
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528
Comment Line: 202-282-8495
- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
"When it comes to [Egyptian] Christians asking for asylum in the U.S., very frequently, the U.S. administration lies … and deceives by saying when it comes to Christians suffering from persecution … there is no proof that Christians are persecuted in Egypt," said Grace.
However, such cases have been documented over and over by international Christian ministries as well as groups such as Human Rights Watch, he said. In fact, a recent court ruling in Texas, in another immigration dispute, included a statement from Judge Roxanne Hladylowycz that an Egyptian man would face such persecution.
"If the respondent is removed to Egypt, he will be surely tortured or killed," the judge said in that case.
In a commentary by Patrick Poole, of the American Thinker, which was linked by the Assyrian International News Agency, he cited the beatings, prison detention and other torture the immigrant in that case endured before fleeing to the United States.
Grace told WND that attacks, lootings and burnings are common in Egypt on Fridays, after the local imam preaches violence against Christians at his mosque.
"Especially on Friday, after the Friday prayers, the Muslim mobs are incited on attacking Christians," Grace told WND. "It happened last Friday. Mobs attacked businesses and burned them, and Christian homes and two churches in Alexandria."
"The life of a Christian in Egypt is now worth zero. Every Muslim now knows killing a Christian [is not prosecuted,]" he said.
A report from the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights concluded that Coptic Christians in Egypt have been harassed, tortured and killed by Muslims for 1,400 years already.
"They have been subjected to all kinds of hate crimes including, the abduction of young Coptic girls, the killing of Coptic women and children and the destruction of their places of worship," the report concluded.
Over just the past 40 years, the Egyptian government has "endorsed and fostered … Islamic radicalism," again bringing persecution on Christians.
The Egyptian government has worked to place in its constitution a provision emphasizing the role of Islam as the main source of legislation, and not even three months ago, Muslims attacked a Coptic cathedral, injuring four Christians, but police refused to interfere.
"There are no Copts in the top 160 government positions and they are told that there is no promotion before converting into Islam," the report said.
Coptic News said it aims to "reveal the untold stories … which are not told by the conventional Arabic press."
In Khouzam's case, a federal court banned his deportation based on the threats he's reported. But now administration officials are planning a deportation anyway, citing "diplomatic assurances" from Egypt that the man will not face torture.
But, "Egypt's human rights record is abominable. The U.S. State Department has said that Egypt regularly tortures its prisoners. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch agree," the Copt organization said.
According to a report in the Lancaster, Pa., newspaper, Khouzam now is sitting in a York County jail until a decision on his case is announced.
He spent nearly eight years in immigration custody when he first arrived in the United States because Egyptian officials said he'd killed someone before leaving Egypt for the United States. He denied the accusation.
According to reports from his supporters, the scenario happened this way:
Khouzam was resisting police demands to convert to Islam, so authorities abducted his mother, and said she would not be released unless he converted. He made that promise, but when he was pulled in front of a Muslim woman, to whom he was ordered to be married as part of his conversion, he resisted.
The woman's mother tried to hit him with a vase but he blocked the shot and cut a tendon in his hand. While being treated for the injury, Khouzam climbed out an open bathroom window and escaped from the hospital, running for the airport where some friends helped him get a ticket to the U.S.
According to federal documents, it was confirmed by officials at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City that Khouzam arrived with a bandaged hand, a wound he blamed on a fight with that woman.
She was the one who allegedly was killed, police said, an incident for which Khouzam was convicted in Egypt even though he wasn't present.
It's just been in the last couple years he's been freed from prison and he has begun work with a Pennsylvania company.
His arguments are being pursued by Human Rights Watch and others, who are arguing that the use of torture in Egypt is so routine and well-documented deporting Khouzam would expose him to harsh treatment and violate the Convention Against Torture.
That prohibits foreign citizens from being repatriated to countries where they stand a reasonable chance of being tortured.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an agency created by Congress, lists Egypt on its watch list of countries, noting that it had "a poor overall human rights record."