By Worthy News Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (Worthy News) — A Christian mother has won custody of her twins but Egypt's highest court ruled they can not be recognized as Christians, trial observers said in comments monitored by Worthy News Thursday, June 25.
The Court of Cassation said the 14-year-old Christian twins Andrew and Mario Medhat Ramsis must remain "Muslims", according to their estranged convert father’s religion, said the U.S. Copts Association, which supports Egyptian Christians, also known as Copts.
The court battle for the custody and the religion of the twins has been ongoing for two years between their Christian mother and Muslim father.
The twins' mother, Kamilia Lotfy Gaballah, was told by an Egyptian prosecutor this year that she could appeal against an earlier decision to award the children to their father, as the court's decision was based on Muslim, or Shari'a law.
"Egyptian law normally grants the mother custody of children until they are 15, after which they are given the choice of which parent to live with," explained the U.S Copts Association.
The father, who left his family in 2000, officially converted to Islam several years later, which makes his sons automatically Muslim by law. However the Christian-born twins refused to accept the conversion.
Their case made headlines when the twins risked their educational future by refusing to attend a mandatory school exam in Islamic religion. Each of them reportedly wrote the single phrase “I am Christian” on the exam document.
Education Minister Yusri al Gamal reportedly issued an exceptional decree allowing them to continue their studies until the case was resolved in court, the U.S. Copts Association said.
"Since the case is now a public opinion case, the aftermath of the last ruling remains to be seen," the group added.
The boys' mother is reportedly planning to file a case with the Supreme Administrative Court to ensure that her sons are able to choose their religion when they turn 15. Egyptian identity cards must report the faith of the holder.
However changing religions can be difficult in Egypt. Last week an Egyptian court rejected a Christian convert's request to change his religious affiliation on his identity card in a ruling described by critics as "a severe blow" to freedom of religion of ex-Muslims.
Judge Hamdi Yaseen reportedly rejected the application of Maher Ahmed Al-Mo’tasem Bellah Al-Gohari to change his religious affiliation from Muslim to Christian, citing Islamic and public order concerns.
Al-Gohari, whose last name has also been spelled as El-Gohary, and his daughter Dina, 12, live in hiding and "in continuous fear" since "radical Islamists" incited mobs to kill Al-Gohari for his apostasy, Coptic Christians said. (With reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).