4 Nov 2010

Egyptian court grants custody of child to grand-father after his daughter converts to Bahaism

GulfNews.com August 9, 2009

Bahai daughter, Muslin father locked in court battle over child's custody

by Ramadan Al Sherbini, Correspondent

Cairo: In an unprecedented case, a Cairo family court has awarded a Muslim father the custody of his grandchild after his Muslim parents converted to Bahaism.

"My daughter Maha was a devout Muslim, but she converted to Bahaism under the influence of her husband", said Mohammad Abdul Fatah, a 73-year-old engineer, after the court ruling.

He added that he went to the court more than two years ago after he lost contact with his daughter, a music teacher, and his grandson, who is now aged seven years.

"My daughter, her husband and their child Asser left Egypt and later I learned they went to Australia. I don’t know where they live,” Abdul Fatah said.

Before going to court, the grandfather sought the advice of the Grand Mufti, who is Egypt’s highest Muslim authority.

"He advised me to consider my daughter dead, and to file a lawsuit to demand the guardianship of my grandchild," he told the Egyptian opposition newspaper Al Wafd.

"I developed an attachment to my grandson before their escape. So I am doing my best to rescue him from becoming a Bahai."

After winning the custody ruling, Abdul Fatah plans to ask the Egyptian branch of the Interpol to search for his grandchild and bring him back to Egypt.

Islam, Christianity and Judaism are the only religions recognized in Egypt. Earlier this year, an Egyptian court ordered the government not to force the Bahai minority (estimated at 2,000) in this predominantly Muslim country to indicate a certain religion on their official documents.

"I didn’t expect a court ruling that would strip parents of the right to rear their child because of their religious faith,” said Adel Ramadan, a lawyer for the Bahai mother. Ramadan, assigned to follow the case by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a non-governmental group, added that he would appeal the ruling. He declined to give details about the mother’s reaction or her whereabouts.

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