Monday, June 10, 2024

Christian mother, children ordered by court to convert to Islam

In a controversial ruling, an Iraqi court has decreed that a Christian mother, Elvin Joseph, along with her three children, convert to Islam. 

The decision was based on the interpretation of Iraq’s Personal Status Law which mandates that children must adopt Islam if one of their parents converts.

Joseph, a resident of Duhok in the Kurdistan Region, found herself entangled in this legal predicament following the revelation of her mother’s conversion to Islam after her divorce and subsequent remarriage to a Muslim man.

“I am Christian,” Joseph asserted in an interview with Rudaw Media Network. “I am married to a Christian man. I have three Christian kids. My education was in our language. All my official documents are Christian. Our marriage is registered by the church.”

Despite these declarations, the law, which was enacted in 1959, insists that her familial ties to Islam require her and her children’s conversion, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern said in a statement.

The implications of this law stretch beyond mere religious identity, affecting marital, inheritance and custodial rights under the provisions of Sharia law. Joseph, as a result, faces legal challenges in maintaining her marital union with a Christian husband.

Sami Patros, Joseph’s husband, elaborated on the situation during an encounter at the National Identity Card Office. 

At that office, “they said your mother-in-law had converted to Islam and, therefore, they said your wife should become Muslim too. This also applies to my children; their religion should be changed from Christianity to Islam.”

The case has drawn the attention of Akram Mikhail, a lawyer well-versed in defending Christian families in similar predicaments. “This forces someone to convert to Islam, with force. I am not an expert in Islam, but it is in Islam that one cannot force the religion onto others,” Mikhail was quoted as saying.

A recent conference at the Catholic University in Erbil, attended by notable figures, including Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani, focused on the ramifications of the Personal Status Law. 

The conference saw a significant turnout from the Christian community across the Middle East. 

Khaldun Saelayte from Jordan and Mohammed Nuqal from Lebanon spoke about the disparities in religious laws affecting Christians in Iraq compared to neighboring countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, where Christians are governed by their own personal status laws.

The conference reportedly ended with a series of recommendations, urging Christian leaders to draft proposed reforms to the Personal Status Law.