By Essam Fadl
CAIRO: An Azhar-led initiative to combat sectarian strife decided on Sunday to reinitiate the guidance sessions held for Copts wishing to convert to Islam which are to be held at Al-Azhar and attended by a Coptic clergyman and a family member of the person wishing to convert.
These sessions were prohibited by the now dissolved state security apparatus in 2004 following the high-profile case of Wafaa Constantine, a priest’s wife who was rumored to have converted to Islam.
The decision was welcomed by the Coptic community. Coptic lawyer Naguib Gobrael thanked Grand Shiekh of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb in a letter for restarting these sessions as part of his “Family House” initiative.
Gobrael told Daily News Egypt that the guidance sessions will put an end to a lot of manipulation regarding the issue of conversions.
“Those sessions truly reveal if those wishing to convert truly believe in Islam or are running away from other problems,” said Gobrael. “They will also give relief to the families of daughters who disappeared.”
Gobrael said that he will make proposals to El-Tayeb to help render the initiative more effective, such as the participation of civil society organizations and barring any security interference.
The “Family House” initiative is the brainchild by El-Tayeb who proposed it after the bombing of Al-Qeddesine Church in Alexandria last January. It includes Muslim and Coptic religious figures in addition to Egypt’s Pope Shenouda.