“European countries fail to protect converted ex-Muslim"
European Muslims who convert to Christianity often face persecution. Meanwhile, European countries do not adequately guarantee the rights and freedoms of people who wish to leave the Muslim religion.
That is the conclusion of a report on the persecution of ex-Muslim Christians in France and Europe by the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ). This Non-Governmental Organisation is dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights in Europe and worldwide, particularly for the protection of religious freedoms.
According to the ECLJ, between 4000 and 30.000 Muslims convert to Christianity annually. The ECLJ spoke with leaders of several French, Belgian and Austrian associations involved in evangelising among Muslims and supporting converts. Furthermore, it conducted over twenty open interviews with converts.
These witnesses claim that 'many' Christians of Islamic origin hide or remain invisible. "They are either discrete in their public religious practice, or they never become members of a church." The ECLJ further states that today in France, "it is difficult and more generally dangerous for a Muslim to leave his religion".
According to the report, almost all converts suffer from 'social death. A convert says that even after 28 years, "I still have no contact with my family. Among Muslims, one does not leave the circle". Other forms of persecution, classified as such by ECLJ, are verbal aggression, expulsion from the family or even murder. According to many witnesses, a significant proportion of converts are subjected to acts of violence by their brothers or cousins.
Persecution is more severe for women, the report states. According to Saïd Oujibou, President of the Union of North-African Christians in France, 70 per cent of converts are women. A reason for this might be because the situation of women in Islam is inferior to that of men, which gives them more reasons to leave Islam, witnesses claim. Girls who reveal their conversion to their parents may be threatened by them with a forced marriage to a "devout Muslim". According to Amaria, a convert, there is an insult among Muslims: "I would have preferred you to be a prostitute rather than a Christian".
Although the ECLJ focussed their report on France, it also looked at other European countries. According to the NGO, the testimonies from other countries are consistent with observations in France. Especially verbal threats are common.
The ECLJ report shows that there is "great sadness and incomprehension" among converts that they are not better welcomed by the Christian communities they join. According to witnesses, converts are almost never invited to share a meal, and they are more seen as 'former Muslims' than as full Christians.
According to the ECLJ, France and other European countries do not adequately guarantee the rights and freedoms of those who wish to leave the Muslim religion. The NGO states that France has committed to international law that guarantees these rights and should act on it. The ECLJ acknowledges the difficulties for converts to file a complaint since most persecutions are situated in the family context. "This would often imply denouncing their father, brother or cousin before the courts".
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