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Egypt - Friday May 13, 2005

CONVERT LOCKED INTO MENTAL HOSPITAL

Patient must return to Islam to be discharged.

gaser

Gaser Mohammed Mahmoud

May 13 (Compass) -- An Egyptian convert from Islam to Christianity is being held against his will in a Cairo mental hospital, where supervising doctors have told him he must stay unless he recants his faith and returns to Islam.

Gaser Mohammed Mahmoud, 30, was committed to the El-Khanka Hospital for Mental and Neurological Health in early January by his adoptive parents, after they learned he had become a Christian two years earlier.

Since his forced confinement, he reportedly has been beaten, whipped and given potentially fatal injections by hospital personnel.

Locked in Solitary

After a failed escape attempt, Mahmoud was locked into a solitary room for a month by his nurses, who had learned that he was being institutionalized for apostasy. Although he was allowed visitors initially, the hospital has since refused to admit any known Christian acquaintances asking to see him.

Earlier this week, Mahmoud told Compass that he had first admitted to his mother that he was a Christian six months ago. Angered, his father notified local Muslim sheikhs, who in turn reportedly threatened to kill him.

To prevent this, his mother called local state security police inhospitalofficials, who took him into protective custody on a day-time basis, allowing him to return home at night. But at her husband’s insistence, she finally agreed to commit him to the El-Khanka Hospital, located on the northern outskirts of Cairo.

Abandoned at a Church

 

Mahmoud in the hospital

A foundling who was adopted as an infant by the childless Muslim couple, Mahmoud grew up in the Red Sea port city of Suez, 290 miles east of Cairo. Although he does not know the identity of his birth parents, he was told he had been found abandoned in front of a church in Suez.

He finished school and started working, earning good money in an automobile tire workshop. Eventually Mahmoud’s adoptive father became jealous of the young man’s income and had him jailed for a year on accusations of robbery.

Trauma Leads to Jesus

Once he returned home from prison, Mahmoud was so traumatized psychologically that his mother asked some Muslim sheikhs to come and recite the Quran for him. “But I felt like I was getting worse,” Mahmoud said, “until I had a dream of Jesus Christ drawing crosses of light.”

The distraught young man began to read about Jesus. Soon afterward, a Muslim neighbor advised him to listen to Christian radio programs broadcast from Monte Carlo. As his understanding of the Christian faith grew, Mahmoud began attending a small home fellowship of Christians.

At one point, he went to a nearby village and met with a Coptic monk, who advised him to keep quiet about his belief in Christ. But he said that eventually, “My new love for Jesus pushed me to talk with my mother about it.”

Scoffing at his enthusiasm for Christianity, his mother retorted that even a Coptic priest’s wife had recently embraced Islam, referring to a highly publicized incident last December when the Coptic Christian community accused a Muslim of abducting and trying to convert the middle-hospitalaged woman.

“At that point, I told her, ‘I’m a Christian,’” Mahmoud said. He admitted that he had gone so far as to draw a cross on the walls of their apartment.

 

El-Khanka Hospital

So with the assistance of local state security police, Mahmoud’s mother bowed to her husband’s pressure and committed their son to forced confinement in the El-Khanka Hospital on January 10.

“Muslim Fanatic” Doctor

Under the supervision of Dr. Mohsen, director of the hospital’s medical committee, Mahmoud was subjected to psychiatric examination and placed in Section Three, a closed ward for mental patients.

He has remained there ever since, under the care of a woman physician identified only as Dr. Nevine. Sources who have visited Mahmoud described Dr. Nevine as a “fanatic Muslim” who had treated him “badly” for deserting Islam.

“You won’t get out of here until you change your mind,” she reportedly told Mahmoud. He has not been allowed to leave his assigned ward for the past three months, nor has he been able to learn the names of the medications he is given every morning and evening.

Egypt’s Muslim citizens do not have the legal right to change their religion, although non-Muslims are allowed freely to convert to Islam and change their official religious identity. Officers of Egypt’s State Security Investigation regularly harass, interrogate and sometimes arrest Muslims suspected to have converted to Christianity.

Cairo’s El-Khanka Hospital earned international notoriety in 1997, when an escaped patient claimed he had bribed his way out of the mental institution to launch a terrorist attack in Cairo which killed nine German tourists and their Egyptian driver.

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