After disappearing in Egypt, a Coptic Christian wife and mother appeared in a video, dressed in all black Islamic attire (niqab), saying that she had willingly converted to Islam and no longer wants anyone—her husband, children, family—to bother about her anymore.
Ranya Abd al-Masih (“servant of Christ”), 39, was a high school teacher of English in al-Minofiya, just north of Cairo. She has three daughters, the youngest about 9. On April 22, she disappeared. A few days after her family contacted state security, the aforementioned video, which is just over one minute, appeared.
In it, and in between tears, Ranya insists that she has finally and formally converted to Islam, which—“praise be to Allah”—she had been secretly following for nine years. She also adds that she took her jewelry and belongings the day she left home, and therefore it should be obvious that she disappeared of her own accord and was not kidnapped.
Her family argues that such claims are for public consumption—likely being made at gunpoint and/or even under the effects of drugs: she did not, they say, take her jewelry and belongings on the day she disappeared; moreover, it is clear in the video that she is surrounded by and getting cues from others.
On May 1, the Coptic Orthodox Christian Church in al-Minofiya added its voice to the family’s by issuing a statement asking President Sisi to intervene and prompt state security “to return our daughter Ranya Abd al-Masih, who suddenly disappeared from her home under unknown circumstances, and whose three young daughters are heartbroken at her absence, as is her husband and her entire family.”
“We’ve no problem for her to go [to Islam] of her own free will—based on conviction—but not as a person who is threatened and coerced into doing so,” her brother, Remon, said in a full length interview. “She was definitely kidnapped and forced to make that video, due to threats against her or her husband and children if she refused to comply.” He said the idea that she had “secretly” embraced Islam was ludicrous, citing the fact that up until her disappearance she was regularly attending church, visiting and praying in monasteries—even fasting 55 days in the lead up to Easter. “We are sure that Ranya, our beloved sister, whom we know so well, is not the one we saw on the video; that is a woman who is being threatened and coerced.”
Her Facebook and other social media accounts are also saturated with Christian images and messages. Several of the family’s Muslim acquaintances confirmed these points, saying they too find it hard to believe that such a piously Christian woman would willingly abandon her faith, husband and children in such a sudden manner.
Remon, her brother, insists that this seems to be an elaborate scheme perpetrated by the “Muslim Brotherhood”—the politically correct way of indicating any “Muslim radical” in Egypt, considering the government’s open conflict with the Brotherhood. In reality, and based on ample precedent, if any group is responsible, it is likely the Salafists, with implicit help from security organs.
Remon himself made this clear by lambasting state security, which, to date, has been unresponsive to the family’s pleas, citing the video as “proof” of no wrongdoing. “I am calling on President Sisi and every other official,” he said; “We need to see and speak with her; but nobody cares and nobody wants to help. Is she even alive?”
Incidentally and needless to say, if the situation was reversed—if a married Muslim woman had disappeared and then reappeared in a video saying she was Christian and not to bother over her—all of Egypt, particularly state security, would be on its feet investigating; and then, if true, both the apostate and her Christian “helpers” would likely be punished.
If Ranya had in fact converted of her own will, well and good, her brother and family emphasized; however, it is only right that they be allowed to independently confirm this on their own—not least since the abduction of Coptic Christian women and girls who later appear on video as converting to Islam of their own will is an ongoing phenomenon in Egypt; this is to say nothing of the straightforward kidnapping or luring of Coptic women (four in the same month that Ranya “converted”).
“We want to take care of our women and children. They will no longer be able to leave the house!” Ranya’s brother lamented, adding that this incident is establishing a bad precedent: “Whoever steps out can be kidnapped and no one will ever be able to reach them…. What will we do about our Coptic mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters? We are in an era when such things should not happen. ”
“If you can hear me, Ranya, know that we will never abandon you until we see you,” her brother concluded: “Because you are a victim of a terror.”