Prominent Egyptian preacher Zaghloul Al-Naggar accused Christian priests of actively converting Muslims in Egypt, allegations the Church has vowed to fight in court.
"Reverend Makari Younan has no other business except converting Muslims," Al-Naggar said in a statement to the Egyptian independent newspaper Sawt Al-Umma.
Al-Naggar said he knew the exact places and the names of people: "Scores of boys and girls came to my house and told me this happened to them."
He also claimed that foreigners running import-export companies in Egypt spend millions to convert Muslims: "I would have announced the names of victims if they hadn't sworn me to secrecy."
Al-Naggar said that the Coptic clergy take advantage of people's poverty and sickness and deceive them into thinking the Church will solve their problems.
He alleged that Younan has illegally built 10 villas on government land on the Cairo-Alexandria desert road to work on potential converts.
"They seclude them so none of their friends or relatives can dissuade them from converting. Many of them are issued passports and transferred to Cyprus to be sent onwards to Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand."
In one case, Al-Naggar said he got a letter from one of the victims who they married to a man in Australia. After she had two children with him, he threw her out. "I sent the letter to the police and asked them to help her," he added.
Al-Naggar said the government knows about the villas and is not doing anything about it.
Church to sue
The legal advisor to Coptic Pope Shenouda III told AlArabiya.net that he will file a complaint with the Attorney General's office on behalf of the Coptic Orthodox Church and in his capacity as president of The Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization (EUHRO).
Dr. Naguib Gebrael accuses Al-Naggar of disparaging religions and inciting sedition.
"Al-Naggar also went on TV and said the Holy Book is not holy and is not written by God. He is insulting Christianity."
Reverend Morkos Aziz, one of the clerics accused of leading the alleged conversion campaigns, asked Al-Naggar to produce evidence of his claims and to identify the places where Muslims are allegedly taken for conversion.
"Is it possible that such places exist and security forces know nothing about them? They know what I'm eating for dinner tonight," Aziz said.
"Al-Naggar is just seeking fame after the Muslim Brotherhood became no longer interested in what he writes. Egyptians, however, will never believe that, and the love between Muslims and Copts will not be shaken by Al-Naggar or hundreds of his kind," Aziz said.
On the other hand, lawyer Nabih Al-Wahsh said he will file a complaint, demanding an investigation into the detention of Muslims forced to convert to Christianity.
The issue of conversion is sensitive in Egypt, where the state does not publish official statistics on the religious breakdown of the country, with Christians estimated to number around 10 percent.
Many in the overwhelmingly Muslim country fear that Christian churches actively seek to convert Muslims, which can upset the political and social balance in the country.
While no punishment has been imposed on Muslims who converted to other religions, authorities do not recognize the conversion in official documents, such as identity papers.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).