After Islamic 'fatwa', five-year-old Shenouda returns to Egyptian Coptic foster parents

After Islamic 'fatwa', five-year-old Shenouda returns to Egyptian Coptic foster parents
The case of 5-year-old Shenouda prompted human and children rights groups to call for his return to his Christian foster parents who raised him as their own for over four years.
2 min read
Egypt - Cairo
29 March, 2023
The prosecution granted the custody of 5-year-old Shenouad to his foster Coptic parents based on an Islamic 'fatwa'. [Getty]

A long custody battle over the fate of five-year-old Shenouda may have ended on Wednesday after the child returned to his Egyptian foster Coptic Christian parents after an Islamic 'fatwa'. 

On Tuesday evening, the North Cairo Prosecution ordered the return of Shenouda to Amal Ibrahim, the foster mother after consulting with Dar El-Ifta (the Islamic entity tasked with issuing religious edicts).

Last year, Shenouda had been taken by the authorities to an orphanage where his name was changed to "Youssef" and he was allegedly "forced to covert to Islam."

A similar fatwa was released earlier last week by Al-Azhar, the highest Islamic authority in the region,  dictating that "an abandoned infant who has no known family should follow the religion of the person who found [him or her].

The foster mother has been granted "temporary custody" over Shenouda after she had officially pledged to take care of him in a safe environment.

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News outlets quickly reported the reunion and published pictures of the family with their child. The couple could not be reached for comment at the time of publishing.

In 2018, Ibrahim found a few-day-old baby unattended inside a church. She and her husband, who could not have a child for medical reasons, decided to raise him as their own with the blessings of the church's priest, issued him a birth certificate and named him "Shenouda".

A family member who had a feud with Shenouda's foster parents took revenge and reported their secret to the police, which led to the child being taken by the authorities by force.

The case of Shenouda prompted human and children rights groups to call for his return to his foster parents.

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Even though adoption is allowed in Christianity, unlike Islam, Christians in Egypt can only foster a child if s/he lives at an orphanage annexed to a church.

Usually, church orphanages host children whose parents died or are too poor to support them.

Otherwise, any unidentified child is considered Muslim by default under the pretext that the country's constitution is based on Islamic Sharia law.

The percentage of Christians in Muslim-majority Egypt has never been officially released. But it is believed they make up approximately 10 to 15 per cent of the 103 million population; most are Coptic Orthodox and among the world's oldest Christian communities.