Originally published in barnabasaid
Two men, one Lebanese and one Saudi, will stand trial next month accused of helping a Saudi woman convert to Christianity and flee the strict Islamic country.
The young woman’s father filed a police complaint against the two men, with whom his daughter worked in Al-Khobar, eastern Saudi Arabia. He claims that her expatriate Lebanese boss, Henna Sarkees, a Christian, influenced his daughter, encouraging her to leave Islam. Investigators have concluded that the Saudi man, whose name has not been made public, helped the woman get the papers required to leave the country, without her family’s knowledge.
The two men are due to stand trial on 15 September in what is said to be an unprecedented case. It has sparked outrage in Saudi Arabia, with some calling for a harsh penalty.
The Lebanese man reportedly gave the Saudi woman books on Christianity and invited her to take part in online religious chat rooms. After apparently converting, the woman went to Lebanon, where she received help from a Christian group, and she is now said to be in the UK.
Conversion to Christianity is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, where an extreme and puritanical version of Islam, Wahhabism, is strictly enforced.
Women are not allowed to have a passport without the permission of their guardian (father, husband or other male relative).
The family’s lawyer, Humood Al-Khaldi, said they wanted her to return to them in Saudi Arabia. He said:
This is a strange case as it affects our Islamic values. The ruling of apostasy in Islam is clear; however, the roles played by the two men, the Saudi and the Lebanese, in making the girl become Christian should be taken into consideration.
As for the family’s request to convict the two men in the case, the court should make sure first that the girl was coerced into converting to Christianity and fleeing the country. The pertinent court will decide on this matter.
More than a million expatriate Christians are thought to be living in Saudi Arabia. They are theoretically allowed to practise their faith in private, but evangelism is forbidden. The public practice of any un-Islamic religion is not permitted.