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Posted on Aug 12, 2007 at 12:05 PM

CAIRO, Egypt -- An Egyptian Muslim who converted to Christianity and then took the unprecedented step of seeking official recognition for the change said he has gone into hiding following death threats. Mohammed Hegazy, who sparked controversy when pictures of him posing with a poster of the Virgin Mary were published in newspapers, was shunned by his family and threatened by an Islamist cleric vowing to seek his execution as an apostate. "I know there are fatwas (religious edicts) to shed my blood, but I will not give up and I will not leave the country," Hegazy said from his hideout Thursday. Hegazy, 25, made a public splash when he took the unusual step of going to court to change his religion on his national ID card. His first lawyer filed the case but quit after the uproar; his second is still considering whether it's worth pursuing. Hegazy said he received telephoned death threats before he went into hiding in an apartment with his wife, a Muslim who took the name Katarina when she converted to Christianity several years ago. She is four months pregnant. He said he wants to change the religion on his ID for two reasons: to set a precedent for other converts and to ensure his child can openly be raised Christian. He wants his child to get a Christian name, birth certificate and eventually marry in a church. That would be impossible if Hegazy's official religion is Muslim, because a child is registered in the religion of the father. Hegazy, who took the Christian name Beshoy after an Egyptian monk, converted to Christianity nine years ago and began attending church in his hometown of Port Said on the Suez Canal. "I started readings and comparative studies in religions," he said. "I found that I am not consistent with Islam teachings. The major issue for me was love. Islam wasn't promoting love as Christianity did."

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