Egyptian Christian actress granted divorce under Islamic law after 10-year court battle

Posted: Friday, April 05, 2002

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- In an unprecedented court verdict, Christian actress Hala Sidqi has won a 10-year court battle to divorce her husband, an outcome previously obtained in Egypt only by Muslims.

She is the first Christian woman granted divorce under a law, known as Khula'a, which has made it easier for a Muslim woman in Egypt to get a divorce without her husband's consent.

The law allows immediate divorce if three months of attempted reconciliation fails to bring the couple back together, or six months if the woman has children. Under Islamic law, men may divorce wives promptly, without court authority.

When the new law took effect, Christian clergy said that if a Christian woman changed her denomination from that of her husband she could be granted a divorce. Sidqi changed her affiliation from Coptic Orthodoxy, the church of her husband, to the Syriac Church.

Egyptian Christians are mostly Coptic Orthodox, and that church does not allow divorce except in extreme cases such as adultery. Pope Shenouda III, the Coptic leader, recently approved of believers separating if reconciliation is impossible, but not their right to remarry.

Christians comprise about 10 percent of Egypt's 67 million population.

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