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Palestinians marking the 64 anniversary of al-Nakba (catastrophe) with protests, while Israeli security reacted with conducted arrests campaigns on May 15Palestinians marking the 64 anniversary of al-Nakba (catastrophe) with protests, while Israeli security reacted with conducted arrests campaigns on May 15Palestinians marking the 64 anniversary of al-Nakba (catastrophe) with protests, while Israeli security reacted with conducted arrests campaigns on May 15Palestinians marking the 64 anniversary of al-Nakba (catastrophe) with protests, while Israeli security reacted with conducted arrests campaigns on May 15Palestinians marking the 64 anniversary of al-Nakba (catastrophe) with protests, while Israeli security reacted with conducted arrests campaigns on May 15Palestinians marking the 64 anniversary of al-Nakba (catastrophe) with protests, while Israeli security reacted with conducted arrests campaigns on May 15Palestinians marking the 64 anniversary of al-Nakba (catastrophe) with protests, while Israeli security reacted with conducted arrests campaigns on May 15Palestinians marking the 64 anniversary of al-Nakba (catastrophe) with protests, while Israeli security reacted with conducted arrests campaigns on May 15Palestinians marking the 64 anniversary of al-Nakba (catastrophe) with protests, while Israeli security reacted with conducted arrests campaigns on May 15Palestinians marking the 64 anniversary of al-Nakba (catastrophe) with protests, while Israeli security reacted with conducted arrests campaigns on May 15

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JCSER Forces Interior Ministry & Ministry of Religious Affairs to acknowledge Yousef Cohens Decision to Convert to Islam

After two years of suffering, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Religious Affairs have complied with the request of Dina Shibli, a lawyer from the Jerusalem Center for Social & Economic Rights (JCSER), to change the names and religion of her client Yousef Cohen, an American Jewish citizen, his wife Luna and his four children (11-year-old Rahamim Shalom, nine-year-ago Hasibeh, seven-year-old Ezra, and five-year-old Ovadia, from Judaism to Islam.

Yousef Cohen and all his family members became Muslims on Monday, 3 Feb. 2003. Their names are now as follows:

  • Yousef Mohammed Al-Khattab (father);
  • Qamar Mohammed Al-Khattab (wife);
  • Abed Al-Rahman (instead of Rahamim);
  • Hasibeh (kept the same name);
  • Abed Al-Aziz (instead of Ezra);
  • Abdullah (instead of Ovadia).

Yousef Cohens decision to convert to Islam has created a wave of resentment among religious circles, especially the Shas Movement of which he was a member. He has been pressurized to rethink his decision but has refused. He has also been forced to move to East Jerusalem.

Lawyer Dina Shibli followed-up Mr. Khatabs case after the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Religious Affairs refused to acknowledge his application. She provides some details about Mr. Khattabs decision to become a Muslim and the difficulties faced by his family members until their conversion became official.

Yousef Khattab, his wife Qamar, and his four children returned to Israel in 1998.

They settled in the Jewish settlement of Gush Qatif in Gaza Strip. Then, they moved to Nitevot, in the south of Israel. Two years ago, Mr. Khattab and his wife decided to become Muslims. In October 2001, they approached the Sharia Court in Jerusalem to declare their conversion to Islam, and their children took the same steps a few months later, Dina stated.

After that, the family approached the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs in order to certify the change in their religious status.

They also approached the Israeli Interior Ministry to change their personal status and to register their new names on their ID cards and with the population registry official record. However, the Ministries would not carry out Mr. Khattabs request. He kept going from one ministry to another, from one department to another, but to no avail, she adds.

Then, he approached the Center to follow-up his case. On 1 August 2002, I sent a letter to the Interior Ministry, clarifying that Khattabs family has joined the Islamic faith with honesty and conviction in its teaching, and for religious and conscientious motives.

Therefore, there is no legal objection preventing official acknowledgment of their new religion, or their right to freedom of religion. I also sent a letter to officials at the Ministry of Religious Affairs requesting their approval of Mr. Khattab and his familys decision to convert to Islam.

As all my correspondence with the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Religious Affairs was unsuccessful, I submitted a bill of indictment to the Prosecution Office at the Ministry of Justice against the two Ministries for the delay and described their behavior as illegal.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs retracted its decision after the bill of indictment was submitted and issued certificates stipulating the States acknowledgement of Khattabs family new religion.

The Interior Ministry then also approved the change in their religious status, their Arabic names, and the decision to register them in the Population registry record, she adds.

For his part, the Centers Director,noted that Mr. Khattabs case is a unique one. It was followed-up by the Center over a six- month period, during which a series of correspondence and contacts took place between the lawyer and high-ranking officials at the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

The Center expressed its dissatisfaction with the Ministrys position toward a Jewish citizen who is supposed to enjoy full rights. What prevents the Ministries from approving a citizens request who fully enjoys the right to change his name and religion. Such a position contradicts the principles of democracy and freedom.