Mariam Azmy Fouad, a Christian secondary school student in the satellite city of Tenth of Ramadan east of Cairo, narrowly escaped death when she attempted suicide
after being required by her school to sit for an Islamic religion test paper even though she is Christian. Mariam’s father had converted to Islam making her, according to Egyptian law, automatically a Muslim. She was shocked and greatly humiliated at the sarcasm of her classmates which brought on hysterical tears and apparently made suicide a welcome idea. She repeatedly cried she was Christian and would not answer the test, insisting that her faith had nothing to do with her father.
After swallowing some pills, Mariam was moved to hospital where she was given a gastric lavage to save her life.
Human Rights organisations demanded that the Tenth of Ramadan Education district abide by a ministerial decree issued in 2007 stipulating that students of Muslim convert parents are to be exempted from taking Islamic religion exams until the issue of what religion they belonged to is resolved in court. Mariam was finally allowed to take the Christian religion exam on January 29, the last day of the school term. Human rights activists have commented that the incident involves discrimination and greatly harms Egypt’s image. Religion courses are mandatory in Egyptian schools.