Press Release

Egyptian Convert to Christianity Fights for Asylum at Federal Appeals Court

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

On August 19, Becket intervened in a high-profile asylum case at the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. Walid Salama and his wife and child face deportation back to Egypt despite a documented history of physical attacks by both the police and Salama’s family members due to the fact that Salama was formerly Muslim and his wife is a Christian. Mr. Salama’s conversion to Catholicism makes him even more of a target. Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that Mr. Salama should receive asylum.

“The Department of Homeland Security says it can’t tell the difference between a convert who deserves asylum and just another religious minority,” stated Becket National Litigation Director Eric Rassbach. “But Mr. Salama’s relatives sure can — they repeatedly beat Mr. Salama, tried to kidnap Mr. Salama’s wife, vandalized their car, and tried to kill their baby daughter. They consider converts to be traitors to Islam and therefore deserving of death, and the police have been complicit in Mr. Salama’s torment. If Mr. Salama is forced to return to Egypt he will not survive.”

Becket’s brief argues that the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to deny asylum and send Salama back to Egypt completely disregarded copious evidence that details the persecution of both Christians and Christian converts from Islam in Egypt, as well as Mr. Salama’s own testimony of having faced violence and death threats. The brief also points out that asylum is required where governments refuse to protect religious minorities from private violence, and that under American law, being forced to conceal one’s faith is by itself grounds for asylum.

“In this country, if the local sheriff sits on his hands while a lynch mob attacks a minority, we’d call it an outrage and a crime,” said Rassbach. “But DHS doesn’t seem to care that Mr. Salama, as a convert to Christianity, faces the same fate should he be forced to return to Egypt.”

Becket worked with pro bono co-counsel Bethany Davis Noll and Maeve O’Connor of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP to file the friend-of-the-court brief.

Becket is a non-profit public interest law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. Becket defends religious freedom for people of all faiths. Its clients have included Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Becket attorneys are recognized as experts in the field of church-state law.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Melinda Skea at or call 202.349.7224.