Hegazy made an unusual public splash because he sought to raise a court case to officially change his religion on his national ID card, likely the first time a Muslim-born convert has sought to do so in Egypt. His first lawyer filed the case, but then quit after the uproar, and his second is still considering whether it's worth pursuing the attempt.
Hegazy said he received death threats by phone before he went into hiding, in an apartment bare of furniture where he lives with his wife, who is also a convert from Islam and is four months pregnant. He would not say where the apartment was located.
There is no law on the books in Egypt against converting from Islam to Christianity, but in this case tradition trumps the law. Under a widespread interpretation of Islamic law, converting from Islam is apostasy and is punishable by death — though killings are rare and the state has never ordered or carried out an execution.
Most Muslims who convert usually practice their new religion quietly, seeking to avoid attention, or flee the country to the West. In Egypt, at the very least they face ostracism by their families, but if their conversion becomes known they can receive death threats from militants, or harassment by police, who use laws against "insulting religion" or "disturbing public order" as a pretext to target them.
"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."
After his conversion was discovered, police detained him for three days and tortured him, he said.