Egypt’s War on Atheism

Feb 2, 2015

Image credit: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

By Mona Eltahawy

It took one session on Jan. 10 for a court in the Nile Delta province of Beheira to sentence Karim al-Banna, a 21-year-old student, to three years in prison for saying on Facebook that he was an atheist. The student’s lawyer complained that he was denied the right even to present a defense, but an equally chilling aspect of Mr. Banna’s case is that his father testified against him.

Also telling is that Mr. Banna was originally arrested, in November, when he went to the police to complain that his neighbors were harassing him. This was after his name had appeared in a local newspaper on a list of known atheists. Instead of protecting him, the police accused him of insulting Islam.

Such tag teams of family, media and state are not uncommon in cases against atheists. Because atheism itself is not illegal in Egypt, charges are laid under laws against blasphemy or contempt for religion. In 2012, a 27-year-old blogger, Alber Saber, received a three-year sentence on charges of blasphemy for creating a web page called “Egyptian Atheists.” In 2013, the writer and human rights activist Karam Saber (no relation) was convicted of defaming religion in his short story collection “Where Is God?”

Similar charges have been used for political purposes against Egypt’s Christian minority. In 2013, a Coptic Christian lawyer, Roman Murad Saad, was sentenced in absentia for “ridiculing” the Quran. From 2011 to 2013, Egyptian courts convicted 27 of 42 defendants on charges of contempt for religion.


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7 comments on “Egypt’s War on Atheism

  • When Islam uses such violent means to force people to pretend to accept its beliefs, what message does it send out?

    the beliefs of Islam are odious, untrue, disgusting. The only way you can get people to accept them is with threats.
    nobody actually believes this stuff. They just pretend to believe out of fear.
    There is no essential logic or attractiveness to the message of the Qur’an.
    There are no rational arguments in favour of Islam.
    Islam makes people crazy, cruel, intolerant.
    It would be a very good thing if Islam disappeared from the earth.

    From the outside, Islam looks pretty bad. If Islam wants to gain converts, it will have to clean up its image.



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  • name had appeared in a local newspaper on a list of known atheists

    WT actual F?!

    can always trust the media to give something for the angry mob to play with but to think there are places in the 21st century where local news includes outing witches



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  • Apparently you need to be a muzzled, brainwashed, thicky, to retain your freedom and citizenship of this backward state!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-31107980
    .Mohamed Fahmy, one of two al-Jazeera journalists still held in Egypt, has renounced his Egyptian citizenship to secure his release, his family say.

    Mr Fahmy’s brother said the journalist, who is also Canadian, was told to give up his nationality or his freedom.

    Canada says his release is imminent. The status of his Egyptian colleague Baher Mohamed remains unclear.

    Peter Greste, who was freed on Sunday, said he felt “incredible angst” at leaving his colleagues in a Cairo jail.

    The Australian journalist was freed from prison and deported after 400 days behind bars.

    The three al-Jazeera English journalists were arrested in 2013 after being accused of collaborating with the banned Muslim Brotherhood after former President Mohammed Morsi was ousted by the military.

    All three denied the charges against them and said their trial was a sham.

    A decree issued by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi last November allows the deportation of foreign prisoners.



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  • 5
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    …. This was after his name had appeared in a local newspaper on a list of known atheists.

    Yep. The joys of Islamic culture. Having one’s name on such a list in Egypt is equivalent to having your name on a list of known sexual predators in a Western country. But don’t tell that to Ben Affleck, he’ll call you a bigot…



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