According to research by Pew Research Center for the PEW-TEMPLTON Global Religion Futures Project in 2010; 94.9% of Egyptians are Sunni Muslim, 5.1% are Christian, and less than 1% are Jewish, Buddhist, or other religions. Religion in Egypt controls many aspects of social life and is endorsed by law.
Atheists or irreligious people cannot change their official religious status, thus statistically they are counted as followers of the religion they were born with. Many are now publicly expressing their views using pseudonyms on social networks and blogs because atheists aren’t safe in Egypt. Despite the fact that atheism itself isn’t a crime in Egypt, atheists are breaking law if they promote their atheistic views publicly.
Knowing the case of a 21-year-old Karim al-Banna who was sentenced to three years in prison for the “crime” of saying on Facebook that he was an atheist; or Alber Saber, the 27-year-old atheist activist and blogger who was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to three years in prison —maybe the news “Atheism could be banned in Egypt” isn’t fake. According to an unverified report, the Committee on Religion in the Egyptian Parliament has disclosed plans to pass into law, a bill that makes atheism a criminal offence in the North African nation.
Egyptian lawmaker, Amr Hamroush recently announced he's currently drafting a law that criminalizes atheism, The New Arab reported. "The phenomenon is being promoted in society as freedom of belief when this is totally wrong," Hamroush said. "It must be criminalized and categorized as contempt of religion because atheists have no doctrine and try to insult the Abrahamic religions," he said.
Egypt's highest Islamic religious institution, al-Azhar, has already supported the draft law that will soon be proposed by Hamroush. According to Hamroush, there will be no legal obstacles when it comes to implementing his law because existing Egyptian legislation already allows the prosecution of atheists who express disbelief in public. "It is necessary to enact laws that deter people from violating the natural instincts of man and punish those who have been seduced into atheism," said Mohamed Zaki, the head of al-Azhar's supreme council for dawah.
News of the lawmaker's draft law continues to make the rounds online and is sparking anger among many, especially because it comes at a time when the country has been cracking down on freedom of expression.
"In recent weeks, we've witnessed horrific crackdowns on the country's LGBTQ community and on freedom of expression in general. That's part of the reason why this draft law is extremely alarming at this point, we all fear that is could actually pass," Rami, an Egyptian rights activist explained for StepFeed why the soon-to-be-proposed law is worrying to many in Egypt.
Photo Credits: Richard Dawkins Foundation