While speaking with the local media, Egypt’s Religious Endowments Minister Mohammed Mokhtar Gomaa blamed Zionists for encouraging atheism and homosexuality in his country. He went on to explain how colonial Zionist forces have been supporting atheists and atheism as well as financing homosexuals and homosexuality in order to disintegrate traditional Egyptian society. The interview, which had taken place in September this year, was published by Washington-based Middle Eastern media watchdog organization MEMRI on November 2.
Gomma went on to condemn these “Zionist forces” for underestimating Egypt’s stability by using various means like atheism, terrorism, nihilism and deviance to destabilize them.
“We must confront atheism, nihilism, homosexuality and moral depravity the same way we confront extremism and terrorism,” he said.
Even though Egypt has refrained from using anti-Israel rhetoric recently, the country’s government authorities have continued to target atheists, homosexuals and other minorities.
In late October, another one of Egypt’s top Islamic officials warned against the spread of atheism in his country.
“Atheism is no longer a marginal issue,” Shaikh of Al Azhar, Ahmad Al Tayeb said. “It has become one of the many challenges facing the country. There are agencies and institutions in the country concerned about this issue.”
Tayeb’s warning caused the Egyptian government, which has been struggling to cope with an economic crisis and curb radical Islamists in the region, to pay heed to the alleged rise in the number of atheists. Gomaa responded to this warning by saying his ministry will launch a countrywide campaign to deal with atheists appropriately in a nation that is predominantly Muslim. Reportedly, moderate clergymen, sociologists, psychologists and political scientists will be roped in to address the youth.
“The spread of atheism is linked to extremism,” said Amnah Nuseir, a professor of Islamic Creed at the Islamic Al Azhar University. “Young people are turned off by militant clergymen who keep day and night telling people they will be condemned to hell in the hereafter. Thus, those preachers have portrayed Islam as a religion that knows no mercy. This is completely alien to moderation of Islam. ”
It is not only Egypt’s Islamic authorities that are concerned about the growing number of atheists in the country. Clerics from the minority Christian community too seem to be worried.
While speaking at a conference on atheism, Bishop Beshui Helmy, who is the secretary general of the Council of Egypt’s Churches, said, “When revolutions take place in any society, they lead to a sort of fake freedom. They prompt man to rebel against everything seen as classical and traditional. ... After revolting against the political regime, attention is turned to rebellion against the family’s authority and then the religious authorities represented by clergymen. Some people believe that as long as the ruler of the country is deposed, why not depose the chief of the world too.”
Helmy also blamed disillusionment, unemployment and materialism for the rise of atheism in Egypt. Even though there are no official records stating the actual number of atheists in Egypt, estimates suggest there could be as many as two million non-believers living in the most populous country of the Arab world. Yet, atheists can face up to five years in prison on grounds of blasphemy.
Photo Credits: The Cairo Post