Since Egypt’s 2011 uprising, authorities have increasingly investigated blasphemy allegations stemming from both private complaints and government prosecutions. The majority of those investigations, documented by the EIPR, have concerned alleged insults against Islam, though at least two men have received prison sentences on charges of insulting Christianity. Cases of alleged blasphemy often arise out of personal or unrelated disputes.

Recently, the authorities have targeted perceived atheists. Police said the café shut down on December 14, 2014 [on my birthday even] , in Cairo’s Abdeen district was popular with suspected atheists, and District Administrative Chief Gamal Mohie told the Mada Masr news website that the coffee shop was unlicensed and “popularly known as a place for Satan worship, rituals and dances.” He said police had raided the café in November. The Al-Monitor news site reported that a previous owner said he closed the café and leased it to a new owner in June because security forces had targeted the café as a hub for political activists.

On December 10 the Dar al-Ifta, a Justice Ministry wing that issues religious edicts, released a survey claiming that Egypt was home to 866 atheists, the highest number of any country in the Middle East. Two aides to the Grand Mufti – the head of the Dar al-Ifta – described the supposed increase in atheism as “a dangerous development” that “should ring alarm bells,” Mada Masr reported.

In March, the Interior Ministry official in charge of security in Alexandria said he would form a task force to arrest atheists. In June, following the election of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s youth and religious endowments ministries announced a joint campaign to confront the spread of atheism.

From 2011 to 2013, courts convicted 27 of 42 defendants on charges of contempt for religion, according to the EIPR. Judges acquitted three defendants and rejected charges against 11 others for lack of standing.

About Steve Link

In Namibia with the U.S. Peace Corps July 2014 - July 2016. View all posts by Steve Link

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