Egypt plans to outlaw atheism

Ägypter mit Koran und Kreuz (2012)

Spiegel (German language)

“Amr Hamroush has big plans: The head of the Committee on Religion in the Egyptian parliament wants to punish future compatriots who do not believe in God.

He is currently drafting a bill to criminalize atheism, Hamroush has announced. “Atheism must be criminalized because atheists have no faith and because they insult the Abrahamic religions,” says Hamroush.

With his submission, he responds to the alleged spread of atheism in Egyptian society. “If someone abandons the religion he believed in, it is a contempt for all religions,” argues the politician. Hamroush’s legislative initiative coincides with a large-scale police campaign against atheists in Egypt.

Last week, the authorities arrested the administrator of a Facebook page for atheists.

He is charged with distorting the Koran and insulting it. In addition, they arrested the social media activist “Khoram”. Justice accuses the man of belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

He describes himself as an atheist. How an unbeliever can be a member of an Islamist organization at the same time – this explanation, the investigators have so far remained guilty.

The law opens the door to arbitrariness.

Many MPs and members of Azhar University, Egypt’s main religious body, support both this security force campaign and Hamroush’s legislative initiative.

“The spread of atheism is an expression of decadence and lack of faith and threatens the whole of society,” says MEP Mustafa Bakri. “It is necessary to pass laws that discourage citizens from violating man’s natural instincts and punishing those who are seduced by atheism,” says Mohamed Zaki, head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Missionary Development at Azhar University.

There are no official figures on the number of non-believers in Egypt. But the Azhar University put the number of atheists in 2014 at exactly 886 – with a total of nearly one hundred million inhabitants.

How they came to this value, those responsible did not explain. It is also unclear how the Egyptian state wants to find out whether a citizen believes in God or not.

Will a loudly voiced doubt about the divine omnipotence be enough in the future? Should Muslims be punished who do not fast in Ramadan? What happens to Christians who criticize the Coptic Pope? It only seems clear that the planned law of arbitrariness would open the door. Minorities without a lobby are an easy target Outwardly, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi presents himself as a promoter of a dialogue between religions and as a supporter of “moderate Islam”.

At the same time, he uses every opportunity to fuel the emotions of devout Muslims and Christians. The campaign against atheists, as well as an initiative announced in November to officially criminalize homosexuality, should be seen against the backdrop of the upcoming presidential elections in spring 2018.

The regime fears a low voter turnout for lack of credible opponents – which could cast doubt on the legitimacy of Sisi abroad. Therefore, they are now trying to represent each voice for Sisi as a voice against atheism and homosexuality and to get the people to the polls.

No minority minorities – atheists, gays, lesbians – are an easy target for the government. By imposing the regime as a danger to the well-being of the country, the state can at the same time distract attention from its failure in other policy areas such as the fight against terrorism or economic development. So far the plan seems to work out, the handling of the unbelievers is widely discussed in the media.”

(Translated by Google Translate)

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