An Egyptian ‘Blasphemer’ Speaks Out Against a Victimless Crime

A month ago, I posted about Alber Saber, an Egyptian atheist who was arrested after posting the “Innocence of Muslims” movie on the Egyptian Atheists Facebook page.

Saber is still in jail.

His friend Maikel Nabil Sanad was accused of the same crime — blasphemy — but managed to write a blistering article in Foreign Policy against the blasphemy laws in Egypt. It’s called “Yes, I’m a blasphemer. Get over it.” In it, he tells the stories of person after person who got arrested, jailed, and tortured for doing nothing more than criticizing religion:

Maikel Nabil Sanad

Alber is not the only opinion prisoner in Egypt accused of criticizing Islam. There are at least six Christians (three of them under the age of 18), four atheists, and one Shiite who now face the same charges, and it is no surprise that not one of them is a Sunni Muslim. It’s a new Inquisition happening in Egypt in the twenty-first century while the whole world remains silent.

Religions are just collections of beliefs which can’t be proved. I still can’t imagine that in the twenty-first century there are people going to prison because they don’t believe that someone walked on water, a virgin gave birth to a child, or a man flew to heaven on a donkey. Tolerating this new Inquisition moves our world back to the Middle Ages, and this could have devastating consequences for our lives.

Now that’s bravery.

Online petitions aren’t going to fix this problem. The government of Egypt needs to put a stop to this — not only is blasphemy a victimless crime, it’s far too easy for these things to become witch hunts. Governments of other countries need to issue sanctions on Egypt until they stop prosecuting “offenders” of Islam.

When you know your faith is untrue, the best way to perpetuate the lie is by punishing anyone who dares to tell the truth. As people who live in a country where we won’t be arrested for criticizing religion, it’s really our civic duty to blaspheme in their honor.

(Thanks to Hannah for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • John Evans

    Guts of iron, that man.

  • Trickster Goddess

    This quote from a commenter on the Foreign Policy article  would make a fantastic bumper sticker:

    Blasphemy… blasphe-you, blaspha-everybody in the room!

    • Tak

      He’s quoting Eddie Izzard there. Made me smile.

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    I, too, used to use the phrase that ” blasphemy a victimless crime” (i.e., since no gods exist to suffer from their image being blasphemed).

    But there ARE victims of blasphemy.
    The victims are everyone whose freedom of speech is suppressed.
    The victims are everyone who self-censors due to fear of retribution just for stating opinions.
    The victims are all of us who never get to hear the views of our fellow humans, whose insights might enrich us and advance our societies.

    Blasphemy is not a victimless crime after all.

    • Deven Kale

       What you seem to be saying is there are victims of blasphemy laws not blasphemy itself. That is, unless I completely misunderstood your comment.

      • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

        Yes, and no. 
        The very IDEA of blasphemy is an affront to human rights. The IDEA that some topics can not be freely discussed. That some opinions can not be shared puts limits on human self-expression. Making the IDEA of blasphemy into a LAW forbidding such self-expression takes a TERRIBLE IDEA and makes it all the WORSE. 

        • Deven Kale

           Now that I can understand, and agree with.

        • Rizwan

          any idea can be discussed but a person have no right to humiliate other person feelings

          • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

            From a practical perspective, I disagree. How on earth would you ever be able to monitor and enforce preventing one person from feeling humiliated by the comments of another person? What if you were to think that my ideas Or practices on religion, politics, the style of clothes I wear, etc. was out right silly? Should it be ILLEGAL for you to say that it is silly? What if you saying that my crazy way of deciding to go out in public dressed in nothing but colored balloons is a silly and perhaps insane idea? Should the force of law make it ILLEGAL for you to say so? What if you saying so would have me feel “humiliated”?

  • chicago dyke, Blonde

    i was scheduled to go to egypt at the end of this year for a research trip. 

    this is exactly why i won’t be. none of my money will be used to support this kind of regime, ever. 

  • Gordon MacGinitie

    I would like to see blasphemy declared to be a basic Human Right.

  • Thumper1990

    Yes! All the Yes! Balls of steel. Lad.

  • C Peterson

    The problem is, as humanists we define something as “victimless” if nobody suffers material harm. So we (quite correctly) view blasphemy as a victimless crime.

    But the world is full of religionists (or hypersensitive fools) who have a very different definition of “victim”. They consider themselves victims of a kind of assault every time they are exposed to an idea at odds with their world view. As long as we have people displaying this sort of victim mentality, we’ll never get across the idea that blasphemy is victimless, and large segments of society will continue to regard it as something that should be limited, either by social pressure or outright legal restrictions.

  • Pedro Lemos

    “I still can’t imagine that in the twenty-first century there are people going to prison because they don’t believe that someone walked on water, a virgin gave birth to a child, or a man flew to heaven on a donkey.”

    If only it was so simple. The beliefs alone in a theocracy really don´t matter, what´s most important is the control they exert on people.
    The religious leaders, that in this case are also the political leaders, couldn´t care less if their religion said that the world came from a celestial toilet flush, if man was created from it´s shit and god was the greatest shit maker of the universe, as long as it was capable of controlling people and generated money. And if you didn´t conform to those ideas, you´d be killed or imprisoned simply for trying to change the status quo.
    I dare say not even the religious leaders believe in their shits. They only know that the more people believe in it, more power they have in hand.

  • Sally Wilton

    In these situations more people need to blaspheme until it is impossible to arrest every one.  It is the only answer otherwise they win. 

  • Rizwan

    i dont know why the fuck comment on any religion when every one knows feelings and affiliations of people are attched with religion 

  • Rizwan

    i dont know why the fuck comment on any religion when every one knows feelings and affiliations of people are attched with religion 

  • Rizwan

    now if i call m*ther F***er to any one of the ethiest they gets offended for what reason its my choice i call u that. Is tha freedom of choice??????

    • Deven Kale

       What you’re speaking of is freedom of speech. Freedom of speech only means that you cannot be restricted from voicing your opinions by the government. It does not guarantee that you can say whatever you want and not have someone call you on it if they disagree with you. In order to guarantee that one person be free to say something without comment from others, all others would have their own free speech violated.

      In other words, you use your free speech to call all atheists mother fuckers, and those atheists (and even many theists) can use their free speech to call you whatever they feel like calling you in return. It’s free speech on both sides.