Salafi Muslims in Egypt Are Filing More Blasphemy Cases Than Ever Before

Ben Hubbard and Mayy El Sheikh of the New York Times have a frightening report of how charges against blasphemy — a victimless crime, as the joke goes — are increasing dramatically in Egypt under President Mohamed Morsi.

It’s a witch-hunt, pure and simple. Just take a look at what happened to this teacher who was falsely accused of insulting religion and the government:

Last July, a Christian teacher, Beshoy Kamel from Sohag in central Egypt, heard that someone had created a Facebook page using his name and photograph and was posting messages insulting Islam and President Mohamed Morsi, his family said.

Mr. Kamel told the police about the page, his family said, and posted a warning that still stands on his personal page that the other account was not his.

But when a local Salafi received a private message from the account insulting him and his religion, he filed a complaint against Mr. Kamel, who was arrested soon afterward. Local Islamists heard about the case and spread copies of the texts from the insulting page, causing protests that twice forced the police to delay hearings.

The day the trial opened, Mr. Kamel was sentenced to six years in prison: three for contempt of religion, two for insulting the president and one for slander, court documents say.

The lawyer for the other side didn’t care that Kamel did nothing wrong:

“They should have cut his throat for it,” Mr. Khanous said.

This is religious-based madness enhanced by political power. Morsi’s office claims that “freedom to litigate” is one of the benefits of the revolution, but hashing all of this out in court is part of the problem. Blasphemy charges have no business being played out through the legal system. They should be ignored entirely. Blasphemy hurts no one. If people can be sent to jail for criticizing someone else’s religious beliefs, then there can be no truly civil society.

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.

  • Yoav

    Six years in jail over something that doesn’t hurt anyone and which he didn’t actually do, WTF is wrong with this world?

    On another note, maybe in order to help revive the tourist industry, which was a major source of revenue for Egypt, Morsi decided to appoint a member of the salafi group Gamaa al-Islamiyya, as governor of Luxor, one of Egypt primer tourist attractions. This is the same group who murdered over 50 tourists in the same city in 1997, I’m sure that anyone who was considering visiting Egypt ancient monuments on their upcoming vacation is thrilled to hear these news.

    • Anti Iggyman

      Thank Obama for helping put the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Egypt and Libya!

      Ah, the Arab Spring!

      Next stop…Syria!

      Hail Obama!!!

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        We expressly didn’t help in Egypt? Which is one reason the Egyptians are still pissed at us? Other reasons include, of course, our support for a brutal dictator (Mubarak) and his efforts to suppress any pro-democracy groups that might grow. The Muslim Brotherhood won elections because we helped the guy who made sure there weren’t any other organized options.

        Libya: have you actually read anything about Gaddafi? He was the dictator in Libya for 42 years and actually supported international terrorism, unlike certain other Arab leaders we deposed. Again, the only organized people were people like the Muslim Brotherhood and outside Islamist forces. Should we have helped a corrupt dictator remain in power to prevent a rebellion that was clearly the will of the majority succeed? That would have been … really freaking stupid, actually.

        Obama’s not been a great president, but you’re getting the reasons wrong. He was actually too slow to support the uprisings in the Arab Spring, giving us significantly less influence over the aftermath than if we’d been supportive earlier. We have pet dictators in the Middle East who are being overthrown and we sided with the dictators- that’s not Obama’s policy but a continuation of policy from Monroe and especially the Cold War. It’s still shitty policy. Learn some history and politics before you open your mouth about things you clearly do not understand at all.

        • Anit Iggyman

          Fuck Egypt. Fuck Libya. Fuck Syria. And fuck you.

          • Anti Iggyman

            Oh, and IGGY..fuck you too!

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            Sock-puppeting. Cute.

            I wouldn’t fuck you if you were the last other person on earth.

      • Yoav

        What would you have done differently in his place? Once the uprising started, would you have sent troops to help shore up Mubarak or to install a puppet “pro-american” government, because this worked so well in the past. The same go for Syria, what should you have Obama do, get the US involved in a messy civil war with shifting factions, help topple Assad and take the chance he would be replaced by an islamist government (not an unlikely outcome) or maybe support him since he’s the devil we know, and how do you factor the risk of intervention in Syria leading to problem, and maybe even a war with Russia?

        Like Feminerd said, Obama is by no way doing a great job on many fronts but in the issues you raised he didn’t actually had any options that wouldn’t in all likelihood turned what is a bad situation to start with into a massive catastrophy.

        • Anti Iggyman

          So we should just stay the fuck out.

      • Mario Strada

        Hey, I noticed you lost your avatar picture. Luckily I think I found it:

        You can thank me later

  • Rain

    With a name like “Muslim Brotherhood”, what could possibly go wrong?

  • Philbert

    Apparently, perhaps in an effort to be seen as “fair and balanced”, there has even been at least one prosecution for offending Christians:

    http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2013/06/16/abu-islam-sentenced-to-11-years-hard-labour/

    • http://benny-cemoli.myopenid.com/ Benny Cemoli

      However, Abu Islam’s verdict will be suspended pending his upcoming appeal.

      And all those Christians convicted of blasphemy were given suspended sentences so that they could appeal their convictions. Right?

      Benny

  • tasteless chap

    “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” -Diderot

    • Drakk

      Not strictly true.

      It could happen the other way round.

      • Anti Iggyman

        Just a hint of what atheists have planned for you, folks, if they actually get control.

        These priceless quotes will be of much use in other venues.

        Thanx!

        • Gus Snarp

          You could use some new material, that Jimmy Hoffa bit is getting old. I look forward to your endless comments that there is an atheist leader named Diderot threatening to kill kings with the intestines of priests.

        • closetatheist

          Yeah, that was obviously meant to be literal, not metaphorical, and representative of all atheists. While you’re at it, don’t forget to include the murderous quotes no doubt uttered by your own god…those are especially important since your god’s followers have certainly already acted them out in real life – not metaphorically.

          • The Anti Iggyman

            Yes, it was meant to be literal. Believes were killed in mass during the French Revolution.

            And Atheists are killing believers as we speak.

            Who ya kiddin?

            • Michael W Busch

              Believers were killed in mass during the French Revolution.

              No. People who were considered “enemies of the revolution” were executed during the Terror. The executions were political rather than strictly religious in motivation (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reign_of_Terror ).

              It happens that ~6% of those killed during the Terror were clerics. This was part of the longstanding pattern of anti-clericalism because the Church had supported the monarchy and nobility in its exploitation of the public. The Culte de la Raison was another part of that pattern.

              And Atheists are killing believers as we speak.

              Citation needed that those people are being killed for their beliefs and not for some other reason (as inadequate as those reasons often are).

              And, again, no one here attempts to use atheism as a justification for killing anyone.

        • Michael W Busch

          Way to take two-to-three-century-out-of-date expressions of anger at the abuses of the French nobility and the Catholic Church completely out of context.

          And, again, no one here would advocate the Culte de la Raison or Marxist-Leninist atheism.

    • Michael W Busch

      Diderot didn’t actually say that, or at least was not the first to say it. The line by Diderot was:

      Et ses mains ourdiraient les entrailles du prêtre,
      Au défaut d’un cordon pour étrangler les rois.,

      Which translates to:

      And his hands would plait the priest’s entrails,
      For want of a rope, to strangle kings.

      It’s part of Diderot’s poem “Les Éleuthéromanes”, and an apparent reference to a much earlier work by the French Catholic priest and atheist Jean Meslier ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Meslier ). Meslier referred to an unspecified man as follows:

      Il souhaitait que tous les grands de la Terre et que tous les nobles fussent pendus et étranglés avec les boyaux des prêtres.

      i.e.

      He wished that all the great men in the world and all the nobility could be hanged, and strangled with the guts of the priests.

      Meslier was motivated to that extremism by social inequality – in particle, how the nobility and the Catholic Church exploited the French population.

  • Michael

    I wonder what would happen if someone did this on a facebook page in the name of that lawyer?

    • closetatheist

      Count me in.

  • DougI

    It’s an universal phenomena. When a fundy starts running the country the shit hits the fan.

    • The Other Weirdo

      When a fundy starts running the country, the shit hit the fan long before.

  • The Other Weirdo

    I’m all for showing religious people saying stupid things. We are not usually starved for choice, but are those signs actually real? I’m seeing pixellation and distortion around where the letters are, and it looks to me as though whatever those signs once said was erased and replaced with what we see now.

    • Gus Snarp

      It looks like a pretty low res image in the first place and those could just be general artifacts. It is so terrifying that anyone actually believes that that it is easier to assume the photo is faked, but we also have the lawyer above quoted as saying “they should have cut his throat”, so it seems publicly expressing such odious opinions isn’t as far fetched as it ought to be. But there’s hardly any way to know if it’s real or not, I guess. Truly horrifying if it is.

      • The Other Weirdo

        If you’re saying what I think you’re saying, then no, I refuse to accept lowres photographs on a webpage as proof of anything. Yes, Muslims do use blatant lies. On the one hand, they claim that Islam is a religion of peace, while on the other they want to cut the throat of anyone who says–or is accused of saying–otherwise. We all know this. At the same time, I don’t want to be manipulated by poorly photoshopped images.

        I am not saying that Hemant did this. It’s an image I’ve seen floating around long before seeing it here, just as I’ve seen video on youtube purporting to show UFOs flying over palm trees.

        The problem today is that Poe’s Law is firmly in effect with the religious, about equal between Muslims and Christians. It’s bad enough reading about these perverse murder fantasies from people in authority positions. It’s even worse seeing these things faked when they don’t need to be.

        • Gus Snarp

          I think I’m saying the same thing you are.

          • The Other Weirdo

            …It is so terrifying that anyone actually believes that that it is easier to assume the photo is faked…

            I think I must’ve misunderstood this sentence from your post.

    • Space Cadet

      I’m on my phone right now and can’t tell how pixilated it looks, but I do see where the word ‘butcher’ was misspelled and corrected. That makes me think it’s legit.

    • Amakudari

      But Islamist protestors in Western countries have held similar signs before, and I see no reason to need a fake when real ones exist. I mean, this is a story about Islamists wanting to do terrible things to people who mock Islam.

      Here’s an article from The Guardian on the event in question, in any case:
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/feb/06/raceandreligion.muhammadcartoons

      And here are several more from the same rally:
      http://goo.gl/KXc6L

      FWIW, compression artifacts around letters are common in heavily compressed JPEGs (like those from a news site 7 years ago), and because this photo was evidently enlarged from the original, IMO it would be sketchier if they weren’t there.

  • Brian Westley

    It’s sadly not surprising that nearly all of the commentaries on patheos.com objecting to blasphemy laws are from the atheist channel; the only other one of note being getreligion.

  • http://nomadwarriormonk.blogspot.com/ Cyrus Palmer

    Egypt is going to have to have another revolution if this kind of thing doesn’t stop.

  • icecreamassassin

    Dear members of the Muslim community:
    Please, please, PLEASE voice your concerns over this. Scream it at the top of your lungs. Write your religious leaders; your political leaders; friends, family, strangers.

    Please let the world know as unequivocally as possible…as loudly as possible…how much you denounce this kind of injustice being done.

    Please don’t be complacent about this. The people responsible for kind of travesty are not going to listen to many of us, on the grounds that we simply do not understand their beliefs. We’ll be labeled as intolerant. We’ll be labeled as oppressive of their beliefs. You share some of their beliefs; please try to make it as clear as possible to them that they are being $*!++y human beings.

  • Kelley

    America needs to take a lesson from this. Those who would institute Christianity into our government and its laws are aiming for a similar outcome. Separation of Church and State should be the benchmark everywhere!

  • baal

    There is something wrong with that picture. While it could just be zooming, the words look like they might be photo-shopped.

    • Artor

      Can you tell by the pixels? Have you seen a lot of shops?

    • Mario Strada

      Looks fine to me. What you see around the words are jpg artifacts, probably because the photo was saved, edited and saved again multiple times at low quality.

  • Geoff Boulton

    Another country rushing headlong back to the stone age, sigh!

  • David_Evans

    The pyramids have long been on my list of things to see. Not anymore. I’m not going near Egypt while these idiots are in power.

    • Tom

      Hopefully they won’t go the same way as the Bamiyan Buddhas in the meantime.

    • closetatheist

      eh, no one cares what a white man does as long as he’s got enough money to be sufficiently extorted for whatever goods he wants.

      • David_Evans

        They will have a hard time extorting any money from me since I’m not going there. By the way, what makes you think I’m white?

        • closetatheist

          nothing, just if you’re white most Egyptians assume that you’re a tourist and you have money. If you look like any other ethnicity they tend to not harass you as much. If you’re a woman, you’re unlikely to be talked to or taken seriously. So the observation really only applied to white males in my experience. I am not a white male when I visited the white males in my group were clearly allowed to do what they wished is they paid full price for it.

  • Matt D

    Any religion that requires “mortal” enforcement to maintain it’s tenets seems pretty weak to me……similar to me inventing bread that butters and toasts itself….but asking people to wear a blindfold while this occurs.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    Egypt is rather messed up, but the conservative Muslims voted in last time were placed unconstitutional. I don’t understand why people go from one dictator to another.

  • Fred

    They’re so proud of their message that they need to hide their face?


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