We’ve known for a long time now that Egypt is not a safe country for atheists. People who have said publicly that they’re atheists, like Karim al-Banna and Alber Saber, have received prison sentences of up to three years for the crime of “blasphemy” or religious contempt.
In 2014, government officials said (in an eerily specific way) that there were exactly 866 atheists in the country. It was a way of suggesting they knew who the people were and that the number was getting lower all the time. But in a country of nearly 95 million people, there’s no way that number was even close to accurate. Estimates put the true number anywhere from two million to four million.
It seems that the government is now going even further with the atheist purge. According to an unverified report, the nation’s Committee on Religion has proposed criminalizing atheism altogether. Forget promoting it; if this law passes, simply not believing in God would be a punishable offense on its own.
It’s unclear how Egypt would go about prosecuting atheists who weren’t out of the closet about their (non-)beliefs. The law itself may just be a scare tactic to force skeptics to profess their faith anytime, anywhere. But it’s not hard to believe that this law would seriously be considered. Given the way Egypt has handled religious freedom in the past, this seems like the logical next step in the theocratic vision for the nation.
I hope the reports turn out to be inaccurate. I fear they’re not. So far, no mainstream news source has confirmed any of the reporting.
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