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After film, push strengthens for blasphemy clause in Egypt's constitution

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A committee of the constituent assembly, which is writing Egypt’s new constitution, is scheduled to introduce the article to the assembly this week, says Nader Bakkar, a spokesman for the Salafi Nour Party, which helped write the provision. He expects the assembly to accept it, “especially after what happened last week regarding prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.” The article would ban insulting God or any prophets, including Muhammad.

"Denigrating religion" is already a criminal, not civil, offense under Egypt's penal code, meaning those who break the law face jail time, not fines. It has been invoked numerous times – in the last year and a half against one of Egypt’s most well-known actors, a Christian business mogul, and others. 

Recent cases

In what appears to be the latest case, a young Christian man was arrested last week in the Cairo suburb of El Marg, after reportedly posting the anti-Islam YouTube clip to his Facebook page. He is charged with insulting Islam, and is currently in prison while the prosecutor investigates the case. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) researcher Ishak Ibrahim says the man was attacked by other prisoners while held in a local police station before he was transferred.

Mr. Ibrahim says that since the uprising that unseated former leader Hosni Mubarak, the law has been increasingly used against Christians. In April, a court in the southern city of Assiut sentenced a 17-year-old Christian to three years in jail for publishing a cartoon on his Facebook page that mocked Muhammad and Islam, and distributing it to his classmates. Crowds in his hometown rioted after the case was publicized, burning down Christian homes.

But appeals courts have sometimes stepped in and reversed such verdicts, as they did in the case of famous Egyptian actor Adel Imam. Last week a court overturned a conviction for defaming Islam in several of his films, for which a previous court sentenced him to three months in prison.

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