In the latest signs of growing extremism and intolerance in the Arab world’s most populous state, an teacher in Egypt has been fined for blasphemy and an Egyptian-German author critical of radicalism has gone into hiding in Europe.
The teacher, a Coptic Christian, was fined this week 100,000 Egyptian pounds – or about $14,300 – after being found guilty of insulting Islam and Mohammed. Average pay in Egypt is just $20 a month for beginning teachers and $60 or $70 for longtime educators:
The case in the ancient southern city of Luxor began when three parents said their 10-year-olds complained at home, saying their teacher showed disgust when she spoke of Islam in class… Egypt has witnessed a surge in blasphemy charges in recent months, widely seen as a reflection of the growing power of Islamists. Blasphemy became a criminal offense under Egypt’s new, Islamist-backed constitution
Egyptian blasphemy cases are routinely and almost exclusively filed against Christians, who are often alleged to have insulted or shown insufficient deference to Islam. In September, another Coptic teacher was sentenced to six years in prison for allegedly insulting Islam on Facebook.
Amnesty International released a statement Tuesday on what the group termed Egypt’s worrying rise in criminal blasphemy cases.
Meanwhile in Europe an Egyptian-German author has been forced into hiding after coming under death threats from Egyptian Islamists.
German media report that the threats against Hamed Abdel-Samad – a high-profile writer and commentator on Islam – came after a speech last week in Cairo in which he accused the ruling Muslim Brotherhood movement of spreading “religious fascism.”
The author’s publisher placed the blame squarely with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, blasting the “smear campaign that came directly from the sphere of the Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi.”
Islamist websites published the author’s photo with the words “Wanted: Dead.” Egyptian clerics associated with Gamaa al-Islamiyya denounced Abdel-Samad on television:
In response to the assertions, Assem Abdel-Maged, a leading member of Egypt’s ultra-conservative Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya, and Mahmoud Shabaan, Arabic rhetoric professor at Al-Azhar University (known for his strong stance against secularism), declared Abdel-Samad an “apostate.” On Egypt’s religious Hafez television channel, Shabaan accused Abdel-Samad of having been an “apostate” even before his recent statements. “He has been flagrantly questioning Islam and thinks it is a bad religion, a fascist religion… His punishment should be death,” Shabaan declared.
“Even if he repents for what he said, he must be killed,” Shabaan added. “His repentance might help him with God [in the afterlife], but he must be killed.”
Abdel-Samad responded be declaring that Morsi’s government was “trying to impose itself and its judgments on the community in the name of God” and undermining the power of “the judiciary and police.”
In 2010, Abdel-Samad was featured in a five-part television series alongside Jewish-German television personality Henryk Broder for a satirical road trip through Germany:
[Photo: Argenberg / Flickr]