News coming out of Egypt suggests that it is not only religious minorities in places like China, India, or North Korea that are facing levels of persecution, but atheism too.
Lawmakers in the country have been deliberating over passing a law that would make atheism illegal (1). One should remember that Egypt is a country whose constitution considers blasphemy illegal and where people run the risk of being arrested for insulting or defaming Islam. This law will make it illegal for Egyptians not to believe in God. Amro Hamroush, the head of Egypt’s Parliament’s committee on religion, says that,
“The phenomenon [of atheism] is being promoted in society as freedom of belief, when this is totally wrong… [Atheism] must be criminalized and categorized as contempt of religion because atheists have no doctrine and try to insult the Abrahamic religions” (2).
In a nation where Islam is the majority religion (around 90% of the population identify as Muslim), Egypt is a place where adherence to atheism is already frowned upon, as it is likewise frowned upon in the United States. One Egyptian atheist explains,
“Atheists in Egypt are afraid to publicly come out as such. If you proclaim yourself a nonbeliever, you literally open the gates of hell; you stand to lose many of your friends and will be treated like an outcast. Your own family may accuse you of mental illness and possibly disown you. We are being forced to live as hypocrites for fear of facing discrimination and harassment” (3).
Egypt’s highest Islamic religious organization, Al-Azhar, supports the proposed law, and its officials said it would work to punish those who had been “seduced” by atheism. Some officials even described atheism as one of the biggest threats facing Egypt today. The blasphemy law in the country can see a person imprisoned for up to five years while it is possible to be put to death for blasphemy or apostasy in at least 13 other Islamic majority countries (4).
Some Muslims have criticized the law. Ani Zonneveld, the founder and president of Muslims for Progressive Values, an international group based in Los Angeles, condemns it as being irreconcilable with the Qur’an and the Islamic religion.
1. Amin, S. 2017. Egypt’s parliament in bid to ban atheism. Available.
2. The New Arab. 2017. Egypt lawmaker moves to criminalise atheism amid moral panic. Available.
3. Amin, S. 2017. Ibid.
4. IHEU. 2017. THE FREEDOM OF THOUGHT REPORT. p. 18.