Egypt: Proposed Law to Muzzle Muslim Scholars and Thinkers

Ashraf Ramelah sends this report on a bill to further restrict criticism of Islam in Egypt. It appears to be similar to the Austrian law that was recently reaffirmed by the European Court of Human Rights in the “hate speech” case against Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff.

Egypt: Proposed law to muzzle Muslim scholars and thinkers

by Ashraf Ramelah

Egyptian “democracy” is an endless comedy if you’re not suffering at the hands of it. Last month Amr Hamroush, a graduate of Al-Azhar Institute and a member of the Egyptian Parliament as well as secretary of the Committee of Religious Affairs and Endowments introduced a resolution to criminalize the act of “insulting historic figures.” Hamroush’s resolution is written in vague terms and lacks definition for “historic figures and symbols.”

Using the term “mockers” for those who criticize and “insult,” the bill’s author says the issue will not be up for public debate. Such would have a negative and dangerous effect on Egyptians, he adds. The parliamentary bill was under review for the entire month of October and is now up for discussion in the fall session.

Historically, Egypt’s government addressed restrictions on speech just two other times. The more recent was an amendment to the constitution in 1977 called “The Law of Defective Values.” With this, Sadat muzzled opposition voices to his visit to Israel and the subsequent signing of the Camp David peace treaty. Many years earlier when King Farouk came under criticism by Egyptians, he amended the 1923 constitution by adding “The Law of Perfection of the Royal Identity” and included the statement, “The king is the supreme head of the state and above criticism.”

Today’s speech bill is unlike the previous two diktats. It does not aim to restrict outcry against the Egyptian president, political leaders or a specific political issue. Egyptians already know not to cross this line. Neither will it limit expression against Egypt’s ancient heroes, the gods or the glorious past. Certainly, the bill will not guard against disparagement of Christian symbols — Christian leaders, biblical figures or the bible. None of this disturbs the state.

Instead, the proposed bill aims to end public discourse about the religion of Islam — its doctrine, political ideology, scholarship and history. In recent years, various Muslim thinkers focused on the parallel texts of the Quran and brought thought-provoking facts to light challenging official narratives. Ostensibly, scholars set out to produce full proof and secure within the Arab-speaking world (in particular in Egypt) the argument that ISIS terrorism is not based on the fundamental precepts of Islam, the “religion of peace.” However, instead, scholars came to the unwelcome consensus that the origin and source of terrorism is indeed the core doctrine of the religion of Islam — refuting categorically that Islam is a religion of peace.

Their conclusions prompted Al-Sisi to initiate his renowned “renewal of Islamic discourse,” an effort with Al-Azhar Institute to reform interpretation of Islamic doctrine in order to cleanse the hate and violence. Al-Sisi has been so far unsuccessful. While free thinkers and scholars were able to prove their conclusions, Al-Azhar religious scholars were unable to prove the opposite — that Islamic doctrine leads to peaceful co-existence. Furthermore, as a result of their research, many Muslim thinkers determined that Egypt should be a secular state with no state religion. All of this has been a thorn in the side of the Al-Sisi government and its connection to the religious deep state.

Over the past decade, Islam Al-Beheiri, Sayed Al-Qimni, Nawal Al-Saadawi, Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid and other thinkers such as Yossef Zydan were all convicted for the offense of analyzing the life and conduct of Islamic religious icons and figures. Each of them illustrated something other than the official narrative of Al-Azhar Sunni Institute. Every scholar, researcher and broadcaster was shut down, and some were jailed.

Interestingly, Yossef Zydan was not arrested for criticizing the Muslim-Egyptian military commander Ahmed Urabi (1841-1911) for burning the city of Alexandria during the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Zydan was allowed to state his negative opinion, because although Urabi is an important historical symbol for Egypt, he is not considered an Islamic religious figure. On the other hand, Zydan found disfavor with the Egyptian government for criticizing another military commander, Salah El Deen Al Ayubi (1138-1193), because Al Ayubi is known as an important Islamic religious symbol. Al Ayubi founded the Al Ayubian caliphate state, which united Egypt, the Levant, the Hijaz, and Tihama, and Yemen under the Abbasid banner after destroying the Fatimid Caliphate. Zydan claimed that Al Ayubi was a criminal, and paid dearly for his opinion. Those censored and arrested have done one thing wrong — spoken out about the religion and ideology of Islam in contradiction to the official narratives.

President Al-Sisi’s failed “renewal of discourse” promoted during his first term in office is now followed by Hamroush’s bill as the plan B to silence Muslim thinkers. The law is mainly intended to be a legal reinforcement of what already takes place in Egypt — shutting down opinions, discussions and debates about Sharia, Quranic scholars (past and present), Islamic texts and doctrine. Already, without the legislation, courageous fact-findings and stark truths are what taunt the religious deep state and trigger the courts.

Hamroush is promoting his current bill with TV interviews and rationalizations on Facebook. His language is evasive and euphemistic. His rant obscures the bill’s real objective, which is to control the image of Islam by regulating speech. He offers deep concern for young Egyptians as the reason for his resolution.

He contends that young Egyptians will lose their historical role models if debates continue to threaten the integrity of meaningful icons of Egypt’s past. If critical thinkers are allowed to speak freely surely they will have a negative effect upon young Egyptians. In turn, this would destabilize confidence and spread frustration. The goal should now be to protect these important figures from denigration and stop their images from tarnishing.

Hamroush deploys the Islamic art of deception in the way he shaped the bill. He conveniently cloaked the real issue (protecting the religion of Islam) in broader terms to avoid a potential backlash of accusations against Islam for direct responsibility in suppressing the free speech of Egyptians.

If Hamroush’s proposal becomes law, it will serve to broaden the Bedouin blasphemy law of Hesba. Currently, this silent rule is employed when a Muslim accuses another of blaspheming Allah (and his prophet) and submits a lawsuit against the blasphemer in civil court. The Hesba has always been used to arrest and convict notable Muslim scholars. If passed into law, Hamroush’s proposal will codify this convenient device of the Islamic creed and crucially expand the usage of it to include “slurs” against Islamic historic figures and icons. If so, this will narrowly limit interpretations and opinions of Islamic historical events and suffocate free thought beyond today’s boundaries. This would be a significant advancement for Egypt’s religious deep state.

If and when the bill is voted into law, voicing unpleasant truths about Islam risks a prison sentence of three to five years and a fine of 100,000 to 500,000 Egyptian pounds. Repeat offenders would face five to seven years in prison and an increased fine of 500,000 to one million EP.

Dr. Ashraf Ramelah is founder and president of Voice of the Copts, a human rights organization, and a board member of Stop Islamization of Nations (SION). For his previous articles, see the Ashraf Ramelah Archives.

10 thoughts on “Egypt: Proposed Law to Muzzle Muslim Scholars and Thinkers

  1. Does this mean that the truth about Islam is so dark and dangerous that it must be hidden beneath laws that would disenfranchise all those who would question the narrative? If that is the case, what is in the process of being hidden must be truly awful.
    BTW, wasn’t Al Bagdaddy of ISIS a Ph.D. from Cairo?

  2. Do Muslims do ANYTHING honestly? It is all lies, hidden goals, deception, and fraud. Why anyone would give up the beauty, truth, richness, and depth of Christianity is beyond me. And why aren’t we taking in Egyptian Christians, instead of Muslims??

  3. If Islam and its messenger are perfect…which are averred, then, akin to a mathematical axiom or truism, discussion of all aspects of its notion will only serve to enhance its appreciation and its acceptance by the masses. Truth needs to be amplified and only thrives therefrom. After all, the more we discuss the Pythagorean theorem, the more its perfection and truth embeds into our consciousness. The more we avoid it, the less
    valuable it is to mankind.

    Hence, those who seek to parse Islam must be its most fervid champions and those who trivialize its discussion are in fact its worst detractors.

  4. It should not come as a surprise that a graduate of Al-Azhar Institute would introduce to the Egyptian Parliament a bill to criminalize the act of “insulting historic figures”. Al-Azhar Institute houses hard core fundamentalists. And since this Amr Hamroush also serves as secretary of the Committee of Religious Affairs and Endowments he is probably obsessed with muzzling free speech.

    Let us hope that he will not succeed, given the fact that in the past Egypt’s government addressed restrictions on speech just two other times, in 1977 and 1923.

    I am sure this Amr Hamroush is very well aware of the free speech obliterating tide that is sweeping Europe.

    Another hopeful sign is that that Egyptian parliament has 596 seats. Good luck in convincing a majority to his point of view.

    PS: I was able to find only 2 out of the 5 people mentioned that were jailed. Islam Al-Beheiri was pardoned by President Al-Sisi. Nawal Al-Saadawi was imprisoned by Anwar Sadat, but she was released one month after he was assassinated. Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid was declared an apostate by an Egyptian Sharia court and fled the country. He later “quietly” returned to Egypt where he died.

    All of these people are profound thinkers and doers with fascinating biographies.

    • “Another hopeful sign is that that Egyptian parliament has 596 seats. Good luck in convincing a majority to his point of view.”

      It depends upon the number of death threats they will receive.

  5. “…Muslim scholars and thinkers” ???

    If there was such a thing that would qualify as a double oxymoron,

    • Why yes, there are indeed Muslim scholars and thinkers. Of course, you won’t find them among the “refugees” in Europe….

      Nawal Al-Saadawi – said in an interview after hundreds of people were killed in what has been called a stampede during the 2015 pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca in Saudi Arabia:
      “They talk about changing the way [the hajj] is administered, about making people travel in smaller groups. What they don’t say is that the crush happened because these people were fighting to stone the devil. Why do they need to stone the devil? Why do they need to kiss that black stone? But no one will say this. The media will not print it. What is it about, this reluctance to criticize religion?

      Islam Al-Beheiri – in an address on the Egyptian Al-Kahera Wal-Nas TV, Egyptian Islamic researcher and TV host Islam Al-Beheiri said, with regard to the Salafi desire to restore the Caliphate: “Who are you kidding? The days of the Caliphate were all dark times.” The statements aired on November 24, 2014.

      Sayed Al-Qimni – views the Koran as more than religious scripture and contends that it is legitimate to study it from a historical perspective using the same scientific tools and criteria that are employed for other disciplines. Needless to say, a fatwa was issued by Egypt’s chief mufti stating that “he deserves punishment in this world and torment in the world to come”. No 72 virgins for this guy…. Furthermore, Al-Qimni said that “Islamic scholars do not want the Muslim to use his God-given brain! They want a submissive and obedient Muslim who refers to them in the slightest details of his life.”

      Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid – argued that the Koran was a “cultural product” that had to be read in the context of the language and culture of seventh century Arabs, and could be interpreted in more than one way. He also criticized the use of religion to exert political power.

      Yossef Zydan – quoted: “religion provides us with a puritanical dream, which can never be realized because it goes against human nature.”

  6. There would be no confusion about claiming islam is the “religion of peace” if it is understood that the islamic definition of “peace” means there is no strife because everyone is either a muslim or a slave, with the bulk of non-muslims being killed in the establishment of the caliphate. This fact should be widely publicized, in spite of the cowardice of most governments when it comes to criticizing islam.

    Western civilization knew, at one time, that religious tolerance could not possibly include islam. islam refuses to be tolerant of any other ideology (since islam is actually an ideology and not truly a religion any more than the Church of Scientology) or of any world religion or other political system.

    Acceptance of islam is suicidal. islam will not – cannot, according to its own precepts – co-exist with any religion, government, or ideology other than itself. So, to allow it to grow and fester within the political boundaries of Europe is equivalent to clasping an asp to its bosom.

    Western civilization needs to cast Islam out, to spend the trillions it is spending on muslims within it borders re-patriating muslims to the countries they came from and supporting them there, instead – if it is decided that allowing this infection to live is worth the cost and the trouble it causes, the danger even exclusion creates.

    In reality, allowing Islam to fester and grow _anywhere_ would actually still be too dangerous a proposition, although by the time sufficient members of Western civ understand this fact, it may be too late to save Europe and its native population. If it isn’t already.

    • Islam will not – cannot, according to its own precepts – co-exist with any religion, government, or ideology…

      Islam cannot even co-exist with itself. Thus we have the murderous, internecine warfare between/among the various sects of Islam. This is most noticeable in the fratricide between Sunni and Shi’a sects…though they would hardly consider themselves “fraternal”.

      Islam is the war of all against all.

    • I totally agree with everything you are saying, especially re-patriation. Presently, that seems like wishful thinking.

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