Egypt: atheists considered a ‘dangerous development’

In Egypt, there is seemingly no place where atheists or those thought to be non-believers are safe, reports USA Today.

They’ve been targeted at cafes, harassed on the streets and fired as part of a broader backlash by society and the state against atheism and blasphemy.

“I have to keep my mouth shut when it comes to any criticism or satire about religion,” said atheist Amr Mohammed. “If I wish to make a remark about religion or practice of religion regarding my own beliefs, I keep it to myself.”

Dar al-Ifta, a government wing that issues religious edicts, released a survey in December claiming Egypt was home to exactly 866 atheists — a number deemed “a dangerous development.” Days later, a Cairo coffeehouse described as an atheists’ cafe was closed, media reported.

Since 2011, at least 27 of the more than 40 defendants tried on charges of defamation have been convicted in court, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

“There have been increasing attacks on citizens with minority views and others who tried to express an opinion on controversial religious issues,” the organisation said in a report in August.

called for a revolution in Islam to overhaul the religion — a significant act in a conservative country where the population of roughly 90 million is mostly Muslim.

During a speech on New Year’s Day, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stressed the importance of spreading moderate teachings of Islam and confronting misleading interpretations of the faith, according to the State Information Service. That doesn’t appear to indicate impending acceptance of controversial views.

“There is no plan to protect freedoms,” said Amr Ezzat, a researcher and head of the religious freedoms programme at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. “It’s an abandoned topic.”