Egyptian man arrested for alleged blasphemy

August 22, 2011

A 23-year-old Egyptian man has been arrested by Cairo police for allegedly "insulting Islam" in postings on his Facebook wall, according to the news outlet Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The AFP reported via the Middle Eastern News Agency (MENA) that the man, identified only as Ayman Y.M., posted comments "that were insulting to the Koran and the Prophet Mohammed and Islam and Muslims." MENA did not disclose what he allegedly said. The man is being charged under Egypt's blasphemy law, which reads: 

Confinement for a period of not less than six months and not exceeding five years, or a fine of not less than five hundred pounds and not exceeding one thousand pounds shall be the penalty inflicted on whoever makes use of religion in propagating, either by words, in writing, or in any other means, extreme ideas for the purpose of inciting strife, ridiculing or insulting a heavenly religion or a sect following it, or damaging national unit. 

Unfortunately, this is not the first time someone has been arrested for blasphemy in Egypt. The law has often been used to silence religious minorities (think Shiite Muslims and Christians), along with other religious dissidents and atheists. While Egyptian political leaders are currently debating a new constitution after the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak, there has been little indication as to how the new Egyptian constitution would change current blasphemy laws. One can only hope that Egyptians take into account the UN Human Rights Committee's recent strong condemnation of blasphemy laws and other restrictions on freedom of belief and expression as inconsistent with existing international law.