Despite political changes and the various ruling elite in Egypt since 2011, contempt of religion and court cases relating to freedom of worship have remained a constant, said the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) on Monday.
In a report titled “Trials of Faith: a study of cases of contempt of religion”, AFTE detailed a number of cases since the 25 January Revolution in which defendants were charged with contempt of religion.
AFTE accused authorities of using the contempt of religion charge in a selective manner, calling on the government to strike all legislation that allowed for any discrimination based on religion. The group also called on the government to launch a campaign calling for the end of persecution of religious minorities and “push society towards accepting [different] opinions”.
The report also called on the government to revisit legislation that restricted freedom of belief and release any Egyptians detained or sentenced under the charge of “contempt of religion”.
AFTE also pointed to the state’s recognition of only heavenly religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism), which marginalised Egyptians following other faiths, including in cases of contempt of religion.
Most recently, a court upheld a five year prison sentence against writer Karam Saber for insulting religion in his 2010 book “Where is Allah”. Human rights lawyer Gamal Eid called the verdict “the harshest sentence handed to [a writer] in the past 20 years”.
The constitution asserts that “freedom of belief is absolute”, yet only protects religious rituals practiced by the three heavenly religions.