By Alaa Mazloum
A Dar Al-Ifta observatory has claimed that “extremists, terrorists and Takfiri” groups have committed “brutal” acts in the name of Islam, distorting its image and leading young people towards atheism.
Dar Al-Ifta is the official state body in Egypt, responsible for issuing religious edicts.
According to a report released Wednesday by the Takfiri Fatwa observatory, there is a growth in the number of atheists in Muslim countries in the region. This has occurred especially in countries going through critical social and political transitions.
The report said the increasing number of atheists is linked to incorrect interpretations of Islamic teachings and the brutal acts of extremists who have distorted the image of Islam. The report added that the extremists have violated human rights and committed acts of violence that go against Islamic teachings.
It also stated that people have been driven away from Islam due to the rise of fundamentalist Islamists who issue fatwas and words encouraging “hatred towards those who belong to different sects or religious beliefs, which only pushed believers further away”.
Dar Al-Ifta divides atheists into three groups: those who do not object to Islam as a religion but reject the Islamisation of politics and call for a secular state; those who object to religion completely; and finally those who convert to religions other than Islam.
According to the report, social media has played a role in providing young men and women a platform to freely express their “rejection of religion”, away from religious and social taboos.
The report also claimed that the phenomenon is a “complicated one” and recommends that experts in religion, philosophy, psychology and sociology need to “carefully study the phenomenon” to properly analyse it.
The report concluded with calls to renew religious discourse to answer modern day reality as well as launching programmes to answer any religious questions and doubts young adults might have.
As more atheists express their views on different social media outlets, there has been a wider public discussion on atheism following the 25 January Revolution with atheists targeted by the authorities. Blogger Alber Saber was handed a three year sentence for blasphemy in 2012.
The Association for Freedom of Though and Expression (AFTE) and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) believe in the importance of cancelling provisions, whether constitutionally or legally, criminalising the criticism of religion.
“The continued trial of citizens for expressing their opinion in religious matters and issues is [reinforcing] massive restrictions on freedom of expression in Egypt,” the two groups said in a joint statement in November 2013.
The EIPR documented 63 cases in which individuals were tried for defamation of religion between early 2011 and September 2013.
Last August, ministries of Endowment and Culture agreed on a new protocol that aims to “spread true Islam”, away from extremism or atheism.