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Institute Fellow Threatened for Defending Democracy, Religious Freedom

ICC Note

We have been reporting about the growing persecution against Christians in Egypt . As this story reveals, moderate Muslims who advocate for freedom of religion and human rights are also becoming victims of attack. The story highlights the growing threat of extremism in Egypt .

Sunday, August 19, 2007 Egypt (ANS) — Institute on Religion and Public Policy Islamic Thought Fellow Sheikh Ahmed Subhy Mansour has reported receiving numerous threats against his family and colleagues in Egypt as a result of his work to advance religious freedom and promote democracy in Egypt .

One message states, “Basically, you escaped to America , but your family and your people are still here in Egypt . We know them one by one. We know their whereabouts and everything about them. What happened lately is just a beginning. We will do them good.” The threat was signed by “Abu Hurayrah Al Asiuty.”

In May, the Egyptian Security Service unlawfully arrested, detained, and have to date not charged Abdellatif Mohamed Saied, Ahmed Dahmash, Abdelhamed Abdelrahman and Amr Tharwat. The security services also confiscated Quaranist books, research papers, and computers. The Quranists have been targeted for their dedication to the promotion of human rights and democracy in Egypt and for their belief that Islam should be modernized in a peaceful way based on ideologies of democracy and human rights.

Another threat to Dr. Mansour says, “We will make you, the enemy of God, taste the horrible torment..You, the infidel and heretic, you should know that we are watching and awaiting you. Your alliance with the countries of infidelity will not save you, your followers, or all of those who followed you from us. The war has begun, we will exterminate your family and all your people; the people of infidelity. We know about them more than they know about themselves. We know where they live and where they work.. We will make them taste the retribution of the agony as they are the enemies of Sunna who despise the companions of the Messenger of God, Peace of God be upon him and his family. What is happening now to your family is just a beginning. Await what is coming.” This message was signed “Yousef son of Katada.”

In June the Egyptian government continued its series of arrests of members of the Quranist movement in Egypt as Ahmed Sobhy Mansour, leader of Ahl Al-Quran group, was added to the list of Quranists charged with contempt for religion.

An Egyptian national now living in the U.S. , Dr. Mansour is a distinguished scholar of Islam with expertise in Islamic history, culture, theology and politics. He was an advocate for democracy and human rights in Egypt for many years, during which time he was isolated and persecuted by religious extremists and by the regime, including having served time in prison for his liberal political, religious and social views.

Having graduated with honors from Al Azhar University of Cairo, one of the oldest and most well respected centers of Islamic thought in the world, he later received his PhD with highest honors from Al Azhar as well. In May 1985, Dr. Mansour was discharged from his teaching and research position there due to his liberal views that were not acceptable to the ultra-conservative religious authorities who controlled much of university policies and programs.

In 1987 and 1988 he was imprisoned by the Egyptian government for his “progressive” views, including the advocacy of religious harmony and tolerance between Egyptian Muslims, Christian Copts, and Jews, his own freedom was greatly restricted. In 1996 Dr. Mansour established a weekly conference at the Ibn Khaldoun Center – headed by Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim – in order to discuss Islamist dogma, religion-based terror and other issues. It functioned until 2000, when the Center was closed down by the Egyptian regime.

Sheikh Mansour sought and was granted political asylum in the United States in 2002. Recently he has served as a visiting fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and at the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School .

Dr. Mansour has authored 24 books and some 500 articles in Arabic, dealing with many aspects of Islamic history, culture, and religion. They include a history of Wahabism in Saudi Arabia ; a critique of the concept of Jihad, bigotry and dictatorship in Muslim thought; women’s rights in the Muslim world; the reform of Egyptian education; and various pieces of prose fiction and screen plays.