By Aidan Clay
Washington, D.C. April 25 (ICC) – An Egyptian court upheld the three-month prison sentence of one of the Arab world’s most famous comedians on Tuesday for insulting Islam in his films.
Adel Imam was initially convicted in February for “defaming Islam” for roles he played in several movies, including the 1994 film “The Terrorist,” in which he portrays a wanted Muslim fundamentalist, Middle East Online reported. The court upheld the conviction and gave Imam a $170 fine on April 24. Imam told reporters he would appeal the verdict.
Alaa al-Aswany, the author of “The Yacoubian Building” which was turned into a film co-starring Imam, told The Associated Press that the court ruling sets Egypt back to the “darkness of the Middle Ages.”
“This is an unimaginable crime of principle in developed nations,” he remarked in a Twitter posting on Tuesday.
“Christians and many Muslims are supporting Adel Imam,” Wagih Yacoub, a Coptic human rights activist, told International Christian Concern. “Whether we like him or not, we are defending the freedom of speech and the freedom of art. What is Adel Imam’s sentence based on? His old movies made years ago? It’s crazy. We’re going through a dark time in Egypt.”
Imam’s case follows similar charges filed against Egyptian Christians and moderates in recent months, raising concerns that an Islamist-led government may try to impose its religious views on Egyptian society by censoring material it deems offensive to Islam.
On January 9, Christian telecom mogul Naguib Sawiris, who founded the Free Egyptians political party, was charged with “blasphemy and insulting Islam” when he reposted a cartoon of a bearded Mickey Mouse and a veiled Minnie Mouse on Twitter. An Egyptian court dismissed the second of two cases filed against Sawiris on March 3.
In another case, on February 29, Makrem Diab was sentenced to six years in jail for allegedly insulting Muhammad during a discussion with his teacher in Assiut, Middle East Concern reported. The judge upheld the sentence during a hearing on April 5. Diab is expected to appeal the verdict.
And, on April 4, Gamal Abdou Massoud, 17, was sentenced to three years in jail for posting cartoons on Facebook deemed offensive to Muslims and distributing them to friends at school in the province of Assiut, Reuters reported. The cartoons, published in December, led to violent Muslim protests in neighboring villages that lasted for two days. Several Christian houses were burned and several Christians were injured during the demonstrations.
“The battle, of course, is being waged by Islamists who want their interpretation of the religion to be declared as the only acceptable version,” said Barry Rubin, the director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center. “Westerners don’t understand that when that happens anything more moderate or flexibly traditional hence becomes illegal and punishable. The Islamist counter-Bill of Rights proclaims that the country’s people have no freedom of speech or freedom of religion, no right to free assembly or of the press.”
Aidan Clay is the Middle East Regional Manager for International Christian Concern (ICC), a Washington, DC-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide by providing awareness, advocacy, and assistance. For more information, contact Aidan Clay at firstname.lastname@example.org