05/16/2022 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Egypt’s 1981 blasphemy law, noted in Article 98 (f) of the Penal Code, criminalizes the “defamation of religions” and “ridiculing or insulting a heavenly religion.” Though technically protecting the slander of the three Abrahamic faiths—Christianity, Islam, and Judaism—the majority of those charged under the law are Christians. The vague wording of the law allows accusers and judges to manipulate charges against those with whom they disagree.
Though Egypt’s blasphemy law does not allow for the death penalty, as in other Middle Eastern countries, convictions can carry a sentence of six months to five years. However, history has shown that it may take years before Egypt’s legal system hands down a verdict.
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Authorities held human rights activist and Coptic Christian Patrick Zaki, in pretrial detention for nearly two years before his release earlier this year. Zaki still faces trial for “spreading false news” regarding an article he wrote detailing the discrimination he faced in his daily life as a Coptic in Egypt. In another case, a Christian who posted an image of God, the angel Gabriel, and a verse from the Quran on Facebook was sentenced to prison for 27 months. Egyptian authorities and courts held him for 544 days later than his originally scheduled release date. For some, persecution comes as a result of merely speaking their mind about the reality of life for Christians.
For others, the blasphemy laws in Egypt allow for the fabrication of charges against Christians, with the accuser knowing that the legal system favors them. Maher, who is currently imprisoned on blasphemy charges, had his Facebook hacked just days after a disagreement with his employer, the mayor. His profile showed an image of a sheep and the prophet Mohammed, leading locals to attack Maher’s house and sons. Authorities released Maher’s attackers soon after the incident. Courts later convicted Maher on blasphemy charges, leaving his wife and children alone and vulnerable to the enraged community.
Social media makes Christians easy targets when radical acquaintances seek to persecute them. Egypt’s societal structure favors Islam, and although Christians comprise the largest minority in the country, Christians are unable to freely express their thoughts. Copts suffer unjustly under false blasphemy accusations and often bring additional hardship to any other Christians living in their community as extremists punish the community, not just the individual. Even still, the families of those accused of blasphemy must often relocate to safer neighborhoods, fearing retribution from radical neighbors.
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