Islamist who burned Bible to stand trial under Egypt’s blasphemy law

Originally published in barnabasaid

A high-profile Islamist cleric who destroyed a Bible during a protest against the anti-Islam film is to stand trial under Egypt’s blasphemy law.

Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah, also known as Abu Islam, was filmed tearing up and burning a Bible during a demonstration in front of the US Embassy in Cairo on 11 September. He threatened to urinate on it next time.

In a rare case of Egypt’s blasphemy laws being used against someone who insulted a religion other than Islam, Abdullah, his son Islam and a journalist from the independent newspaper Al-Tahrir, are charged with “insulting the Christian faith”.

Abdullah, who owns an Islamist television station, and his son are specifically accused of tearing up and burning a copy of the Bible. The cleric is also accused of making insulting comments about Christianity in an interview with the Al-Tahrir reporter.

Contempt towards “heavenly” religions, which are usually taken to include Islam, Christianity and Judaism, is punishable by up to five years in Egypt. The law is frequently used against critics of Islam but not those who censure other faiths.

As prominent figures in Egypt are among the Muslims around the world calling for an international law banning the defamation of religion, it has been suggested that Islamist President Mohammed Morsi is under pressure to demonstrate that his country’s blasphemy law is applied to insults against religions other than Islam.   

Meanwhile, Alber Saber, a man from a Christian family, is also being prosecuted under the law. He has been accused of sharing the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims online and insulting religions on his Facebook page. The 27-year-old computer science graduate was arrested on 13 September after an angry mob laid siege to his home. Saber’s mother, Kariman Ghabi, said the crowd were calling for her son’s head, adding, “You could hear them damning us to hell.”

While Saber has been held in custody ahead of his trial, Abdullah retained his freedom.

Christians in Egypt are fearful that Islamic anger over Innocence of Muslims could be vented against them.

Egyptian Christian activist Ramy Kamel said: “The film was a pretext for attacking Christians. [Christian] fears will rise as long as the state keeps silent about violations against us.”

They are especially vulnerable because of allegations that seven Egyptian Christians living in North America were behind the film. The public prosecutor in Egy

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