Book objecting to double standard over 'heavenly' religions banned in Egypt
The book Egypt's Islamist experts banned dares to speak the truth about the unequal treatment accorded the three 'heavenly' religions: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. While Islamists freely denigrate Christianity and Judaism, those who voice criticism of Islamic teachings can face imprisonment under the nation's religious denigration laws.
Distaining of a Heavenly Religion
From Advocates For The Persecuted
August 23, 2008: Egyptian human rights attorney Nabil Ghobreyal has coined a new name for the Committee of Islamic Researchers in Egypt. He calls them the "Inquisition Courts of the Middle Ages," after they issued a decision to forbid the distribution of the book, Disdaining of a Heavenly Religion!!, published in January 2007.
The title of the 226-page book mimics the wording of the accusation detailed in the Egyptian penal code Article 98(f), which is used to prosecute anyone who defames or disdains a "heavenly religion." According to the 2007 Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, "There is continued prosecution in state security courts and imprisonment for those accused of 'unorthodox' Islamic religious beliefs or practices that insult the three 'heavenly religions': Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Article 98(f) of the Penal Code, which prohibits citizens from 'ridiculing or insulting heavenly religions or inciting sectarian strife,' has been applied to prosecute alleged acts by purportedly 'unorthodox' Muslims."
Article 98(f) is one of the main laws in Egypt used to arrest Muslim converts to Christianity, as well as to stop those seeking the freedom to distribute books and other media that promote ideas Islamists may find disagreeable.
"The decision to ban the book is a declaration that the committee is using a double standard, as they are permitting books that disdain other religions," said Ghobreyal.
The banned book makes the point that Christianity, also recognized as a heavenly religion in Egypt, suffers from public denigration by Islamists. The book includes quotes from the writings of famous Muslim scholars who speak against Christianity. They include: Sayed Kotob, Mohamed Emara, Yousuf El Qaradawy, Bin Taymeya, El Tabary, and Ibn Baz.
According to Ghobreyal, the committee that examined the book made the decision to ban it in Egypt because the book’s author claimed, in his introduction, that the Muslim majority in Egypt conveys an attitude of superiority over the Christian minority; and that the author considered the second article of Egypt's constitution, which affirms that Islamic law will be the main source of legislation for Egypt, to be "a sword on the neck of the legal system and state counselors."
The committee was also disturbed by the author's note, at the end of the book, which they said conveys the author’s intention to publish a sequel, consisting of writings against Islam.
The book's front and back covers contain a list of quotes by famous Muslim scholars asserting:
"Christians are polytheists, worshipping God and other Gods at the same time." (Bin Taymeya)
"People of the Book (Christians and Jews) are debauched and profligate the message of God. The proof of their debauchery is that they don’t believe in the last message (the revelation given to Mohammed), even though it confirms the message they already had, but not the one they corrupted.” (Sayed Kotob)
"Killing people of the Book is a requirement, as God rewards those who kill them twice. It is acceptable to hire non-Muslims in case of necessity, but not for positions of authority. (Hassan El Banah)
"If a Muslim shakes hands with a Christian or Jew or any other infidel, then his washing, or purity, is still valid, but he doesn't have to salute them first." (Abdel Aziz Ibn Baz)
"The infidelity of Jews and Christians is so obvious for any Muslim, even those with the least knowledge of Islam. The Whole Ummah [community of Muslims], with their different denominations, agrees on this. None of them doubt the infidelity of Christians and Jews and all those who refuse to believe in Mohammed. This is one fact that is accepted both theoretically and practically, without the need for more proof." (Yousuf El Qaradawy)
"The standard by which to rule is Islamic Law, and Coptic Christians must pay the Jyzya [taxes imposed under Sharia law for non-Muslims], instead of serving in the military in order to prevent them from taking the side of the enemy in the case of a war against a Christian nation." (Mostafa Mashhour)
Vetting ideas is critical to sustaining a peaceful culture
It's doubtful that the public banning of this book will stop a small, but flourishing underground press now at work in the Middle East.
The human spirit aspires to share ideas with others. In the Middle East, ideas about freedom are spreading despite the censorship of governments and religious leaders seeking to stop unapproved ideas.
It is preferable for Middle Easterners to be able to freely distribute tracts, newspapers and magazines without fear of arrest, because ideas held up to the light of a vigorous and healthy public debate guard against extremism in a culture.
In the meantime, advocates for freedom should be grateful there are brave people willing to do what it takes to peacefully convince fellow citizens that tolerance of another’s religion is a virtue, not a sin.