12/28/2017, 14.21
EGYPT

Islamic parliamentarian wants to criminalize atheism. Fr. Rafic: Political liberticide

The vice-president of the commission for religious affairs wants to punish an “erroneous" phenomenon that insults "the Abrahamic religions". The proposal supported by high ranking figures in al-Azhar. Spokesperson Catholic Church: "wrong" norm that affects personal liberties. Christmas celebrations "without incidents", but "the alert remains high".

Cairo (AsiaNews) - A "wrong" norm resulting from a "politicized" campaign that aims to strike "freedom of thought, conscience and religion", values ​​that represent "an absolute good" not only for Christians, but for the whole population.  This is the opinion of Fr. Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, commenting to AsiaNews on the bill proposed by a Muslim parliamentarian who wants to criminalize atheism. In a nation of almost 95 million people with a large Muslim majority (Coptic Christians are about 10%), the number of atheists is around two million and come mostly from Muslim families.

The amendment presented bears the signature of Amr Hamroush, vice-president of the Committee on Religious Affairs; he has denounced a phenomenon "widespread in society under the guise of freedom of thought, but which in reality is totally wrong".

Hamroush has already received the support of the Islamic fundamentalist wing and the university of al-Azhar, the most important Sunni institution in the world. Not only do they believe that atheists "must be prosecuted" by law, the also must be considered in the same way as those who "despise religion", because "they do not have a doctrine and try to insult the Abrahamic religions".

The promoter of the law states that there are no "legal obstacles" to its introduction "in a short time" into the legal system of the country. The code, he continues, already provides for the indictment of those who deny the existence of God in public. Moreover, the law does not contrast constitutional principles because it does not violate religious freedom.

A senior exponent of al-Azhar has backed the proposed law. Mohamed Zaki, head of the International Islamic Council for Da'wah and Relief, stresses that "it is necessary to enact laws that deter people from violating the natural instincts of man" and "to punish those who are seduced by atheism". The Islamic leader states that "the deterrent must be hard" to "prevent" the "poisonous thought spreading among Muslims and young people".

Human rights activists and civil society personalities have harshly criticized the law as contrary to constitutional dictates. An opinion also shared by the spokesman of the Egyptian Catholic Church, who fears the law may end up punishing personal thought and expression. "There are about two million atheists and they are considered a threat, so they want to repress their freedom of conscience".

Fr. Rafic continues: "We Catholics reiterate strongly that there must be freedom of conscience and religion for all. No one has the right to impose their thoughts on others". In reality, he adds, there is an attempt to "politicize" an issue concerning the personal sphere for obvious electoral purposes and consensus. "Some want to show that they are on the side of religion".

The priest concludes with a general overview of the situation in Egypt, hit in the last year by a series of attacks that have also involved the Christian community. The escalation of violence had also led to fears for the cancellation of Pope Francis’ visit to Egypt last April. However, the pontiff respected the program meeting with the president of the Republic al-Sisi, the great imam of al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayeb, and celebrated a mass in front of tens of thousands of faithful."The Catholic Christmas took place amid heavy security measures, but there were no incidents and the churches were crowded with believers," he concludes. "Now there is expectation and hope so that even the celebrations of the Coptic Orthodox Church can be held regularly. The alarm levels are high, an attempt at attack can never be ruled out. "(DS)

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