News24

Egypt refers man who tore Bible to trial

2012-09-26 18:16

Cairo - Egyptian prosecutors referred to trial Tuesday a well-known radical Islamist who tore up an English copy of the Bible during a protest outside the US Embassy in Cairo against an anti-Islam film produced in the United States.

The case against Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah is a rare example of Egypt's blasphemy laws - often condemned by rights groups as restrictive of freedom - used against someone who allegedly insulted a religion other than Islam.

Abdullah, also known as Abu Islam, was filmed during a protest outside the embassy two weeks ago as he stood before the crowd and tore an English version of the Bible. "Next time I will urinate on it," he says in another video in an apparent reference to the holy book. Both videos were posted online.

The subject of the protest, the film Innocence of Muslims, has enraged many Muslims for its portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, a womaniser and a child molester. At least 51 people, including the US ambassador to Libya, have been killed in violence linked to protests over the film, which also has renewed debate over freedom of expression in the Middle East, US and in Europe.

Contempt towards "heavenly" religions - a term usually taken to include Christianity, Islam, and Judaism - is punishable by up to five years in Egypt. But lawyers and rights groups say the definition of contempt of religion is vague and has been used frequently against critics of Islam only, not other faiths.

In the wake of the anti-Islam video, many clerics and politicians in Egypt have called for an international law criminalizing contempt for religion. Egypt's new government, headed by Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, may be under pressure to show that it is applying Egypt's contempt law even handedly.

Critics say the recent moves are a retreat from freedoms gained during the uprising against Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. The contempt of religion laws were also used under Mubarak.

A prosecution official said Abdullah's son and a journalist who interviewed him afterwards were also referred to trial. The official spoke anonymously because he was not authorised to talk to the media.

Only eyes

Abdullah is known for having put together a new Islamic TV channel that is run primarily by women veiled from head to toe, with only their eyes showing. He is a frequent guest on other television channels.

He told The Associated Press he is not guilty of contempt to religion because he targeted the book of a specific group of Christians who have offended Islam.

"I had always wished to go to court to explain to the world that there is no such thing as the Bible. Every church in the West has its own holy book," he said.

He said his trial begins 30 September. The other two defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.

Another Egyptian, a Coptic Christian who had questioned both Islam and Christianity on his social networking pages, has also been referred to trial, which begins Wednesday, on charges of contempt to religion. Alber Saber was originally arrested in the wake of the anger of the offensive film, and accused of sharing it online.

The prosecutors didn't find the film on his web pages, but still prosecuted him for contempt. Another Coptic Christian was sentenced to six years in prison last week for insulting Islam and the president on his Facebook page.

"There seems to be a direction toward restricting freedoms," said Ahmed Ezzat, a human rights lawyer who is defending Saber.

Comments
  • The-Azanian - 2012-09-26 19:11

    For the future generation's welfare, there should come a time where we can draw the line between blackmail and religion...a religious script and a religion mean diffent things. Its like a map and a destination...tearing mauritius direction wont spell doom on the island.

  • zaatheist - 2012-09-26 19:40

    Its a book dammit! All these "scriptures" are pathetic poorly written contradictory works of fiction. No gods exist so blasphemy is a victimless crime.

  • SaintBruce - 2012-09-26 22:29

    The Bible is just 'logos' - words on a page. When those words get in your heart they become 'rhema' - revelation. To tear up a bible is futile - the book is not Holy, but the words from the Living God are life to your human spirit and salvation for your soul. There must be so much sectarianism in Egypt to warrant such a blasphemy law. It does not offend a true Christian as it is an exercise in futility. The anti-muslim movie was made by an Egyptian Coptic Christian as some form of protest over how his community is treated by dominant muslims in Egypt. I wonder how factual that part is? Anyway, the book is not the issue, believing the power of the words the Bible contains, is the message. Try tearing up a Qur'an in public and see the ensuing riot that will follow! Islam does not get it.

  • There is the Lamb - 2012-09-27 00:26

    A question to Muslims Will you continue to reject the 1600 year record of God to mankind, as revealed through all of the prophets and witnesses of that record, to instead follow the 23 year 7th century record, of a single "prophet" that had no fulfilled prophecy, that never performed a single miracle, and that not a single person ever heard Gabriel or Allah's voice give a "revelation" to? A man that was a murdering, pillaging, plundering, prisoner raping thief, as revealed through Islam's own books. Do you believe that is the kind of man God would send, to nullify His prior 1600 year record through all of the prophets, apostles and witnesses, that was closed 500 years before Mohammed was born? Would God send a man to present a message that is the exact opposite of the Gospel? A man that led his followers in the rituals of the Arabian Jinn religion and Star Family worship? Taken from http://www.formermuslims.com

  • ben.franklin.50596 - 2012-09-27 06:54

    Jesus would not agree with punishing someone for this if one is to believe the teachings ascribed to him. They are not protecting a religion because a religion cannot be harmed by such an act. It can only be harmed if it is false. And if it is false it cannot bear or allow criticism if it is to continue to exist. This is one of the ways you can tell which religions are worth following. I am an atheist myself but if the Egyptians think they are doing anyone, including Christians, a favor by doing this they clearly are having trouble with the whole modernity and civilization thingy.

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