Egyptian Writer on Trial for Blasphemy

Published June 18th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

An Egyptian writer who described the Quran as a book of ignorance and blamed Islam for underdevelopment in Muslim countries has gone on trial in Cairo.  

The writer, Salaheddin Mohsen, has been charged with offending religion, according to a BBC.online report Sunday.  

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, which is monitoring the trial, said Mohsen has confessed to the charge.  

He could face several years in jail.  

According to the report, Mohsen is not at the moment well known in Egypt but that may well change now.  

He was arrested back in March after he privately published copies of a book in which he expounds his anti-religious views.  

The BBC said that the start of his trial comes at a sensitive time for freedom of expression in Egypt, just weeks after a major cultural confrontation over a novel by a Syrian writer, Haider Haider.  

Islamists said the book was blasphemous while many intellectuals argued it had been taken out of context.  

The difference here is that Mohsen has not only admitted to being an atheist, he is also reported to have called for the establishment of an Egyptian atheists' league - and that does not go down well in a conservative society.  

Some Egyptian intellectuals have accused Mohsen of being deliberately provocative in order to attract attention.  

But the head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, Hafez Abu Saada, was quoted as saying it was Mohsen's right to express himself freely.  

You can criticize what he writes, he said, but it should not go to the courts.  

Now that it has, however, lawyers have said that Mohsen will be extremely difficult to defend – Albawaba.com  

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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