Target: Egyptian Government Officials
Goal: Rewrite blasphemy laws in Egypt in order to limit extremism and protect religious minorities
Blasphemy laws in Egypt, rather than protecting religious liberty, have recently become justifications for penalizing religious minorities. Abuse of such sweeping laws has aggravated sectarian tensions between Egypt’s dominant Muslim population and its much smaller Coptic Christian community, suppressing both freedom of speech and religion.
Now, as the Egyptian government works to rewrite its constitution, many are pressing for stricter blasphemy laws. Egyptian officials must realize the danger such laws present to human rights, and rewrite them so as to protect minorities.
A recent case highlighting these laws’ sectarian injustices vilified two young Coptic Christian boys. Aged nine and ten, the two were arrested for allegedly ripping pages from a Koranic text and held for a night in a juvenile detention facility. While the arrest and detention of such young children seems extreme, news reports say that the two were also illiterate, raising questions about the youths’ intentionality behind the crime.
This incident follows closely on the heels of another; the sentencing of a Coptic Christian man to six years in prison for posting cartoons online that insulted the Prophet Muhammad and Egyptian President Morsi.
Freedom of religion and belief is a right guaranteed to all under international law and supported by the United Nations Human Rights Council. International human rights laws are meant to protect people not ideas. In this sense, Egypt’s blasphemy laws are failing—officials are able to use the sweeping language of the law to target minorities and attack them on, at times, absurd charges. In so doing, other basic rights—freedom of speech and expression—are denied and extremist groups are empowered at the expense of those who hold no influence.
Ask that Egyptian officials use this opportunity—the redrafting of their constitution—as a time to write new blasphemy laws that will protect the rights of all, regardless of religion or belief.
Dear Egyptian officials,
Freedom of religion and belief is a basic right guaranteed to all under international law and supported by the United Nations. Yet, I fear that this right is being abused in your country under the guise of blasphemy laws. Rather than protecting each individual’s right to express their own beliefs, these laws are targeting those individuals not of the dominant religion and impairing freedom of speech and expression for all. The recent bout of cases against Coptic Christians points to this truth.
I ask that you use this opportunity—the rewriting of your constitution—as a time to reassess your blasphemy laws. Certainly, freedom of religion is important to a democratic society. I ask that your new laws account for this and ensure the protection of this fundamental right for all.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: gr33ndata via Flickr