Hisham Al-Ghakh has reportedly been accused of contempt of religion for a poem in which he speaks about the five pillars of Islam. The move is part of a slew of recent contempt of religion cases in Egypt.
Independent news agency ONA reported that a lawyer named Salwa Al-Faresi filed a report with the public prosecutor on Tuesday, accusing the poet of distortion of Islam and misuse of religious symbols. Al-Ghakh however, claims he sent his lawyer to the public prosecution, only to be told that there’s no report, according to independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm. Daily News Egypt was unable to reach Al-Ghakh or Al-Faresi.
The poem in question is “Bonya Al-Insan Ala Khams” (Humans were built upon five pillars). In reference to the five obligatory acts (pillars) of Islam, Al-Ghakh describes “the five pillars of humans”, naming a woman as each of these pillars. He also makes a similar comparison to Al-Kabba, Muslims’ most sacred place on earth, and describes himself performing a pilgrimage to women.
Al-Faresi cited a fatwa issued by Al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Centre in May against Al-Ghakh in her report, according to ONA.
Numerous cases of contempt of religion have been recently filed, ranging from the case of Albier Saber, the political activist charged with sharing the trailer of the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims, to the couple of Coptic children temporarily detained last week for defacing the Quran, and most recently a girl in Sharkeya accused by her mother of contempt of religion.
Article 160, Article 161, and Article 98 clause A, of the penal code state contempt of religion to be a crime punishable by six months to five years in prison, alongside a monetary fine. Some however, wish the punishment for contempt of religion to be even harsher.
“The articles are not deterrent, neither are they enough for international legal prosecution” said Nageh Abdel Sabour Abdel Rahim, general director of the Scientific Group for Legal Services and Studies (SGLSS). SGLSS drafted a law in 2008 amending the penal code to toughen punishment for contempt of religion. This draft law was submitted by Khaled Zardak, the head of the religious committee in the 2005-2010 Peoples’ Assembly.
Emad Mubarak, director of The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), believes that harsher punishments for contempt of religion would be “disastrous.” “It would lead to a huge wave of intellectual terrorism,” he said.
AFTE has been calling for the cancellation of contempt of religion laws. “Those articles criminalise opinion and I see it as an insult to any religion… religion is a right and a means of expression.”