Azhar denounces 'sheikh' who described the Bible as 'pornographic'

Joseph Fahim
9 Min Read

CAIRO: Ahmed Abou Al-Magd, lawyer, filed a complaint to the public attorney against Sheikh Mohamed Hassan for describing the Bible as pornographic.

Sheikh Hassan claimed the Bible was a fabricated document that includes pornographic language, Al-Masry Al-Youm daily reported.

But Ibrahim Nagm, media spokesperson for Egypt s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, told The Daily Star Egypt that Sheikh Mohamed Hassan is one of those satellite TV sheikhs who is neither affiliated with Al-Azhar nor Dar El-Ifta, Egypt s authorized fatwa house.

Dar El-Ifta has no legal authority or responsibility over what Sheikh Hassan was claiming, Nagm added.

According to Al-Masry Al-Youm lawyer Abou Al-Magd demanded a criminal case against Hassan and which could have him sentenced to a prison term with the charge of contempt for religion.

Gamal Eid, executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, told The Daily Star Egypt that he was following up on the case of Hassan s taped sermons where he made the offensive remarks, but that he rejects the way the issue is being handled.

Eid indicated that he is against jail sentences for expressing an idea or opinion on any matter. Although he acknowledges the existence of discrimination against Christians, he believes there should be different ways to solve it.

Words should be fought by words not by criminal cases and jail sentences, Eid told lawyers who asked his opinion on the matter.

His advice was to launch a media campaign to denounce discrimination against Christianity, to give Christians the space to answer back and express their feelings as well as take a stand against the fanatic sheikhs.

Nagm too rejects the jail sentence but believes that freedom of expression has regulations that should be abided by so as not to cause offence.

He emphasized that only authorized Sheikhs should be eligible to issue fatwas and that any matter related to religious affairs should only be discussed among scholars and experts.

“Not just anyone should be allowed to state his opinions on matters about which they lack the required experience and knowledge, he added.

Father Morqos Aziz, the patron of the Hanging Church of Misr El Adeema, believes that the roots of problem lie in the government s reluctance to take any affirmative action against the extremists and Muslim figures that constantly bombard Christianity and Christians with offensive, obscene messages.

We [Christians] feel that order is in the intensive care room, Father Aziz told The Daily Star Egypt. In the past, those who insulted any religion were punished and prosecuted. Nowadays, anyone is given leeway to insult Christians whenever, wherever.

He cited the complaint he filed with the head of Egyptian Union for Human Rights Organizations (EUHRO), Naguib Michael, against the Muslim intellectual Mohamed Emara months ago concerning his book “The Controversy of Atheism.

In the book, Emara describes Christians as non-believers and says they should be treated financially and socially as such.

The public prosecutor never responded and the officials kept stalling the case, he said. They even called him first to listen to his testimony before us and no development has taken place with our complaint since then.

Father Aziz believes that the voice of Christians is still unheard in the mainstream, media and that the government-run Nile Sat doesn t contain a single outlet for Christians to express their beliefs or respond to similar attacks.

Nile Sat contains stations like Iqra or El Ahmadeya that always insult Christians and the government never cared to stop them.

The only solution to end these slurs, he says, is a firm law that punishes those who cross the limits. He doubts, though, that such a law could be implemented any time soon.

Father Aziz warns however that Muslims shouldn t use Father Zakareya, the notorious priest whose Satellite TV show has outraged millions of Muslims by attacking the Holy Quran and the Islamic doctrine as a pretext for Hassan’s actions.

Zakareya has been dismissed by the Pope and he s no longer part of the Coptic Orthodox church, he stated. You can t blame the Pope or the Church for Zakareya just like you can t blame Mubarak or Egypt for the actions of Ayman El Zawahiri.

Mena Reda, a fifth year medical student believes that the danger of the comments of Hassan and his ilk lie in the clear contempt that stirs the sectarian conflicts between Muslims and Christians.

I don t mind if people don t believe in my own faith or deem the Bible to be a work of fiction, Reda told The Daily Star Egypt. What I mind is being treated based on the way people judge my religion. That s what makes us [Christians] really angry.

Reda said that the Muslim community can t expect Christians to disregard such remarks at a time when the defamatory Danish cartoons incident still rings in the memory.

I m no less religious than the millions of Muslims who reacted with such ferocity to the cartoons, he said. Of course I m enraged and anyone excepting us to react otherwise is a hypocrite.

Reda agrees with Father Aziz that an unyielding law should be issued and implemented to stop future conflicts. However, he believes that Christians now have more space in the media than ever to express their views and defend themselves.

You never used to see a priest on a terrestrial TV station and now you do, he said.

The problem with Christians now is that they re still fearful about the consequences of voicing their opinion and that s why our [Christian] issues and beliefs aren t articulated correctly, he added.

Sectarian clashes between Christians and Muslims has reached its peak, observers say. A week ago a sectarian clash in El-Damoud village in Luxor was reported to have taken place, leaving 13 men and women injured after a fight over the ownership of a piece of land.

This clash was the third of its kind after the sectarian clashes in Alexandria, which made headline news in both Al-Masry Al-Youm and Al-Dostour newspapers.

The clashes came one month after the Al Ayyat sectarian incident that took place on Friday May 11 in Bamha, leaving 11 Christians injured and 35 Muslims arrested.

Hosam Bahgat, president of Egyptian initiative of Personal Rights told The Daily Star Egypt in a previous interview that Egypt is witnessing what he described as a serious escalation that could only get worse.

There is no easy answer to the sectarian issue, says Bahgat. “The first step is for the government to stop providing cosmetic solutions and begin addressing the causes that lie in the laws and policies for the problem to be solved.

The timing of the clashes, says Bahgat, is not surprising as it is the [accumulation] of two decades of persistent failure by the government to address the problem of sectarianism in society.

The double standards that exist in laws, media and education that discriminate between Christians and Muslims is the reason behind the increase of these incidents, he added.

As the first and only practical move towards solving the sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians, the National Council for Human Rights held a roundtable talk to discuss the laws regulating permission to build churches and mosques.

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