CAIRO: The Egyptian Writers’ Union condemned the campaign launched against secular writer and thinker Sayed Al-Qimni after he received the State Merit Award in Social Sciences earlier this year.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the union denounced “attacks in the name of religion, and which the religion is completely innocent of . Islam only knows peaceful negotiations, the Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported.
The union said it supports freedom of thought and expression and considers it the only way to the development of knowledge and conscience, in addition to being a basic human right.
Religious, social and political groups launched an aggressive campaign against Al-Qimni last week, demanding that he be stripped of the state award.
The union’s statement also condemned those who terrorize intellects and writers and want to stifle creativity and innovation and promote ignorance.
The union, however, maintained that it is not taking sides, nor does it follow a particular school of thought or ideology.
Al-Qimni was awarded the State Merit Award in Social Sciences, along with LE 200,000, by Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni earlier this month.
Dubbed “an infidel by some, 62-year-old Al-Qimni is known for his controversial writings that challenge traditional religious beliefs. Most of his academic work focused on three areas: the comparative studies of religions, studies of Islamic history and studies of contemporary and modern sciences.
His award-winning book “The Hashemi Party caused the Egyptian Islamic Legislation Authority to declare that his ideas verge on apostasy, thus declaring him an infidel. The authority is also contesting the award.
In this book, Al-Qimni claimed that Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) married the wealthy widow Khadija for financial security after deceiving her father.
Al-Qimini previously told Daily News Egypt that he is not threatened by the campaign launched against him. “It reflects their argument’s weakness and their inability to cope with secular thought and hold a scientific and civilized dialogue.
Renowned novelist Gamal El-Ghitani, who authored historical novels as well as cultural and political commentaries, asserts that social and political groups in the country are imposing their views on society.
“Nowadays the real censorship body in Egypt is not the government but other groups, because technically there is no censorship on books in Egypt.
However these groups, as part of their battle with the state, put restrictions of freedom of expression and thought, said the editor-in-chief of the literary periodical Akhbar Al-Adab.
“This no doubt affects the thoughts and creativity of the writer especially when it comes to threatening a person’s life, consequently the author will think twice about what he or she is writing even if it might be unconsciously, he explained.
On the other hand, in his column in independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, author and scriptwriter Belal Fadl described Al-Qimni as “a hoax, saying he should not have been awarded by the state.
Fadl wrote that freedom of thought doesn’t mean misinterpreting religion and attacking the prophets as these are divine concepts. He called for a balanced response to Al-Qimini’s writings, criticizing the extreme ideas on either side of the argument, whether religious or secular.