Researcher and TV presenter Islam El-Beheiry stressed that he will continue his work through voicing his ideas on his show, even if it has to be aired on another channel.
He gave his first statement after his release during a televised phone call to the talk show 90 Minutes on privately-owned channel ONTV.
“What I’ve said before I was imprisoned is less critical than what I’m going to say after I was released,” he continued.
El-Beheiry was serving a one-year prison sentence on charges of contempt of religion, after questioning the authenticity of Sunni religious texts. The original five-year sentence issued on 30 November 2015 was reduced in December 2015.
El-Beheiry’s televised call came after a talk show guest and member of parliament Mahmoud Attia criticised the researcher’s release and his ideas in general, saying: “he distorted religion.”
The talk show was discussing reactions to the presidential pardon of 82 detainees and assessing the concept of the Detained Youth Committee. MPs from the parliamentary Human Rights Committee and director of the Tiba Centre for Political Research and Political Studies Khaled Raafat were also guests on the show.
El-Beheiry started his statements by praising the pardon, saying that it was a victory for intellectuals. He was among the 82 prisoners pardoned by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Thursday. Those released were from the Detained Youth Committee’s first list of suggested prisoners and detainees submitted to the presidency to be potentially pardoned.
Some religious figures rejected his release, as they believed that the researcher deserved to complete the remaining 40 days of his prison sentence.
According to media reports, Aboud El-Zomor, an Islamist involved in the killing of former president Anwar El-Sadat, said: “if the pardon included those who distorted Islam under the pretext of freedom of opinion, we should first release all prisoners that have a different political ideology, such as activists and Muslim Brotherhood members.”
Others believed that it was not necessary to include El-Beheiry in the list, as he was already going to be released after one month. He responded to these statements by saying that he rejects them as the pardon came as a gesture of respect for intellectuals.
In many of his episodes, scholar and TV presenter El-Beheiry provided video clips of famous and respected Salafi preachers, criticising their religious arguments. His programme was suspended after several warnings from Al-Azhar and officials at the state-controlled Media Production City. Azhar students and clerks often criticised the researcher’s ideas.
El-Beheiry focused on critcising Sahih Al-Bukhari—a collection of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad. The collection, which is heavily relied on by both Sunni officials and Salafi groups, was compiled by Abu Abdullah Al-Bukhari, a Persian Islamic scholar who lived in the ninth century.