Blasphemy charges surge in Egypt

By May 28, 2013

Egypt (MNN) — As the blasphemy trial against a school teacher goes forward in Luxor, Egypt, scrutiny is increasing on the new government.

In the wake of the Revolution, it seems that the Brotherhood's Egypt has given rise to a wave of blasphemy charges against the country's minority Christians.

Abdel Nour's case (the teacher accused by three students of insulting Islam) is an example of an increasingly grim reality. Encouraged by the rise to power, it seems Islamists are taking advantage of the window and settling old scores.

Blasphemy cases occurred under former president Hosni Mubarak, too, but they have increased since the uprising that toppled him. Egypt's new constitution, drafted last year by an Islamist-led committee, criminalizes blasphemy, reinforcing a pre-existing law against insulting religions. George Makeen, Programming Manager for SAT-7  ARABIC, and himself an Egyptian, says, "Unfortunately, these laws that were designed to protect the religious and the dignity of different people like to encourage diversity in a way, so people don't attack each other. It's used more and more to present the political stress over people who might critique the regime, critique the government."

Makeen goes on to make another observation about the inequality in the way the law gets used. [Sic] "The question is: why is this law used against Christians and not used against some Muslims who, generally, on television, or in the streets, or in mosques, discriminate against Christians or say something or comment against their religion or holy books?"

Another unasked question is: how severe the "chilling effect" is on free speech. [Sic] "In a way, the whole society–not just Christians–is persecuted by such a law. It can be used to stop you being yourself or saying something that you think might lead the society forward, or comment on some religious leaders who say things that stop the society from going forward, or present a certain interpretation of religion that doesn't suit the logic or the common freedom that we all seek for."

That "chilling effect" seems to have silenced some believers who are concerned that they could be accused of blasphemy in making Truth claims about Jesus Christ. In fact, World Watch Monitor reported last month the flight of tens of thousands of Christians who have left Egypt since the revolution in 2011.

But what of ministries that espouse a biblical worldview? When asked if their production team has tailored their message or curbed their content in any way, Makeen says, "Our policy is very clear, with or without this law, that our attitude is not to critique or to discriminate against any other religion or any other group."

In fact, the situation has brought to light open discussion of the issue of personal freedoms and equality for all under law, using the teachings and example of Jesus. "Our way of thinking is very clear that we have the Truth, and we can present it, and the Truth itself can defend itself and can attract others. We don't need to critique others or attack them to prove that you're right or to prove what you have, especially when what you have is that ‘God loves everybody as he is or as she is.'"

That's an important part of the marketplace of ideas in Egypt. According to surveys carried out in 2008, 1.4% of Egypt's population of 80 million people regularly watches SAT-7. They're moving forward, utilizing SAT-7 Arabic's programming as a public forum in Egypt's birthing throes.

Pray that God will strengthen and embolden Christians in this time of political uncertainty and give them new opportunities to share the Gospel.

SAT-7 ARABIC, the flagship channel, offers a variety of dynamic programs designed to attract teen and adult viewers. Compelling dramas, lively quiz shows, and talk shows featuring relevant social and spiritual topics encourage repeat viewership.

Other formats include music videos, cartoons, news, comedies, worship services, Sunday school classes, and Bible studies. Makeen says, [Sic] "I pray that we, as a programming team, never lose the focus or never lose this leading truth: that we are here standing for everybody and that we have the hope that never fails."

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