Law akin to blasphemy law won’t change

By May 17, 2011

Egypt (MNN) — Egypt's ongoing revolution is changing the political and perhaps even social atmospheres of the country. One change that it seems will not be made, however, relates to religious freedom.

In Article 98 of the Egyptian constitution, citizens are warned against anything that would charge them with "defaming a heavenly religion" or "insulting Islam."

Open Doors, USA states that in theory, the law is meant to discourage people from offending others' religious sensitivities. Instead, it's often misused similarly to the way blasphemy laws are in Pakistan.

Article 98 is technically not an anti-blasphemy law, Open Doors noted in a recent prayer release. But many Christians and non-orthodox Muslims may feel otherwise.

Forty-five-year-old Ashraf Thabet began investigating Islam more closely after life took a downward economic spiral. As he searched for a deeper meaning within his religion, he eventually fell down in surrender to Christ. When he began expressing his new faith to others, however, Thabet found that Egypt's State Security Intelligence service was watching him.

In March 2010, Thabet was dragged to prison under the accusation that he had violated Article 98. He spent 132 days in solitary confinement, yet was never actually brought to court.

Many others have fallen victim to the country's near blasphemy law, including Christians, Islamic Shia, and even Sunnis who have expressed non-conformist opinions. Others have been accused of religious defamation for doing no more than exploring non-orthodox ideas about religion.

The law may not be a hard and fast blasphemy law, but it's similarly abused. Pakistan has provided the prime example for what happens when such laws get taken too far. Dozens have died as a result of Pakistan's blasphemy law–most recently, two major government figures who dared question the law.

Egypt is in a time of transition, but it looks like the country's policy won't budge on this particular issue. Pray that believers would brace themselves, use wise judgment, and be bold in sharing their faith. Open Doors asks: "Pray that believers would be put in places of influence and therefore begin to affect and infiltrate the Muslim-dominated culture."

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