Egypt is hardly known as a haven for religious freedom, even after the military deposed the Muslim Brotherhood leadership. But it appears that things may be about to get worse as the Sisi government prepares for a crackdown on atheists in that country.
Labelling Egyptian atheists as terrorists might be just a bit too confusing because the Sisi regime has already allocated the Muslim Brotherhood to the terrorism slot.
Instead, the government is preparing to launch “a national plan to confront the phenomenon of atheism”.
Atheists have become increasingly visible in Egypt since the 2011 revolution and have been using social media to explain their point of view. For example, one Egyptian atheist, Ismail Mohamed, presents a regular talk show on YouTube called Black Ducks.
Since the military takeover in Egypt last year, the official line has been to regard atheism as a social problem, much like crime or drug-taking, and to blame it on the Muslim Brotherhood for giving Islam a bad name…
Not to be outdone – and despite the fact that atheism is not actually illegal in Egypt – the head of Alexandria’s Security Directorate also told the programme he was forming a task force of police officers specialised in tackling such “crimes” to round up atheists…
According to al-Ahram, the forthcoming national plan to “confront and eliminate” atheism in Egypt is being developed by the Ministry of Youth and Sports. This may seem odd, but atheism in the Arab countries is often viewed as a “problem” that temporarily affects young people, until they eventually see sense. (A Saudi atheist in his late forties recently told me that his family are still assuming he will grow out of it.)
Al-Ahram reports that the “phenomenon of atheism” has been discussed by Ne’mat Sati from the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Dr Ahmed Turk from the Ministry of Awqaf and Dr Majid Ayad, a professor of artificial intelligence. The newspaper says this was the second in a series of meetings to prepare the national plan.
The plan, apparently, will be multi-faceted, involving “religious, psychological, educational and social” specialists.
This is not good news for Albert Saber, Ben Baz and many other Egyptian atheists who live in constant fear already.