Egyptian writer Fatima Naoot sentenced to 3 years in jail for ‘contempt of religion’

El-Sayed Gamal El-Din , Tuesday 26 Jan 2016

The sentence is effective immediately but the ex-parliamentary candidate holds right to file an appeal while in prison

Fatima Naoot
Writer Fatima Naoot (Photo: Courtesy of Fatima Naoot Facebook page)

Writer Fatima Naoot was sentenced on Tuesday to three years in prison and fined LE20,000 (over $2550) after being found guilty of contempt of religion, the second public figure to receive a jail term in less than a month for charges related to blasphemy.

The jail sentence is effective immediately, meaning the ex-candidate for parliament is set to be arrested and incarcerated. Naoot, however, will be able to lodge an appeal from behind bars.

In October, she described in a post on her Facebook account Eid Al-Adha's tradition of slaughtering sheep as the "greatest massacre committed by human beings."

"[It's] a yearly massacre because a good man once had a nightmare about his good son, and although the nightmare has passed for the good man and his son, the [sheep] pay their lives as a price for that holy nightmare," Naoot also wrote in an article in the daily El-Masry El-Youm.

During questioning, Naoot, an outspoken secular figure, admitted writing the Facebook post but denied that her aim was to insult Islam. Naoot argued that humans justified their lust for killing and enjoying the smell of cooking game by attempting to bestow a divine meaning to their actions.

Eid Al-Adha is the second major religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide each year.

It honours the willingness of the prophet Abraham to sacrifice his young first-born son Ismail as an act of submission to God’s command, before God intervened to provide Abraham with a lamb to sacrifice instead.

Late in December, Egyptian authorities put TV host Islam Behery in prison after a court reduced an earlier five-year sentence against him over charges of "contempt of religion" to one year in connection with the content of his now-suspended TV programme.

Behery, an Islamic researcher, stirred controversy by providing his understanding of Islamic doctrine and questioning the credibility of some the sources of Prophet Muhammad's sayings, a prime source of Islamic jurisprudence.

Legislation that criminalises disdain of religion dates back to the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

The law, added in 1982 to the penal code, stipulates prison sentences of six months to five years and fines of LE500 to LE1000 for anyone who uses religion to promote, through speech, writing, or any other medium, extremist ideas with the aim of spreading discord or to belittle one of the monotheistic religions or their different sects, or to harm national unity.

Application of the law significantly rose under the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) 2011-2012 and ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi 2012-2013.

A report issued by the Egyptian Initiative on Personal Rights (EIPR) in September 2013 revealed that since the 25 January 2011 revolution until the end of 2012, a total of 63 citizens, both Muslims and Christians, were charged with contempt for religion.

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