Egypt Jails Female Poet Fatima Naoot for Insulting Islam

Posted on January 27, 2016

Poet, author and former parliamentary candidate Fatima Naoot has been sentenced to three years in jail by an Egyptian court for the crime of insulting Islam. Ms. Naoot was arrested for writing a Facebook post in which she criticized the mass slaughter of animals during the religious festival of Eid al-Adha. Reuters reports that in the post she condemned the mass animal killing as a "massacre committed by human beings".

The festival celebrates the story of the Prophet Abraham who was commanded by God to sacrifice his young first-born son, Ismail, to prove his submission to God. Abraham was about to kill his son when God stopped him and gave him a lamb to sacrifice instead. The story is also well-known to Jews and Christians as it is told in the Old Testament.

Ms. Naoot wrote about the massive animal sacrifices in the newspaper El-Masry El-Youm in which she said, "[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 sacred nightmare."

During her trial, Ms. Naoot admitted that she wrote the posts, but denied that she had any intent to insult Islam. She testified that men indulge their lust for killing and then try to justify it with a religious explanation. After hearing her sentence she told Agence France Press, "I'm not sad about the sentencing as I don't care about going to jail. I'm sad that the efforts of reformists have been wasted." Ms Naoot will appeal the decision from behind bars.

In December, an Egyptian court sentenced Muslim scholar Islam al-Behairy to prison for insulting Islam. Al-Behairy had his own television show called With Islam which aired on the private satellite channel Al-Kahera Wel Nas. Behairy is known for questioning modern interpretations of ancient Islamic texts and questioned various teachings. On the show al-Behairy called for reform of "traditional Islamic discourse." The backlash was immediate and brutal. He lost his show and was arrested. He was sentenced to 5 years, but eventually got the sentence reduced to one year. Egypt's constitution Egypt's constitution states that "freedom of belief is absolute" and the government affirms that Egypt has freedom of speech. But since the removal of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 arrests of writers are on the rise.

Writers are regularly jailed in many countries for speaking their minds or daring to question orthodoxy. Turkey is notorious for jailing writers for "insulting Turkishness" or insulting Islam. China has stepped up its crackdown on writers who publish articles and books critical of the government. Freedom of speech is a rare and precious thing in the world today -- and writers are paying the price for speaking out. You can still see Ms. Naoot's Facebook page here.

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