Days after Mauritania sentences man to death for 'insulting Islam', Egypt to try female writer for similar offence

The cases confirm growing greater sensitivity toward material deemed to be blasphemous of Islam, and religion in general, in the Muslim world.

DAYS after Mauritania sentenced to death a Muslim man who wrote an article deemed blasphemous of Islam, Egypt’s prosecutor has referred a female writer to trial allegedly for a similar offence.

Fatima Naoot is accused of insulting Islam by criticising the slaughter of animals during a major religious festival, a judicial official said on Saturday.

In Mauritania Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed, aged in his late 20s, fainted when the ruling was read out late Wednesday in a court in Nouadhibou in the northwest of the country. He was revived and taken to prison.

 Mohamed has been in custody since January 2, after his arrest for an article he wrote that appeared briefly on several Mauritanian websites. 

His text challenged some decisions taken by Islam’s prophet Mohammed and his companions during holy wars, the source said on condition of anonymity. During his trial, the judge told Mohamed he was accused of apostasy “for speaking lightly of the Prophet Mohammed”.

‘Happy massacre’

 “Happy massacre,” Fatima Naoot wrote on her Facebook page in October during Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice.

Animals are slaughtered during Eid to commemorate the willingness of Abraham to fulfil God’s command to sacrifice his own son, although in the end God provided him with a sheep.

“Massacre committed by men over the past 10 centuries and followed by men each year with a smile,” Naoot wrote at the time.

“Annual massacre observed because of a nightmare of one (prophet) about his son…,” she wrote in Arabic.

“Although the nightmare has passed for the prophet and his son, each year helpless animals pay with their lives the price of this sacred nightmare.”

Naoot, who is Muslim, deleted her posts from Facebook after controversy erupted about them.

But a judicial official said on Saturday that she admitted during questioning that she had written them.

The 50-year-old columnist denied she had any intention to insult Islam, the official told AFP, adding she had also been charged with “making fun of the right to sacrifice”.

“It is the price paid by those who carry torches of enlightenment at every age,” Naoot wrote on Friday after having been informed of her trial which is due to start on January 28.

She said that in October she had posted messages on Facebook to congratulate Muslims for Eid al-Adha but “urged them to respect the offering and not humiliate it by flooding the ground with animal blood”.

Growing sensitivity

Egypt’s constitution outlaws insults against the three monotheist religions recognised by the state—Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

Earlier this year a female Coptic teacher was jailed for six months after parents of her students accused her of evangelising and insulting Islam.

In June, in a separate case a Coptic Christian man was sentenced to six years in jail for insulting Islam.

The cases confirm growing greater sensitivity toward material deemed to be blasphemous of Islam, and religion in general, in the Muslim world.

They also underline the risks that bloggers and writers, who now no longer have to overcome the censorship of editors in traditional media and can write undeterred online, face.

Faced with the growth of radical Islamist groups, governments in many Muslim nations seem eager to show they are not tolerant of alleged insults on Islam and its tenets, in order to reduce their vulnerability to extremist propaganda.


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