31 December 2015

Egypt TV host jailed for thought crime

Egyptian TV presenter Islam Beheiry left court in handcuffs on Monday to begin a one-year prison sentence for thought crime. He had been convicted of "defaming" religion by calling for reform in Islam – a call previously made by no lesser figure than President Sisi himself.

In comparison with Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes, 10 years in jail and a fine of one million riyals ($266,000) on similar charges, Beheiry's sentence is relatively mild and for that reason his case is unlikely to attract much international attention. Nevertheless, it is an important case.

At one level it is yet another example of Egypt's notorious hesba system which allows religious busybodies to initiate prosecutions against people they disagree with or disapprove of. At a different level, though, it can be viewed as part of a wider battle to keep discourse about religion in the hands of those who claim to know best – the religious and political authorities. [al-bab.com] Read more