Egypt’s top Islamic authority visited a well-known bookshop in central Cairo last week, telling it to halt sales of the book “Blasphemy in Egypt” by two prominent Egyptian authors.
“Officials representing Al-Azhar and the Egyptian Ministry of Islamic Endowments visited Madbouli Bookshop and asked them to stop selling the book ‘Blasphemy in Egypt’ by Hamdi Assiouty and Magdi Khalil because it is anti-Islam,” the Middle East Freedom Forum (MEFF) said in a statement.
Because religious officials threatened the bookshop with “unspecified actions”, Coptic Solidarity reported, the authors withdrew the book at the bookshop’s request.
Responding on his Facebook page, Coptic political activist Khalil said that the book he co-authored with Muslim human rights lawyer Assiouty was the first book in Arabic to examine Egypt’s blasphemy issues in detail.
Under vague provisions in the Egyptian penal code, the derision of any “heavenly religion” (Islam, Judaism or Christianity) is punishable by law. But the statutes have been used almost exclusively against Coptic Christians for alleged disrespect of Islam.
Khalil said that the book was published with an ISBN by the MEFF’s registered publishing house. “We consider what was done by Al-Azhar in Egypt an infringement of the law on freedom of thought, creativity and publishing,” he wrote.