Government officials in Egypt's parliamentary Committee on Religion drafted a proposed law on January 4, 2018 that would make atheism illegal. Spearheaded by committee leader Amr Hamroush, this potential law would allow atheists to be arrested and severely punished. In recent years, atheism has begun to grow, and Egyptian officials are desperate to put a stop to it.

Drafting the bill

The draft currently consists of four articles. The first defines what atheism is. The second makes atheism a criminal act and imposes extreme punishments on those found guilty.

The third states that penalties may be dropped if the atheist eschews his/her belief, and the fourth ensures the severity of the punishment for atheists. Hamroush is supposedly discussing potential penalties with Al-Azhar scientists.

Blasphemy laws

In 1982, a blasphemy law was introduced into the Egyptian penal code. This law stipulates that any person who spreads ideas of discord or disdain towards any monotheistic religion may cause harm to national unity and can be imprisoned for a minimum of six months and up to a maximum of five years. Under this law, atheists are commonly convicted and sent to prison.

Arresting atheists

Dar al-Iftaa reported in October 2014 that the number of atheists in Egypt had risen to 866.

With a population of over 87 million, this number is minuscule. Recent statistics released by the Egyptian Family Court showed that 6,500 women had filed for divorce in 2015 due to their husbands renouncing Islam and becoming atheists.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights reported that 42 people had been arrested for atheism from 2011 to 2013, but only 27 were convicted.

In November 2014, Karim Ashraf Mohamed al-Banna, a 21-year-old student, announced that he was an atheist on Facebook and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Targeting atheists did not stop on an individual level. Egyptian police raided a cafe that was owned by an atheist and forced the business to close its doors. Ibrahim Khalil, the 29-year-old administrator for an atheist Facebook page, was also arrested on December 29.

Since the revolution that unseated Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Egypt has seen an increase in young people demanding their freedom and basic human rights. With the recent crackdown on women, the LGBT community, and atheists, it does not appear that the Egyptian people will be gaining any of these freedoms anytime soon.