The renowned Coptic Orthodox priest Fr Makary Younan, and the Muslim scholar and cleric Sheikh Salem Abdel-Galiel are each facing charges of disdain of religion.
It started with Sheikh Abdel-Geliel, a former deputy minister for proselytisation at the Ministry of Religious Endowments, who also presented a daily religious programme “Muslims Ask” on ++al-Mehwar++ satellite channel since early 2016, saying that Christians are infidels and that Christianity is a ‘corrupt’ religion.
The following week, Fr Makary was asked during his weekly prayer meeting at St Mark’s cathedral in Azbakiyah, Downtown Cairo, to comment on Sheikh Abdel-Galiel’s remarks. The prayer meeting is televised live. Fr Makary replied that Christianity was a religion of love and forgiveness to all, even enemies. It was, he said, “a religion of purity of heart that did not embrace killing”. He said that Christianity came first to Egypt, and that Islam came later and spread through the sword.
A few days later, the lawyer Samir Sabry announced he was taking Fr Makary to court since his remark on Islam Islam spreading through the sword was tantamount to an insult. Mr Sabry later said he had withdrawn his case but it turned out he had not; the Cairo Misdemeanour Court set the date 23 September for a trial.
As to Sheikh Abdel-Galiel, he had already been taken to court by lawyer Naguib Gabrail, for his remarks against Christianity. Mr Gabrail said that the Sheikh’s remarks exposed disdain of the Christian religion, threatened national unity, disrupted public peace, and incited the killing of Christians. Even though Sheikh Abdel-Galiel had apologised to Christians for any pain his remarks might have caused, he insisted that he had just quoted the Qur’an and was not inciting their killing.
Hassan Rateb, the head of Mehwar, said that the cleric’s contract with the channel would be cancelled. He apologised to all “Christian brothers” in an official statement.
The Cairo Misdemeanour court has set 24 June as the date for Sheikh Abdel-Galiel’s trial.
Mr Gibrail has also filed another charge against Sheikh Abdullah Rushdi, Imam of al-Sayyida Nafisa Mosque, for insulting the Christian religion.
A number of prominent writers, journalists, and liberals have openly called for the lawyers to drop both cases, fearing that once a case is opened it would lead to arguments on the Christian and Muslim faiths, which is bound to deepen divides among Egyptians along religious lines.
18 June 2017