from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Is "Insulting the President" or Converting to Christianity a Crime?

January 23, 2013

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Is "Insulting the President" a crime? How about converting to Christianity?

Both are crimes in Egypt today.

A new report by the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, entitled "The Crime of Insulting the President: A Crime of an Authoritarian Regime," tells us how many times this law has been invoked since its adoption in 1909--when the crime was "insulting the king."

Hosni Mubarak invoked the law in only four cases in all his thirty years ruling Egypt. King Farouk, who ruled for sixteen years, invoked it only 7 times. But Mohammed Morsi, who has ruled for only 200 days, has already won the prize by invoking it in 24 cases. He has used this law to crush dissent more in 200 days than previous rulers used it in 115 years.

This is a striking example of the way in which Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are ruling Egypt, and should give pause to those who believe the Brotherhood can be won over to a belief in democracy and respect for human rights.

As to religious freedom, consider the case of Nadia Mohamed Ali. Born a Coptic Christian, she converted to Islam upon marrying a Muslim. After his death she has sought to return to Christianity. For this crime she has just received a 15-year prison sentence. The State Department response is this: “We are deeply concerned with Egyptian laws that infringe on an individual’s universal right to choose his or her religion and call upon the Egyptian government to promote and protect universal freedoms, including freedom of religion, for all its citizens.”

If the United States is acting behind the scenes to get the government of Egypt to overturn this sentence, such restrained language is understandable. If delivering that statement is all we are doing, it is very far from adequate. When Secretary Clinton visited Egypt last summer a number of Christian leaders refused to meet with her, to protest what they saw as an American tilt to the Brotherhood and  failure to help them protect their civil liberties. That statement with its "deeply concerned" language, issued while the United States proceeds with massive amounts of military and economic aid to the new Brotherhood regime, will not change the minds of regime leaders. Yesterday four new F-16s left the United States for Egypt, to be followed later this year by 200 tanks. Nadia Mohamed Ali would be forgiven for wondering how much we care about her conviction for the "crime" of converting to Christianity.

 

More on:

United States

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