CAIRO – A court in Egypt has sentenced a radical Muslim preacher to 14 years in prison for repeatedly offending Christianity.
Ahmed Abdullah, also known as Abu Islam, is a firebrand Islamist who has drawn heavy criticism for his controversial statements, many of which are specifically directed against Christians. In an anti-American rally last September, Abdullah publicly burned and tore apart a Bible outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo, then allegedly told protesters that he would have his grandson urinate on the Bible. However, he later denied that he desecrated the Scriptures.
“I didn’t burn the Bible,” he said, according to Egypt’s Daily News. “There is no book on the face of the earth called the Bible from the Quran’s and the prophet’s point of view.”
Also last year, Abdullah launched a satellite TV channel called “The Nation” to promote strict Islamic ideologies. On his channel, all the women personalities are required to wear full face veils, and Abdullah once stated that most girls who demonstrate in Tahrir Square are Christians who want to be harassed.
In particular, Abdullah frequently uses his TV platform to promote animosity against Egypt’s Copts, who constitute about 10–15% of Egypt’s total population. According to reports, he once claimed that Coptics are solely to blame for his country’s sectarian violence, and on another occasion he said Muslims could kill all Egyptian Christians in just two days.
Following several complaints about Abdullah’s divisive remarks, in February, Kamal Mokhtar of Egypt’s prosecutor general office issued an order for his arrest, citing contempt of Christianity charges. After the arrest, Egyptian officials sought to investigate in detail the charges levied against Abdullah.
Abdullah’s arrest marked the very first time in Egypt that a Muslim has faced contempt of Christianity charges. In a recent interview, Egyptian lawyer Azziza El-Taweel confirmed the unprecedented development.
“The most remarkable thing about this case is that it is the first actual legal movement towards the punishment of a person for insulting Christianity [in Egypt],” El-Taweel told the Daily News.
Last month, Abdullah was sentenced by the Nasr City Misdemeanors Court to eleven years in prison—five years for ripping up the Bible, three years for insulting religion, and then another three years for disturbing public peace. Then, on Monday, three more years were added on top of his sentence, with a bail set at the equivalent of over $1,400.
Though many Christians see Abdullah’s imprisonment as a meaningful step toward punishing radical Islamists, persecution against Egypt’s Christians still continues on a daily basis. Raymond Ibrahim, a respected expert on the plight of Egyptian Christians, told The Inquisitr that many dangerous Muslims go unpunished, and are sometimes even elected to public office.
“[T]he everyday average [Christian] is not ‘persecuted,’” he said, “however, everyday forms of discrimination are common (for instance, only Muslims get hired for the best jobs, and so forth). The problem, though, is that persecution of the sort that occurred centuries ago—for instance, the ongoing attacks on churches—is on the rise, unsurprisingly so, considering the overall Islamization of Egypt in recent decades, culminating with Islamists, who were once in jail for their extremist views, [but are] now sitting in Egypt’s new parliament.”