Blasphemy Laws Alive and Well, Even in “Moderate” Countries

There is no such thing as a moderate theocracy. There are some that are not as terrible as others, but ultimately the very existence of theocracy is extreme, and pretending otherwise is about political realities.

I say that because if you look at supposedly “moderate” Muslim countries like Egypt or Turkey, you still have people that are being imprisoned and even killed for doing nothing more than questioning the pervading faith.

A great example is that of Alber Saber, an Egyptian atheist who was arrested last month. You may remember that I mentioned him on Blasphemy Rights Day. Saber’s friend, Maikel Nabil Sanal, has also been arrested for the same crime and wrote a seriously blistering article for the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine.


Alber is not the only opinion prisoner in Egypt accused of criticizing Islam. There are at least six Christians (three of them under the age of 18), four atheists, and one Shiite who now face the same charges, and it is no surprise that not one of them is a Sunni Muslim. It’s a new Inquisition happening in Egypt in the twenty-first century while the whole world remains silent.

Egypt is not the only place where these sorts of laws are applied. Turkey, considered the most secular Muslim country in the world, has recently arrested Fazil Say for insulting religious sentiments. He is a composer and performer (they always target musicians, don’t they?) that published a series of tweets insulting extreme religious views, such as asking if heaven is a tavern to those who claim the streets flow with wine there. My favorite tweet of his is, “If this is a dark era, then let us enlighten it.”

At the very least, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has dropped its push at the UN to make blasphemy laws international crime. They couldn’t get the US or Europe to go along with the idea. But rest assured they will try again and again and again.

There is no such thing as a moderate theocracy. The moment you are legally beholden to the whims of people claiming to speak for a silent deity, you are no longer free. You can no more be moderately theocratic than you can be a little pregnant.


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