In Cairo on Wednesday, a Coptic Christian blogger named Alber Saber was convicted of blasphemy and “contempt of religion.” There’s a tragic irony: As any of the country’s Christians can tell you, contempt of religionis not merely permitted but encouraged in the new, post-Mubarak Egypt. What is criminal, what has become increasingly perilous, is any criticism of Islam.
Nor is truth a defense. Another Egyptian court recently upheld the blasphemy conviction of Makarem Diab, also a Coptic Christian. Diab had gotten into a discussion with a Muslim acquaintance, Abd al-Hameed, who, in the course of mocking Diab’s faith, insisted that Jesus was a serial fornicator. Diab countered Hameed’s baseless taunt with an assertion most Islamic scholars regard as accurate: namely, that Mohammed had more than four wives. Yet, because the context of Diab’s assertion evinced an intention to cast Islam’s prophet in an unfavorable light, Diab was prosecuted for “insulting the prophet” and “provoking students.” He was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.
This is now everyday life in Egypt. It is also certain to be the future of Egypt. The overwhelmingly Islamist population, having first elected Islamic supremacists led by the Muslim Brotherhood to top leadership positions, is now poised to adopt a constitution that is founded on sharia, Islam’s totalitarian legal framework, and that expressly enshrines these blasphemy standards. But the problem is not just sharia in Egypt. Sharia is here.