The Egyptian parliament has commenced processes to criminalize atheism in the predominantly Muslim north African country.
A legislation proposed on the eve of 2017 Christmas was given consideration by the parliament on the eve of New Year’s Day, the USA Today website reported.
Under existing Egyptian laws, it is illegal to insult or defame any religion. Blasphemy arrests carry a conviction of up to five years. The new development if approved means just refusing to believe in God could be punishable by law.
The proposal was championed by the head of the parliament’s committee on religion, Amro Hamroush who stated that lack of belief in God was an insult to the Abrahamic religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
Completing the list are Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
But founder and leader of a U.S. based rights group challenge the proposed law. Ani Zonneveld says even Islam in an of itself did not criminalize atheism quoting a Quranic verse to back her position.
“This criminalization of atheism contradicts the very essence of the Quran, verse 2:256, ‘There is no compulsion in faith,‘” she further describing the legislation as “anti-Islam.”