CAIRO: Accusations of atheism spring from internal disputes over personal interests, Magdy El-Dakkak, editor-in-chief of state-owned weekly October magazine, said Thursday.
A crisis recently erupted within October magazine when 11 journalists filed a complaint before the Public Prosecutor, accusing El-Dakkak of insulting God and the Muslim Prophet Mohamed.
“They are a group of people who lost their authority inside the magazine … turning [personal disagreements at work into such allegations],” El-Dakkak told Daily News Egypt.
According to press reports, the journalists claimed that El-Dakkak mocked Islamic Sharia law and several rituals like fasting in Ramadan and Hajj (pilgrimage) in addition to making offensive remarks about the Prophet.
They further claimed that El-Dakkak drank alcohol in Ramadan — the Muslim month of fasting — and urged his colleagues to eat and drink.
In their complaint, the journalists noted that El-Dakkak allegedly responded to their rejection of his behavior by dismissively saying, “Yes I’m an atheist”.
The journalists called for prosecuting El-Dakkak on charges of contempt for religion.
In response to the journalists’ claims, Al-Azhar Scholars Front issued a statement accusing El-Dakkak of apostasy.
“These journalists made these allegations to an illegitimate group that has nothing to do with Al-Azhar [to incite them against me],” El-Dakkak argued.
On his part, El-Dakkak denied the claims, filing a lawsuit against the 11 journalists accusing them of defamation and inciting his murder.
The punishment for apostasy in Islam is a source of controversy among scholars, with extremist Salfist groups advocating the death penalty for it.
“I’m a political writer. I have never written any religious opinions in my articles … [Though] I support the principles of citizenship and a civil state,” he explained.
“[Nevertheless] nobody has the right to question my religious beliefs. Even Al-Azhar institution itself did not do that,” he added.
On Monday, El-Dakkak released a statement responding to Al-Azhar Scholars Front.
In his defense, El-Dakkak used a verse from the Quran to refer to the journalists’ allegations saying: “O you who believe… If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest you harm people unwittingly and afterwards become full of repentance for what you have done.”
“I was astonished when I received the statement of the so-called front, accusing me of atheism,” El-Dakkak said.
“I’m a believer who utters [the Islamic] Shehada [‘I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Mohamed is the Messenger of Allah] … I respect my religion and its principles. And I esteem other religions as well. This is how I perceive the grandeur of Islam and its tolerance,” he added.