Writer and poet Fatma Naoot said her referral to trial on charges of contempt of religion is a “misuse of the freedom to file complaints”, through her official page on Saturday.
Naoot was investigated and referred to trial by prosecution after a comment she made in October, shortly ahead of Eid Al-Adha, which Muslims celebrate annually. During the religious holiday, Muslims sacrifice an animal, usually a sheep or cow.
Naoot said it had come to her knowledge that she had been referred to criminal court for contempt of religion because of a “passing” Facebook post, in which she congratulated the Islamic Ummah on the feast and called for respecting the “sacrifice and for slaughtering it well”, instead of drowning the floor in its blood, which “caused a child to slaughter his baby sister on the day of the feast”. It is unclear which incident Naoot is referring to in the quote.
The religious tradition of sacrificing an animal originates from a dream, which Prophet Ibrahim had of himself sacrificing his son. The prophet was willing to do so, in order to carry out the command of God. However, God spared the life of the prophet’s son.
The feast this year fell on 4 October. On 1 October, Naoot said on her Facebook page: “In a while, thousands of innocent creatures will be led to the largest massacre committed by human beings…” She added that this happens despite the fact that the nightmare passed safely on the “good man and his son”, and that these animals’ blood is spilt as a “price for the Holy nightmare”.
These comments sparked a backlash of criticism. Naoot wrote later that day: “Final clarification: I am a Muslim but I cannot stand the loss of any spirit, even if it is of a small ant. May Allah hold me accountable for this, for he is my Creator…”
On 5 October, she released a lengthy statement in which she clarified her use of the three words “massacre”, “nightmare” and “good man”.
Naoot said her referral to court is the “bill paid by the bearers of the torches of enlightenment in every age…” She added that the matter is now in the hands of the “honourable judges” and that she accepts their verdict. She expressed her full respect for the judiciary and for the prosecution, which referred her to court.
Investigations and trials for contempt of religion have increased dramatically since 2011.
Earlier this year, a Christian school teacher in Luxor, Demiana Emad Abdel Nour was sentenced, without possibility of appeal, to six months in jail for contempt of religion and was fined EGP 100,000 in June. The teacher allegedly insulted religion in front of her students.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) expressed concern on “the growing frequency of trials on charges of religious defamation targeting religious minorities” and said authorities should intervene to stop contempt of religion trials, which “undermine citizenship and guarantees for religious freedoms”. The NGO said the sentencing of Abdel Nour was the third such case this year in Luxor alone.
Between January 2011 and September 2013, this NGO was able to track down 63 cases of individuals tried for religious defamation.