The legislative affairs committee of the parliament on Tuesday rejected a proposal to annul the crime of “religious contempt”, state media reported.
Freedom of expression advocates had campaigned for the abolishment of Article 98 of the Penal Code, arguing that it has been manipulated and used to imprison intellectuals and writers for the mere mention of religion in their discourse.
The article stipulates a prison sentence from six months up to five years for any person using religion to incite against or insult any of the Abrahamic religions, or promote extremism, whether in speech or in writing. The law is argued to be in place to prevent extremism.
But for cases like Islamic researcher Islam El-Beheiry, who is currently serving a one-year prison term, and writer Fatima Naoot, who is currently appealing against a three-year prison sentence, the question of whether Article 98 has been used to oppress freedom of expression or prevent sectarianism seems to fall towards the former rather than the latter.