Mona Eltahawy–Egypt’s War on Atheism

The contradiction in Mr. Sisi’s aim of keeping the heterosexual, conservative Muslim man at the top of Egypt’s moral hierarchy is glaring. You can’t trump the Islamists in their piety and lead a campaign against minorities like atheists and gay men even as you condemn extremist violence and show solidarity for free speech and free thinking.

This week we mark the fourth anniversary of the 2011 revolution. Although it has not delivered the political freedoms it called for, it did begin an unraveling of authority that has left Egypt’s self-appointed moral guardians disconcerted and scrambling. Armed with social media, more people are insisting on asking and telling ”” about personal belief and sexual identity. A reckoning is long overdue in a country where religion and morality have so often been bent to suit the political expedients of its rulers.

Despite the clampdown, atheists are openly challenging such hypocrisy. Social media has allowed those who “deviate” from the authoritarian template to find one another and express themselves in ways that the regime, its men of religion and its media otherwise deny them. A religious revolution has begun, but not on Mr. Sisi’s or the clerics’ terms. We all stand to gain if fathers no longer testify against sons, and families no longer feel the need to prove their loved ones are “real men.”

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One comment on “Mona Eltahawy–Egypt’s War on Atheism

  1. Katherine says:

    I can see Ms. Eltahawy’s point of view. I had an officially Muslim but really atheist friend in Cairo. There were people who hoped that when Mubarak went, they might get a western-style liberal democracy (although we in the U.S. are in danger of throwing ours away for a different, liberal-enforced orthodoxy). My atheist friend thought that Egypt was not ready for a western-style democracy, and I am reluctantly coming to agree with him.

    What Mr. al Sisi is trying to do is reform and tame Islam so it is no longer so dangerous and violent. Atheists and gays are targeted to prove he is not irreligious. This is not a tactic we approve of, but then, Egypt is not the U.S. My husband and I gained considerable respect among his Muslim employees in Cairo because we attended Christian services, unlike various other expatriates who were functionally atheist.