Confiscating Thought and Creation in Egypt
A crime to which everyone is an accomplice
The "Forum for development and human rights dialogue" issues today, Monday 11-12-2006, its report on the confiscation of thought and creation in Egypt titled "Confiscating Thought and Creation in Egypt, A crime to which everyone is an accomplice".
The report begins with an outline of the legislative and constitutional framework regulating the freedom of thought and creation in comparison to the international documents and conventions on human rights; the report sets a spotlight on the causes of the recent elevation of religious supervision. The report confirms that the increase in number and influence of religious supervision could not have taken place but for the absence of democratic practices in the country.
The report refers to the most important provisions and legislations of the Egyptian Law that represent a constriction or an obstacle in the face of freedom of conscience and expression on one side and the freedom of thought and creation on the other. The forum sees the reference of the constitutional provisions regarding the regulation and implementation of rights to positive legislations is the first obstacle on the freedom of opinion and expression in Egypt, the report confirms that the recent amendments to the penal code as regards the crimes of publishing are but decorative alterations that will and did not affect the situation of the rights at hand.
The report includes a documentation of 37 cases where publications or art works were confiscated by authorities. The report notices that the pressures pushing for these cases came from two main directions:
1- Religious restrictions on the freedom of creation: the flagship of these restrictions is the Islamic Research Academy that has come to play the paramount role in imposing religious supervision over the freedom of thought and creation in Egypt. The report observes 23 cases of confiscation by the Academy; passing through the constant dissent of the Muslim Brotherhood demanding for the confiscation of literature and art works, the circle is closed by the opinions of Al-Azhar scholars and other Islamic clergymen opinions that take the same path; it was not strange to find Christian clergymen having their demands regarding the banning of one certain motion picture as well as the novel on which it is based.
Restrictions imposed by the state and its apparatuses: On top of which stands the Ministry of Interior, that confiscated 4 works of art by its different bodies, the provost of Cairo University (1 confiscation), and the minister of culture with three literature books.
The most important among the cases of confiscation by the Islamic research Academy observed by the forum were:
1- The Modern Sheikhs and the industry of fanaticism, by Dr. Mohammed Fattouh
2- Three books on the Azmi Sufist Path (The greatest trick - Wahabism: for whose favor - The lights of truth revealing the heresy of Wahabists)
3- A press release of the Academy attacking the Bahai Religion
4- An Encyclopedia interpreting Quran in verse
5- Quiz from an Islamic Perspective, by Dr. Ashraf Mohammed Dawaba
6- Spirituals and the Convocation of Ghosts
The report observes as well other works that Al-Azhar demanded confiscation of among which Khaled Yosef's Movie "Ouija".
The report also counts the works which the People's Assembly demanded the confiscation of, as "The Yacoubian Building" and "Da Vinci Code" movies.
Other apparatuses of the state have had a role in the process of confiscation or demanding for banning, among which stands out the banning of the movie "11 9 11" by the administration of the "Cultures Dialogue Festival", as well as the Egyptian Television Censorship's rejection of the playing of a documentary titled "Naguib Mahfouz, The bridge of our culture to the World"
The report gives a considerable space for the discussion of the case of Dr. Suad Saleh and the violations she was subject to after the declaration of her opinion on Niqab (face cover), as well as the discussion of the Bahai religion in Egypt.
The report concludes that the time has come to reach a formulation that regulates the relationship between religion and society that guarantees that religion is not used for political reasons and purposes, no matter which party is using it, be it the state or the other political forces.
On the other hand, the legislations regulating the right to freedom of thought and creation are in crucial need of revising through a public discussion as a first step towards their amendment, in a way that will secure the freedom of artists and thinkers to express their opinions.