13 - 19 April 2000
Issue No. 477
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Detained for deriding IslamBy Jailan Halawi
The Egyptian author of several books described as attacking Islam, the Qur'an and the Prophet Mohamed is being investigated by the state prosecutor. Following his interrogation by State Security Prosecutor Ashraf El-Ashmawi last week, Salaheddin Mohsen, 52, faces the possibility of being charged with promoting an erroneous ideology with the aim of deriding Islam. In his more than one dozen books, which have a limited domestic distribution, the author expounds his views on Islam, citing it as the main reason for what he views as the "backwardness" of many predominantly Muslim countries.
"Mohsen was not arrested because of his beliefs; he is free to embrace whatever ideology he pleases, but this freedom should not extend to propagating erroneous beliefs," a source close to the investigation told Al-Ahram Weekly.
The law, the source continued, "is not, and will never be, against freedom of expression, but any country has the right to protect its religious beliefs against the propagation of deviant or extremist thought."
As an example, the source cited the 1997 trial of Roger Garaudy, the controversial French philosopher, who was accused by several Jewish, human rights and anti-racist organisations of "complicity in contesting crimes against humanity." Garaudy wrote a book in which he questioned what he referred to as "myths" about the Holocaust, including the extermination of six million Jews by the Nazis and the existence of the gas chambers.
After finishing his high school studies in 1967, Mohsen began reading the books of revealed religion as well as philosophical texts. He was profoundly influenced by the writings of Jibran Khalil Jibran, an early 20th century Lebanese-American poet, and Abu Al-Ala'a Al-Me'arri, an Abbasid poet well-known for his pessimism. By 1972, Mohsen had become an atheist. Through his readings and observations, he came to the conclusion that advancement is achieved through science and not religion.
In his writings, Mohsen described the Prophet Mohamed as a Bedouin who developed a new religion with the aim of assuming the leadership of his tribe.
Having worked in Egypt as a clerk at the Ministry of Agriculture, Mohsen was later employed abroad as a typesetter at a Lebanese publishing house and then as a clerk in Iraq. When he returned to Egypt, he started a paint-selling business. With the money earned from this endeavour he financed the publication of his books.
On Tuesday, the Writers Union issued a statement declaring that "if proven guilty of deriding religion," Mohsen would immediately face disciplinary action by the organisation. The statement also denounced any attempt to defame religious beliefs, affirming the union's respect for all revealed religions, freedom of expression and national unity.
Mohsen is divorced with two sons, who live with their mother.