What is the ruling Muslim Brotherhood’s attitude toward freedom of thought, investigation and research? What is the group’s attitude toward culture and intellectuals?
The thinker and writer Youssef Zeidan was summoned to the Supreme State Security prosecutor’s office to be investigated for an incident dating back to 2010. He is accused of “contempt of religions” in his valuable research book “Arab Theology.”
His book was published in 2009 and is now in its eighth edition. So why the sudden interest, four years after the book’s publication? Why was an investigation opened after all this time? Is this currently the highest priority for the Supreme State Security prosecutor's office at a time when the country has other problems that the prosecutor’s office should worry about?
The charge leveled against the thinker, researcher, novelist and member of the Writers’ Union is “contempt of religions, sedition, and promoting extremist religious ideas.”
Does that make any sense? Such an accusation toward a prominent writer is ridiculous. Writers and intellectuals are not the ones holding religions in contempt, nor are they the ones who make sedition or promote extremist religious ideas. Those doing that every day are on satellite TV channels, and they are known by name. But they are roaming freely. Lately, one of them was held accountable by the justice system just to throw sand in the eyes. His sentence was reduced to just four days in jail! Was that just a cover for what was about to happen to the intellectuals?
This is a very serious issue and has nothing to do with that great writer, the Arab novelist with many awards. That issue has to do with the future of culture and intellectuals under the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule and the future of freedom of expression and thought, which are fundamental freedoms as provided in international conventions. There is no democracy if those are violated in such a way.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which clings to the ballot box, believes that democracy is limited to the electoral process. Yet what they are doing every day strikes at democracy’s foundations. Democracy is not just about elections. Elections are complementary to the process of inclusive democracy based on freedom of expression, thought and creativity.
The document on freedom issued by Al-Azhar spoke of four basic freedoms: freedom of belief, freedom of expression, freedom of literary and artistic creativity and freedom of scientific research. But the Muslim Brotherhood, which keeps talking about the ballot box as a symbol of democracy, is violating all those four freedoms at once by that ridiculous charge against the Zeidan.