Mona Eltahawy has an important and eye-opening opinion piece in tomorrow’s international edition of the New York Times (online today) all about the persecution of atheists in Egypt.
The people she writes about — like Karim al-Banna and Alber Saber — are familiar names to readers of this site, as is the ridiculous report about how there are exactly 866 atheists in a country of more than 80 million people:
… Atheists are described alternately as threats to national security or as carriers of a dangerously contagious virus.
In this atmosphere, it’s impossible to gauge people’s candid views on religion. For those who don’t genuflect to the official order, a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in Egypt long provided cover. But to admit atheism is to invite not just arrest but a threat to one’s life.
There’s reason for optimism near the end of the piece:
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.”
That’s bravery for you: To question sacred beliefs when your life is on the line for doing so. It’s a human rights violation that our government must challenge whenever possible. In the meantime, we can show solidarity with the atheist rebels by publicizing their stories and challenging the propaganda put out by their country’s leaders.