Egyptian government announces campaign to save youth from atheism

By Mada Masr

The newly formed Cabinet is planning a campaign to combat atheism, according to an official statement released Wednesday.

Neamat Saty, the Youth Ministry’s director of civic education, would work with Ahmed Turky, the head of the Endowment Ministry’s mosques management unit, and a team of psychiatrists to form a national strategy to eradicate atheism.

Although Article 64 of Egypt’s recently passed Constitution stipulates that “freedom of religion is absolute,” the ministries plan on “confronting and abolishing [atheism] through religious, educational and psychological means handled by experts in these fields,” according to a report published by the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram.

The plan is part of a Cabinet-wide effort to “confront all issues that negatively affect [youth] and hinder the steps of development towards the future.”

Turky told Mada Masr in a phone interview that there is a protocol between the two ministries to address various intellectual “threats” facing the country’s youth.

“Previously, we launched a similar campaign against religious extremism where we targeted 200,000 youth whom we saw to be most vulnerable to such ideas, especially in Sinai,” Turky said.

He added that the two ministries are now hoping to combat certain “intellectual pests” that target Egyptian youth, like atheism, asserting that the scope of atheism’s reach in Egypt is still being determined by a joint research committee.

“We are taking preventive and preemptive measures. We do not want to see atheism being endemic in Egypt,” the official explained.

Turky pointed to the ongoing standoff between politics and religion, and arguments concerning how those two realms should ideally interact, as direct causes for an upsurge in both religious extremism and atheism.

“The ongoing conflict will lead youth to either be religious extremists or push them more toward profanity and atheism,” Turky claimed.

But some say it’s problematic for state institutions to get involved in such matters.

Amr Ezzat, a researcher on religious freedoms at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), told Mada Masr that state bodies are meant to serve all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs, and it’s extremely dangerous for them to launch campaigns against certain religious views.

“If we are talking about a modern civil state, the existence of a ministry that runs the affairs of Islam in the first place [the Endowments Ministry] is problematic in itself,” Ezzat argued.

Initiatives like the one announced on Wednesday “do not simply campaign against atheism, but they call for violating the rights of those citizens who hold such beliefs in the first place, which is considered mere incitement. These initiatives propagate that atheists threaten the national unity of the society, while the existence of such religious institutions at the first place is the threat,” he continued.

28 COMMENTS

  1. At present, there are of course more religious votes than atheist ones, but the trick which is being missed time and again is that the society in which there’s the best chance of freedom of religion is a secular one.

    And since we already live in a secular, science based society in the UK, why not just chill out and enjoy?

    We’re governed by fools!

  2. Ah! The world viewed through the delusional blinkers of theology!

    The “freedom” to choose the “right” religion – with a bit of indoctrination and psychological coercion thrown in!

    @OP – “Previously, we launched a similar campaign against religious extremism where we targeted 200,000 youth whom we saw to be most vulnerable to such ideas, especially in Sinai,” Turky said.

    He added that the two ministries are now hoping to combat certain “intellectual pests” that target Egyptian youth, like atheism, asserting that the scope of atheism’s reach in Egypt is still being determined by a joint research committee.

    Isn’t this the government and court system which is looking for scape-goats while also “targeting” political opponents.

    are now hoping to combat certain “intellectual pests” that target Egyptian youth, like atheism, asserting that the scope of atheism’s reach in Egypt is still being determined by a joint research committee.

    That should be interesting! The backward blinkered faith-heads, “researching” the scope of those pesky intellectuals. Re-run of the dark-ages??

  3. Naturally of course, the most important problem the Egyptian government has to deal with right now is those pesky atheists.

    The complex, messy, horrible economy, the political violence, Muslim extremists trying to push an even more retrograde version of sharia than already exists, issues with political and police corruption, these are all just minor issues that can be left to their own devices. Indeed, these aren’t even problems, they’re just… features of the diverse and marvelous Egyptian culture and shame on anyone for pointing any of them out. Such cultural imperialism, to expect that a political leader should be mostly honest and at least somewhat concerned with the physical well being of all their subjects, regardless of their general loyalties. What cheek.

    To borrow a line from a decent, if over-hyped film “I weep for the species.”

  4. I do find the idea that I am being lumped together with religious extremists to be more than mildly insulting. I also find the the fact that a country’s government is in fear of such a simple idea that it needs to go to war to try and stamp it out, more than mildly amusing. What next? Burning books?

  5. It is not a particularly surprising event. Even in the US, where we have a formal freedom of religion codified in our government, people think we live in a “Christian Nation”.

    In Egypt, you have Muslims thinking that Islam is the only way, and they don’t have a cultural history of having a legitimate secular law. Rather, they have had dictators and foreign occupiers, whose laws conflicted with Islam.

    I recognize that the problem is cultural, but I have a sever shortage of practical solutions. Foreign pressure might bring about behavioural changes, but only for as long as the pressure is maintained and is effective. When it ends, there will be a backlash.

    I know Christians in the US who are not bothered by my atheism. I just don’t know how to pass that cultural attribute to enough Egyptians to get them to internalize it and consider it in their power struggles.

    • I would concur, how does one prove that atheism is a “belief”?

      However, I note from the article, facebook posts of atheists are (allegedly) the “proof”. In so far that one man, reportedly, was even imprisoned >(. Invasion of privacy at its worst, modern day “witch hunt”. I take my freedom of writing for granted, I shouldn’t.

      @OP

      hoping to combat “intellectual pests”

      (again, alleged) Isn’t that the way it always is?

  6. As regards atheism as religion/belief I suggest looking at the NHS (uk) pensions claim form. On the Equal Opportunies Monitoring page under religion/belief one can tick boxes for, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Atheism, Islam, Sikhism, Other, and I do not wish to declare my religion/belief. So it’s official, religion cures all. No room for non-believers in medicine. Oh doctor pray for me, don’t bother about the surgery etc.

  7. The sad truth is that in the Middle East and other Muslim areas of the world, the only way to keep the fundamentalists from establishing tyrannical theocracies is by having a secular dictatorship. As much as I loathe dictators like the late Saddam Hussein or Bashar Al-Assad the alternative is not much better. From our perspective it could very well be argued that we were better off with dictators like Hussein or Gaddafi. It’s much easier to deal with a single dictator than a bunch of religiously motivated fundamentalists. Democracy or any form of society that we as westerners would deem acceptable just is not a viable option in these regions of the world, and there really is very little we can do about it. Change has to come from within. We of course have to support actors who fight for change, but the initiatives have to come from within. Our main goal should be to fight international terrorism, and accept dissidents with open arms. That’s really all we can do at this point.

    • A logical and intelligent argument, however it is the power of the West in support of any regime in the Islamic world that leads many there to seek a solution in fundamental religion. I would argue that Moslems can only come to their own enlightenment through their own efforts. Our Enlightenment came after one of the most brutal periods in our history where one group of theocratic leaders’ followers tried to out-slaughter a different set of theocratic leaders’ followers during the Thirty Years War. This was seen at the time rather as “the war to end all wars…” and the feeling that such barbarism must not endure led to the questioning of religious certainties and the toleration of a better more scientific view of the world.
      I do not think that people learn from the experiences of others and therefore we are probably best advised to sit back and let the islamic world mutilate itself until they are heartily sick enough of it to join the modern world

      • I just hope that we have time to wait. In the modern age, even primitive anti-scientific fundamentalists can still acquire modern WMD:s. It’s just a matter of time before some group of Muslim fundamentalists get their hands on a nuke. They will never be able to compete with the rest of the world in economical or technological terms. That’s perhaps the main reason they hate us so much, and want to destroy the western world. That’s also probably why religious fundamentalism is so attractive in these regions. They are really inferior in every way I can think of, and they know it. How appealing it must be to embrace fundamentalist Islam that says Muslims are in fact superior in every way compared to the infidels. That Muslims have a sacred right to inherit this earth and it’s their holy duty to make it happen. The corrupt Western world has to be destroyed in order to give space to Islam. The thought of such individuals having access to weapons of mass-destruction scares the living shit out of me.

        The other thing that makes me utterly depressed is thinking about all those countless people who have to suffer and die due to religious ignorance and bigotry. As it stands, the majority of this earth’s population are utterly ignorant and even knowingly reject fundamental scientific ideas. They think faith is more important than knowledge and a real understanding of the universe. They find religious authority more compelling than logic and reason. At the same time we are facing some of the biggest challenges in the history of mankind. I hate to be cynical, but things really aren’t looking very bright.

    • Nunbeliever Jun 26, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      The sad truth is that in the Middle East and other Muslim areas of the world, the only way to keep the fundamentalists from establishing tyrannical theocracies is by having a secular dictatorship. As much as I loathe dictators like the late Saddam Hussein or Bashar Al-Assad the alternative is not much better. From our perspective it could very well be argued that we were better off with dictators like Hussein or Gaddafi. It’s much easier to deal with a single dictator than a bunch of religiously motivated fundamentalists. Democracy or any form of society that we as westerners would deem acceptable just is not a viable option in these regions of the world, and there really is very little we can do about it. Change has to come from within.

      It is unfortunate that meddling foreign powers, fermenting unrest, launching ill-thought out military adventures, and supplying modern weapons, did not recognise this fairly obvious fact, BEFORE they destabilised or overthrew governments and started civil wars!

      • Oh, I think they knew fully well what they were doing. A good example of the utter hypocrisy with regard to US military inventions in the Middle East is an interview with the American Enterprise Institute, on April 15, 1994 (after the Gulf War). An interviewer asked a politician the question: “Do you think the U.S. or U.N. forces should have moved into Baghdad?” To which the politician answered:

        “No. If we would have gone into Baghdad, we would have been all alone. It would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world. And if you take down the central government of Iraq, you can easily end up seeing parts of Iraq fly off. It’s a quagmire. If you go that far, and try to take over Iraq.”

        So, who was this quite reasonable sounding politician who was fully aware of what a hornet’s nest Iraq is? This person who with great foresight predicted what a disaster an invasion of Iraq would be? It was Dick Cheney.

        • Nunbeliever – So, who was this quite reasonable sounding politician who was fully aware of what a hornet’s nest Iraq is? This person who with great foresight predicted what a disaster an invasion of Iraq would be? It was Dick Cheney.

          It seems the lessons have still not been learned!

          Obama: US arms could help defeat Assad is ‘fantasy’

          21 June 2014 Last updated at 08:40 BST

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-27953343
          *President Obama has dismissed the idea that supplying US arms to Syrian rebels would have toppled President Assad, calling it a “fantasy”.

          His comments came in a CBS interview when he was asked if a power vacuum had been created in the Middle East which was fuelling violence in Iraq.

          He said there was no “ready-made moderate Syrian force that was able to defeat Assad”.

          26 June 2014 Last updated at 21:29
          Obama seeks $500m for Syria rebels

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world/

          President Barack Obama asks Congress to approve $500m (£294m) to train and equip members of the “moderate Syrian armed opposition”

          • Seems like the US is about to train a new generation of terrorists. I guess, that’s the problem with being the only superpower in the world. You have to create your enemies in order to keep the lucrative wheels of war spinning. Imagine if USA used only a fraction of the countless billions of dollars they spend on weapons and warfare on scientific research. Imagine all the progress and new discoveries. A cure for cancer and AIDS. A few manned trips to Mars and back and a solution to global warming. Throw in a prolonged life-expectancy by a few decades as a bonus, and you would still have plenty money left to play with. Unfortunately, as long as most politicians are trained and think as lawyers that will never happen. What a disgrace.

  8. Nunbeliever – Imagine if USA used only a fraction of the countless billions of dollars they spend on weapons and warfare on scientific research. Imagine all the progress and new discoveries. A cure for cancer and AIDS. A few manned trips to Mars and back and a solution to global warming.

    Ah! You mean like this?

    The U.S. has had a working thorium technology since 1945, but the project was cancelled by the Nixon administration in 1969 because it lacked military applications. We would have no problem with nuclear proliferation if we simply allowed Iran and other countries to build LFTRs. – http://richarddawkins.net/2014/05/fusion-fission-and-fossil-fuels/

    Yep! No nukes in Pakistan, Israel, India or Iran – and short half lives for the waste from power-stations! …. and I wonder who released chemical weapons technology into the wider world?

    • Yep! No nukes in Pakistan, Israel, India or Iran – and short half lives for the waste from power-stations! …. and I wonder who released chemical weapons technology into the wider world?

      Yes, exactly. But, who wants a peaceful world anyway? Not the politicians in Washington at least. Fear is the single most effective motivator we have. The question is why would not politicians and other power-hungry individuals take advantage of such a great opportunity. I think it’s quite obvious that the only thing that can truly bring collectives together and cooperate is fear. Unfortunately, in the modern age humans rarely fear what they really ought to fear. It’s like we need cartoon villains in order to feel threatened. I guess, we just have not evolved to intuitively understand complex phenomenons like global warming.

  9. Wow. I guess there’s no more pressing social issues in Egypt than keeping young people deaf, blind and dumb to the world. I guess there’s no poverty, no political unrest or violence, no hunger or crime. Nope. Just atheism.

    Right.

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