Aswat Masriya (Cairo)

Egypt: Author Accused of Contempt of Religion

Youssef Zeidan, renowned author and winner of the Arabic Booker prize, criticized on Monday the accusations of contempt of religion stirred against him by the Islamic Research Institute.

The prosecution summoned Zeidan on Tuesday on account of a report presented by Al-Azhar's Islamic Research Institute stating that his book, The Arabic Theology, published in 2009, defames religion.

"It does not make sense to accuse me of contempt of religion just for saying that the three monotheistic religions are missionary religions, because they are," Ziedan said, reported the Middle East News Agency.

He added, "Where does the book provoke sectarian strife or promote extremist ideas?"

In his book, Zeidan tracks down the most important thoughts that formed the relationship between man and God in all three religions.

The prosecution gave Zeidan a deadline of a month to respond to the accusations put forward against him.

Zeidan expressed concern about the results of the investigations, saying that it is alarming that the Islamic Research Institute demands applying article 77 of the Penal Code; the same article relied upon in the recently issued verdict of sentencing seven people to death in the case of the anti-Islam Film.

"It means I could be facing the death sentence as well," he said.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Research Institute also demands banning the book.

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