Cairo: Barely a few weeks after from self-exile in the US for three years, controversial Egyptian feminist and writer Nawal Al Sadawi has raised the hackles among conservative compatriots with her call to separate religion from public life.
Three lawyers are pressing charges of blasphemy against Al Sadawi for saying in a recent interview with the independent newspaper Al Masri Al Youm that "religion is a personal matter that can be practised at home like sex".
Egypt's Chief Prosecutor Abdul Majuid Mahmoud has referred the lawyers' report to higher state security prosecutors to investigate.Together with around 30 Egyptian liberals, Al Sadawi last week launched the Egyptian Solidarity Group for Civil Society, a movement she says aimed at promoting secularism and fighting religious fanaticism. "Exploiting religion is a problem in different countries of the world," Al Sadawi said. "Religious politics is like an octopus, which jeopardises the world and poses a threat to creativity," she added.
The new group, which includes journalists, university professors, artists and political activists, are pushing for the deletion of an article from Egypt's constitution that makes Islam the country's official religion. They also call for a stop on teaching religion at school.
"We, a group of Egyptians, set up a local alliance in order to create a civil society based on a civil constitution separating all religions from the state," the founders said in a statement.
"The culture of civil society does not mean rejecting everything related to the past. It means accepting the other, enhancing scientific and critical thinking and spreading culture of human rights." Sadawi, a physician by profession, has already raised many eyebrows in this predominantly Muslim society with her calls for banning male circumcision and naming children after their mothers.
"Such calls are bizarre to our religion and values of our society," said Abdul Hamid Faraj, a Muslim cleric. "They aim at undermining the strength of faith within people and promoting a Western agenda hostile to religion."
Sadawi, who has been jailed more than once, is not unaware of the pitfalls ahead. "I know that the way ahead of the Egyptian Solidarity Group for Civil Society, a chapter of a world movement, will not be easy," she told the private station On TV. "But I'm determined to go ahead whatever difficulties may be."
Source: Gulf News