Egyptian Christians want action on “insulting” novel
Egyptian Christians have called for government action against the author of a widely read novel they say insults Christianity, in an unusual case that puts freedom of expression in Muslim-majority Egypt under fresh scrutiny. Government investigators are looking into the complaint filed by a group of Egyptian and some foreign Copts against Youssef Ziedan, a Muslim who wrote the 2008 award-winning novel Azazeel (Beelzebub).
Azazeel, which won the 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, backed by the Booker Prize Foundation, tells the story of a 5th-century Egyptian monk who witnesses debates over doctrine between early Christians. Mamdouh Ramzi, a Coptic lawyer, said the author “insulted priests and bishops and said many things with no proof or evidence from books or history … He is not a Christian man, what does he know about the Church?”
The case, joined by Coptic groups in the United States, the Netherlands, Canada and Austria, reflects broader complaints by Copts that they are marginalized in mainly Muslim Egypt. Christians make up about 10% of Egypt’s 78 million people.