Injustice in the land of the Pharaohs

By Robert Boulos
The Middle East is known to the ordinary westerner as a troublesome place, a region that is embroiled in conflicts and wars, currently hosting the new phenomena IS, “Islamic State”. But such region like many others in the world has its good, bad and ugly. Representing the good in the Middle East is a true beacon of light, a figure that can inspire people from all nations for many generations to come. I refer here to the Egyptian poet, Fatima Naoot.
Fatima Naoot is one of the most inspiring voices in the literary world. Born in 1964, she studied Engineering and pursued a career in Architecture. However she always dreamt of following her path to write poetry and seek all that is beautiful in life and reflect such beauty in her literary works. She has managed up to date to publish twenty-one books in various literary genres. She is a member of the “Scottish Poetry Library”, being one of four members representing the Middle East. She has excelled in her ability to translate into Arabic literary works of some of the greatest writers of all times, such as Virginia Woolf, John Ravenscroft, Chimamanda Nagozi Adichie, Philip Roth, and many more writers. She has always been a strong voice in Egypt fighting against the injustices that face women, minorities and most recently animal rights. Which brings us to the focus of this article.
During October 2014, Naoot a Muslim herself, posted an article on her Facebook page, describing the practices carried out in Egypt and the Middle East during the Muslim Eid Al-Adha, namely the “Feast of the Sacrifice”. Naoot referred to the origins of the feast from the Quran, describing how a pious man such as Ibrahim was faced with the nightmare of sacrificing his only son in obedience to God, but at the end God commanded Ibrahim to sacrifice a ram instead of his son. Then Naoot showed her main objection to how this religious ritual has lost it’s sacredness and has become nothing more than a grotesque display of animal cruelty where on the streets of the middle east people celebrate by slaughtering helpless animals in the most savage manner possible. It doesn’t stop there, but children are enjoying the spectacle, fascinated by the outpouring of blood, which flows from the animal’s slaughtered throat, while the animal dies in agony.
Naoot’s concern towards this practice is manyfold. One of her main concerns is how society is content to see their children become so desensitised to the sight of blood and slaughter. With the advent of IS, she believes that such children can grow one day and be recruited to such terrorist organisations, training them to decapitate human beings does not become a hard task, as their upbringing and religious practices has already provided them with the prerequisite.
You would think that such a post or article would raise the concerns of responsible governments and take into account what damage such practices are exposing the community. But the contrary happened. Naoot received a barrage of insults, profanities and death threats via all means of communication, whether through Facebook, Twitter or through her mobile phone. Due to this incident, and many others, where Naoot is known to scream in the face of extremist, she finds herself on the death list of terrorist organisations such as IS, being the ninth on the list.
But the saga doesn’t end here; a group of Islamist lawyers took to the Egyptian courts raising seven lawsuits against Naoot, using the infamous “Blasphemy Law”. They claim that she did not address Ibrahim correctly in her article, as referring to him as a “pious man” does not suffice. Also referring to this ritual as a “slaughter” is a form of blasphemy towards the religion of Islam. Accusations that seem absurd but yet still a method to stifle the efforts of an individual who is endeavouring to drag a society from the dark ages.
The mere existence of such archaic law in the 21-century, in the only country on earth, which has a science, named after it, and after two major uprisings in 2011 & 2013, is an absolute travesty. The so called “Blasphemy Law”, is nothing more than a tool in the hands of extremists to either punish non-Muslims, or restrain and gag those who pursue enlightenment and the betterment of society, by questioning backward dogmas of old age. Any nation serious about it’s development and progress cannot entertain the existence of such horrendous law.
Living in the west we cannot ignore such intellectual and human tragedy. We cannot brush this away by saying it is a far away problem, and that this person is not of our country so we don’t care. It is people like Naoot, who believe it or not, are our first line of defence against such extremist ideologues. It is people like her who are doing the hard yards, so these extremist views can seize to exist from their source. Governments, human right agencies and all organisations that seek prosperity for the human race, should be concerned with such issue.
If Naoot is sentenced on the 28th of January 2014, and the extremists succeed, because she refuses the cruelty exercised towards the butchering of animals, and the world sits on it’s hands watching, then the world has no right to seek answers at times of tragedy brought by terrorism. We then have no right to show astonishment when we see hijacked aircrafts being rammed into towering buildings. We then have no right to cry in agony while we witness innocent people plunging to their death to avoid being burnt alive. We then have no right to shake our heads in disbelief when our friends die in a nightclub in Bali because they are enjoying their time. We then have no right to mourn the death of our Martin Place siege victims Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, who shared Naoot’s courage and sacrificed their lives for others.

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