More than a year ago, Mohamed Hisham (also spelled “Hashem” in previous articles) appeared on the Egyptian channel Alhadath Alyum TV (“Egyptian Street”) and spoke candidly about his atheism. It was quite an accomplishment, given that authorities say there are literally only 866 atheists in the country.
Hisham’s performance was not unlike that of hosts like Mahmoud Abd Al-Halim and former Al-Azhar. Did not go well with Deputy Sheikh Mahmoud Ashour. Both men urged Hisham to see a psychiatrist for his apparent mental illness before further corrupting the Egyptian youth.
HISHAM: I’m an atheist, which means I don’t believe in the existence of God. I don’t believe in Him.
ASHOUR: What? What was that? HISHAM: I’m an atheist, which means I don’t believe in the existence of God. I don’t believe in Him. That’s what atheism means. I don’t need religion to have moral values or to be a productive member of society.
AL-HALIM: How come you exist in this universe?
HISHAM: Okay, let me explain. There are theories that try to explain our existence. One theory is that God created us. Okay? But there are other theories, with much more evidence, like the Big Bang theory…
AL-HALIM: Speak Arabic! You are in Egypt and you are addressing simple people so don’t use big words for no reason.
HISHAM: I’m using these terms because science is conducted in English.
AL-HALIM: What science are you talking about?
AL-HALIM: You are confused and unreliable. You deny the existence of God and reject our religion and principles…
HISHAM: Is this so bad?
AL-HALIM: Of course! You come here to talk about a certain idea but have nothing to offer! You offer atheism! You offer heresy! I apologize to the viewers for having an Egyptian of this kind on our show. I’m sorry, Mohammad, but you cannot stay with us on the show because your ideas are inappropriate, I’m sad to say. We cannot promote such destructive ideas. You have not uttered a single convincing word.
ASHOUR: Look, dear Mohanmmad, you need psychiatric treatment. Many young people today suffer from mnental illnesses due to material or mental circumnstances.
AL-HALIM: It’s like Sheikh Mahmoud says. Have you see a psychiatrist?
AL-HALIM: I advise you to leave the studio and go straight to a psychiatric hospital. You shouldn’t be here. Unfortunately, I cannot let you be here anymore. Please get up and leave, and I will continue the show with Dr. Mahmoud.Unfortunately, your ideas are destructive and bad for Egyptian youth. You set a very bad example for Egyptian youth.
A scientific explanation of our origin was too much for the “common people” he was confronted with…and that’s exactly what happened. He was exiled from the country later that year.
But he’s fine. Hisham of Humanists International just gave an unbroken interview with Giovanni Gaetani – and says he’s fine. He also forgives these hosts.
“I would like to excuse the host, because the situation was like that his audience would have thought: “Why would you give to this atheist a platform? This means that you are as guilty as him.” That could have had very bad
consequences for him, like it
happened to another Egyptian host who had hosted a gay person and ended up in jail for this.”
Hisham described how the police tried to investigate him:
…one night the Egyptian Police knocked at his door and searched his house. They even looked at their conversation on Whatsapp, full of atheist and blasphemous content, but didn’t understand what they were reading because everything was in English, even the conversation with his Egyptian friends:
“Police came and even
searched my phone. But
thankfully they didn’t
understand English. My
phone was indeed full of
atheist material, but I kept everything in English,
even my chat with my
Egyptian friends. I don’t
know who did invent the ritual, but we do it, for two reasons.
One is privacy: if you get in a situation when somebody is reading your messages, it’s harder for them to
understand what they are
reading, because not many
people in Egypt are good
at English. The other reason instead is to improve your English.”
Hisham is now living safely in Germany, but is struggling to adjust, learn a new language and find a job. Nevertheless he is alive. This is not always the case for atheists in Muslim-majority countries.
Countries that speak loudly about their atheism. Be sure to read the full interview.