From Daily News Egypt:
Albert Saber recently fled Egypt on the eve of his conviction to a three year prison sentence for blasphemy. He is of Christian background, but is a public atheist. The following are quotes from the article, do read the whole thing.
How did you decide to become an atheist?
My journey towards this decision was in the period between 2001 and 2005. I had decided that I would not simply inherit religion. Faith here is hereditary; if your parents are Christian, you’re Christian. You have it written on your birth certificate before you can even think. And it is the same for Muslims.
In 2001 I decided to read about other religions. My thinking at the time was that I was born a Christian but I had not actually decided that for myself nor had I considered other religions. I felt like there could be a chance that my religion is the wrong one and that God would punish me for it since I did not seek out all the options first.
I spoke to a lot of people, including religious leaders and clerics from several faiths, I read a lot of books, and eventually I realised that religion was merely a way to find God, but that there were so many different religions, and even inside each religion there were many sects, so why did each claim a monopoly on God? Why did they all claim they were going to heaven and everyone else was not?
The circle then started to get wider. When I first started this journey I felt that religion could be easily disputed but I still believed in the existence of a god, so I had a limit, which was the existence of a creator deity. After reading and researching the issue I started to break out of this limit and think that there might not even be a god at all. I eventually decided that it did not make sense to me and I became an atheist.
Did you face any difficulties in the decision to go public with it?
The Islamists in university subjected me to three assassination attempts.
Their leader and I had a political discussion once on the train and we became friends, I did not know who he was but my friends told me later.
After that I started to gain a reputation for my views that are critical of religion, mostly because of what I said in comparative religion classes. The Islamist youth leader decided that I was too dangerous.
He started sending members of his group after me, they constantly tried to start fights with me so that they could beat me up but I would not rise to their taunts and my friends were also looking out for me.
How, realistically, can Egypt become a secular state, especially in light of Islamist domination of the public sphere?
We have a movement here in Egypt called “secularists” for example and they take to the streets and raise awareness about the issue. I believe in confrontation. I used to debate Muslim Brotherhood members on secularism before the presidential elections.
However, the way to achieve state secularism is through raising awareness. It is the same way we were able to revolt. We raised awareness amongst the people that we are not just silly youth and that our demands were for their benefit. Eventually they joined us or at least stopped opposing us.
Everyone in Egypt is talking politics right now. We should start political campaigns explaining what the word “secularism” actually means. We need to explain separation of religion and state and how the state is an institution and cannot adopt a specific religion. We need to explain things like dictatorship of the majority and how democracy also means protecting the rights of minorities.
Will Muslim Brotherhood rule lead to a religious state, or will it backfire and lead the people to reject religious rule and form a secular state?
I think this has already started. As soon as the Brotherhood appeared openly on the political scene they needed allies such as the Salafis, Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiya, and jihadist groups. They all allied because they speak in the name of religion.
These allies started making a lot of mistakes due to their political inexperience. The people started to reject their domination and move towards secularism. The people are now much more critical of religious leaders and feel that they no longer have a monopoly on religion.
This will lead to a secular state without the people even calling it that.