Governments and religious institutions in the Middle East consider atheism a threat

According to DW, In Egypt and other Arab states, societies are heavily influenced by religion. Even so, many people evidently regard themselves as atheists, and both governments and religious institutions see this as a threat.

There are exactly 866 atheists living along the Nile - at least according to a recent survey by the government-run Egyptian institution "Dar al-Ifta," which keeps tabs on religious issues in the country. How exactly that number was determined is unclear, but the institution's verdict on the threat is surprising: according Dar al-Ifta, the fact that 0.001 percent of the Egyptian population does not believe in God is a reason to sound the alarm bells. After all, no country in the Arab world apparently has a higher number of "godless" people - Morocco being the runner-up with a purported 325 atheists.

The Dar al-Ifta figures contrast sharply with a poll conducted in 2014 by the Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Having canvassed 6,000 young people, the university - which has a formidable reputation in Sunni Islam - came up with an atheist proportion of some 12.3 percent of the Egyptian population. That would amount to 10.7 million of 87 million Egyptians.

Appearing on state TV in October, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayyib, warned that atheism was no longer a side issue - the conscious dissociation from any religion was, he said, a social problem. According to the Gulf News daily, the Egyptian Ministries of Youth and Religious Endowment both pledged to launch campaigns designed to combat this attitude. Moderate religious scholars, psychologists, and social scientists were to be sent out to thwart the loss of faith among the young. "Young people are alienated by militant preachers who tell them 24 hours a day that they will go to hell," Al-Azhar professor Amnah Nusair told Gulf News.

Whether they are Muslim, Christian, or Jewish, hardly anyone in the Middle East publicly renounces religion. But the number seems to have increased in the wake of the Arab Spring in 2011, and most Arab countries have seen the emergence of atheist groups with their own Facebook pages. Their numbers appear to be very small: the "Tunisian Atheists" group has about 6,900 "likes," while the "Sudanese Atheists" have almost 3,300. The "Atheist Society in Egypt" recorded 585 at the time of writing, while the "Feminist Atheists in Saudi Arabia" all of 61.

For more details please check DW

Tags: #Atheism, #RegionalReport

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