In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief.
Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online TV channel. Free Mind TV defends the right not to believe.
Edited and produced in a studio in the United States, Free Mind TV says it wants to promote nonreligious liberal ideas in the Middle East.
On the screen, the presenter appears to be in a sophisticated studio. But in reality, presenter Ahmed Harqan, a former Muslim, sits at a card table in a small bedroom in Egypt, with a green cloth hanging behind him.
.. and of course the Islamists in Egypt are not bothered at all about this and are quite happy with it … oh wait, perhaps not …
Harqan said that in one instance, people on the street were trying to kill him and his wife, Nada Mandour, so he ran into a police station. The people followed and told the police that he appears on a TV program, insulting Islam. The couple were arrested.
After they were released 24 hours later, they had to move to a different house to avoid threats and harassment.
Mandour, also a former Muslim, shoots and directs some Free Mind TV programs. Since she abandoned religion two years ago, she said, most of her family has abandoned her. Mandour said they hate her for being critical of religion and ultimately declaring herself a nonbeliever. She no longer sees her parents and is not allowed in the family home.
.. and there rests a fabulous illustration of what is wrong with irrational beliefs.
I’m not suggesting that those that seek to cause harm to those that do not believe are evil people, but rather that that have embraced an idea that tricks them into truly believing that any criticism of their culturally inherited deity is wrong, and so their actions are motivated by what they truly believe to be a wrong.
Can people ever find freedom from a superstitious inheritance that traps them into behaving in a truly abhorrent intolerant manner?
Yes they can, both Ahmed Harqan and his wife who produce this TV channel were once Muslims, but now that they have found a better way, and so they are no longer victims.
There rests hope for a better world, not just because they have found freedom of thought and liberty from superstition, but because they are not alone.