Islam al-Behairy called for reforming Islam on his TV show. His show was suspended and he was given a five-year sentence for blasphemy, although he was later pardoned by President Sisi.
hosting TV programs on Islamic theology
Islam al-Behairy is an Egyptian Islamic theologian who had hosted a television program discussing matters of Islamic scripture and doctrine. This, however, came to an end in 2015 when the channel which broadcast his program pulled it from the air, due to what Islam called a “disagreement” he had with management.
"We are moving far, far, far backwards. What is coming is much worse, beyond imagination." - Islam al-Behairy upon the suspension of his program
That disagreement surely revolved around Islam’s calls for reforms of the Muslim faith. On his program, he often discussed the flaws of ancient interpretations of scripture and called for a less antiquated understanding of the religion for the modern era. These gentle pushes for reform were given another name by the leadership at the prestigious Sunni center of learning, al-Azhar University: “insults to Islamic heritage.”
It was not enough that his channel, claiming that they wished not to hurt social cohesion or broadcast religiously divisive material, pulled Islam’s show; he also had to be taken to court and handed a five-year prison sentence for insulting religion. There is, however, a silver lining: his prison sentence was shortly thereafter reduced to only one year, and he later received a pardon for his “crimes” from President Sisi.
Egypt has a general blasphemy law that prohibits disparaging “the heavenly religions.” While the law ostensibly targets no religion in particular, in practice it is usually used against religious minorities and those who blaspheme Islam. Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority has particularly borne a disproportionate weight of blasphemy prosecutions. In addition to the relatively aggressive efforts of Egyptian authorities to prosecute such cases, blasphemers and atheists must also contend with social pressure, coercion, and the risk of vigilante violence.