Pro-Islamic-reform TV show canceled, host arrested for blasphemy

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.

Islam al-Behairy
May 30, 2015
Imprisoned, Civil Death
Accused of:
Television host, theologian, writer
Known For:

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.

Cases in Egypt
Activist Anas Hassan given three years in prison, fined ~$19,000 for atheist Facebook page
Activist Ahmed Harkan and pregnant wife assaulted, brutalized by police; miscarriage results
Al-Azhar student Kareem Amer expelled, imprisoned three years; tortured for blasphemy, atheism
Egyptian Coptic Alber Saber imprisoned after sharing satirical film on Islam
Ayman Yusef Mansur sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor for Facebook blasphemy
Copts Ayman Rida Hanna and Mounir Massad Hanna imprisoned for blasphemous social media video
Bishoy Kameel fired, imprisoned, and beaten for fabricated blasphemous Facebook posts
Schoolteacher Dimiana Abdel-Nour accused of blasphemy by students, arrested
Prominent secularist professor and writer Farag Foda assassinated
Poet and journalist Fatima Naoot given three years for criticizing Eid "massacre"
Coptic teacher Gad Younan and students mock ISIS, imprisoned for blasphemy, fined, exiled
Coptic 17-year-old Gamal Abdou Massoud given three years in prison for blasphemy
Pro-Islamic-reform TV show canceled, host arrested for blasphemy
Student Karim al-Banna imprisoned for announcing atheism online
Activist Maikel Nabil Sanad subjected to official blasphemy investigation, self-exiles from Egypt
Christian school secretary Makram Diab gets 6-year sentence for asking "blasphemous" question
Sheikh Mizo teaches tolerance, criticizes scripture, receives 5-year sentence
Comedian Mohamed Ashraf arrested on blasphemy charges for mocking Qur'an radio show
Activist Mustafa Abdel-Nabi sentenced to three years for atheistic Facebook posts
Coptic children Nabil Nagy Rizk and Mina Nady Farag arrested for blasphemy
Author Naguib Mahfouz suffers assassination attempt for blasphemous writings
Leading liberal theologian and writer Nasr Abu Zayd forced into exile
Coptic lawyer Roman Murad Saad given year in prison, hard labor for "ridiculing" Quran
Popular Islam-critical YouTuber Sherif Gaber arrested trying to escape Egypt
Student Youssef Hani arrested for supporting France amid blasphemy controversy