Pro Islamic-reform TV show cancelled on Azhar request, host arrested for blasphemy

Islam Al-Behairy called for reforming Islam on his TV show. Due to a request from the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, his show was suspended and he was given a 5-year sentence for blasphemy. 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 the With Islam segment on the al-Kahera wel-Nas (Cairo and the people) channel in Egypt and later Islam Hurr (Free Islam) on the Alhurra (The Free One) channel in the United States

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.

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