Prof. Dr. Fathī Surūr sheds due
light on the close relation between freedom of expression and religious freedom and how calling for religious hatred or
insults is but a manipulation of freedom of expression and should be criminalized.
Prof. Dr. Ahmad Fathī Surūr
resumes the second part of his article ’The relationship between freedom of expression and religious freedom’ published in
al-Ahrām on May 20, 2009. In this part, Surūr tackles the second and the third problems. The second problem is
resorting legal measures to resolve the apparent dispute between the two types of freedom or standing against incitement to
Most of the specialists during the conference organized by the Human Rights Council related to the
United Nations highlighted that it is not accurate to point to any contradiction between freedom of expression and religious
freedom because all human rights, they stressed, are universal and indivisible. Moreover, some of the countries shed light on
the importance of protecting Islamic communities from religious hatred directed against them. As a result, the conference
also stressed the importance of criminalizing any calls for religious hatred either through discrimination, enmity or
Surūr concludes a number of principles from the discussions which took place about criminalizing
religious hatred. Firstly, stressing the close relation between freedom of expression and religious freedom, which mainly is
based on the freedom of expressing religious beliefs. The second principle is that each of the two types of freedom depends
mainly on a large degree of mutual tolerance and respect. Thirdly, constructive criticism should be respected.
third problem is how the religious affiliation of a country legally affects striking a balance between freedom of expression
and religious freedom. Surūr elaborates that some of the constitutions of democratic countries state the religious
identity to which the country subscribes. However, this is only a form of declaring the most prevalent religion in the
country without there being any legal consequences justifying putting limitations on freedom of expression. The Egyptian
Constitution respects the principle of religious freedom and the freedom of practicing religious rituals; each person has the
right to choose whatever religion to embrace. Consequently, stating the official religion of the country in the constitution
does not have any sort of influence on freedom of expression.