Young Egyptians recently gathered in an Old Cairo mosque to debate the existence of God—challenging stereotypes and showing what the media is missing: signs of society opening up.
Like many men in predominantly Muslim Egypt, Mohamed Abdelfattah was named after Islam’s most famous prophet. But he thinks the faith represented by his namesake is being challenged like never before in modern Egyptian society. While the world warily watches the country’s new Muslim Brotherhood president, also named Mohamed, this young journalist thinks everyone’s missing the real story: Egypt’s seismic search for meaning.
Abdelfattah makes his case by way of a recent debate headlined “Atheism and how atheists think” that was held—of all places—at an old Cairo mosque.
During the event, one 18-year-old Egyptian high school student proclaimed: “As an atheist, I believe that faith is against our very humanity and the source of warfare and bloodshed.” That’s a bold statement in Egypt, and certainly a bold thing to say to a mostly Muslim audience. Indeed, Abdelfattah said it was the first time he’d seen a public meeting on the subject of atheism, which had been considered, he said, “sensitive and taboo” before the opening up of society heralded by the ousting of longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak two years ago.
But past perceptions are changing fast, he says, detailing the February 16th event exclusively for Millennial Letters. Some specifics of the event have been withheld for the safety of those involved.
The four-hour exchange started with a 40-minute presentation on atheism that seemed more or less a discussion starter. The speaker gave a historical account of atheism since classical times and concluded with the state of disbelief in modern Arab and Egyptian histories.
This was followed by arguments for and against the existence of a God taken from among a crowd of several hundred, with each participant limited to two minutes. (World Affairs)