Grand Mufti Approves Death Penalty for ‘Innocence of Muslims’ Film Producers

From Egypt Independent:

Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa has approved a death sentence delivered in absentia for seven Coptic Egyptian expats accused of producing and acting a movie deemed insulting to Islam.

The declaration was made Tuesday by a judge at the Cairo Criminal Court.

Egypt’s State Security Court had sentenced the defendants in November to death and referred the verdict to the mufti for approval.

I hope politics did not come into this decision. The Mufti is generally known as a wise and moderate figure, who enjoys friendship with many Christian leaders. Among them is Bishop Mouneer of the Anglican Church, who has called for the criminalization of defamation of religion at the UN, but certainly not the death penalty.

The politics could come because the Mufti (as well as the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar) are targeted figures by the emerging Islamist parties who are salivating over control of Egypt’s religious institutions. Both the Mufti and the Grand Sheikh are holdovers from the Mubarak era. The Mufti may not feel comfortable standing in the way of this decision and watching the Islamists explode. Given that all the accused are resident outside of Egypt, perhaps he feels the damage is limited.

Only the damage will come to Islam in the eyes of the West. Does Islam truly call for the death of all who insult its prophet? Yes, the film was offensive and insulting – its round and absolute condemnation is necessary.

But the Mufti’s decision sets a precedent in the new Egypt. As the new constitution calls for the religious institutions to have a greater role in determining legislation, it is a moderate figure who first authorized one of Islam’s most controversial rulings.

The eyes of the West will be offended, but the real damage to Islam may well resound locally.

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