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Nawal el-Saadawi
"We are worried but not afraid"
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Tuesday, 24 April, 2001, 21:06 GMT 22:06 UK
Egyptian writer faces apostasy trial
Student clashes at Al-Azhar Religious University
Perceived attacks on Islam can raise tempers in Egypt
Egypt's prosecutor-general has ruled that a case against feminist writer Nawal el-Saadawi on charges of apostasy will be heard in court.

The case is being brought by a conservative lawyer, Nabih el-Wahsh, who has also called for Dr el-Saadawi's husband to divorce her on the grounds that she has deserted Islam.

Nawal el-Saadawi
El-Saadawi denies making the statements
Dr el-Saadawi told the BBC that she was astonished at the prosecutor's decision, adding that Mr el-Wahsh was "mentally disturbed".

The charges relate to an interview by Dr el-Saadawi in the Al-Midan weekly in which she was quoted as calling the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj, a vestige of paganism.

She was also quoted as calling for the abolition of an Islamic inheritance law in Egypt that gives female heirs half what men receive.

This lawyer is mentally disturbed. Nobody is taking him seriously

Nawal el-Saadawi
Egyptian Grand Mufti Sheikh Nasr Fraid Wassel, who listened to tapes of the interview, called on the writer to renounce her statements.

But Ms el-Saddawi said that the journalist had distorted the whole interview, and that she had merely been stating historical facts.

Previous controversy

Dr el-Saadawi's husband told The Associated Press they had not been informed of the decision, but - if true - it would be a licence to kill her.

He added that neither he nor his wife planned to leave Egypt.

Dr el-Saadawi has courted controversy before with her writings on women's issues.

In 1981 she was imprisoned by the late President Anwar Sadat for political activities.

And some of her books were banned at January's Cairo Book Fair.

Islamists initially won a similar case against a university professor, Nasser Abu Zeid, in 1995, ordering him to divorce his wife on the grounds of apostasy, but subsequently lost the case on appeal.

Mr Abu Zeid and his wife fled Egypt in 1995, fearing attacks by Islamic fundamentalists.

Apostasy, or renunciation of faith, is an offence in several Islamic countries.

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See also:

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Egypt blasphemy row deepens
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08 May 00 | Middle East
Cairo clashes over 'blasphemous' book
12 May 00 | Middle East
Cairo book protesters released
10 May 00 | Middle East
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