Algeria – Islamic Scholar Given Three-Year Jail Term for ‘Offending Islam’

Pixabay(file image)22 APRIL 2021Amnesty International (London)PRESS RELEASE

  • Said Djabelkheir sentenced for three posts on Facebook questioning authenticity of certain aspects of Islamic belief
  • Scholar has been target of death threats dating back more than ten years
  • ‘Algerian courts have no business judging people’s religious beliefs and opinions’ – Amna Guellali

A well-known Islamic expert in Algeria has been given a three-year jail sentence for “offending” Islam with comments he posted on Facebook, which Amnesty International has described as a “flagrant violation of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of belief.”

In three Facebook posts in January 2020, Said Djabelkheir drew comparisons between Eid al-Adha and the Berber New Year celebrations, referred to some stories in the Qur’an as “myths”, and said he considered certain hadiths “apocryphal”.

The Sidi Mhamed Court of First Instance today convicted him of “offending the Prophet of Islam” and “denigrating the dogma or precepts of Islam” under Article 144bis of Algeria’s Penal Code. The court sentenced Djabelkheir to a three-year prison term but did not issue a detention order so he has not yet been taken into custody. Lawyers will appeal the decision.

The charges were brought after a teacher at the University of Sidi Bel Abbès, who considered Djabelkheir’s Facebook posts had violated religious precepts, pressed charges against him with the investigative judge of the Sidi Mhamed court.

Djabelkheir told Amnesty that he was not notified about his prosecution and that he only learned of it when friends alerted him in January 2020. The scholar said that during the course of the entire investigation by the Sidi Mhamed judge he was never summoned for interrogation. Neither was he informed of his trial date, and only learned of it via Facebook posts. His trial took place at the Sidi Mhamed court on 1 April.

For years Djabelkheir has been the victim of online and offline harassment for peacefully expressing his views. He told Amnesty that he has received numerous death threats on Facebook since he joined it in 2007.

Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said:

“It is outrageous that Said Djabelkheir is facing three years in prison simply for voicing his opinions about religious texts.

“Punishing someone for their analysis of religious doctrines is a flagrant violation of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of belief – even if the comments are deemed offensive by others.

“Algerian courts have no business judging people’s religious beliefs and opinions. Said Djabelkheir’s conviction must be quashed immediately. Any provisions in Algeria’s penal code that criminalise the rights to freedom of expression, opinion or belief must be urgently repealed.”

Crackdown on dissent

The Algerian authorities have previously used Article 144bis of the penal code to crack down on dissent and prosecute activists. On 8 October last year, a court in Khenchla, in eastern Algeria, handed down a ten-year prison sentence and a heavy fine against the activist Yacine Mebarki for charges that included “offending the Prophet of Islam”. The verdict was later reduced on appeal to one year in jail. In 2016, a court in Setif sentenced Slimane Bouhafs, a Christian convert, to three years in prison under the same article for Facebook posts criticising religious ideas.

Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Algeria is a state party, guarantees the right to freedom of expression and opinion. The UN Human Rights Committee noted in 2011 that “prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant”.

Read the original article on AI London.

source Algeria – Islamic Scholar Given Three-Year Jail Term for ‘Offending Islam’ –

1 reply

  1. Freedom of Conscience

    Further, Islam has proclaimed complete freedom of conscience. The Qur’an is unique among all the scriptures in affirming truth and righteousness of all the Prophets and the truth of all Divine revelations, and in establish and proclaiming the right of every human being to complete freedom of conscience:

    There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong.. (Ch.2: V.257)


    And say, ‘It is the truth from your Lord; wherefore, let him who will, believe, and him who will, disbelieve.’ (Ch. 18: V.30)

    The presentation of Islam to mankind must involve no pressure or coercion. Indeed no pressure or coercion was possible, as the Holy Prophet(sa) stood alone and unprotected against a hostile combination of tribes and he and his handful of early followers were subjected to the most bitter, cruel and persistent persecution all through the thirteen years of his ministry at Mecca. The manner propagation of the, faith is, however, laid down clearly the Qur’ an:

    Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in a way that is best. Surely, thy Lord knows best who has strayed from His way; and He knows those who are rightly guided. (Ch. 16: V. 126)

    A way of accord between all those who believe God and in Divine revelation has been proclaimed in the Qur’an. The time seems to have come, it cannot be far when the invitation extended by Islam may be availed by the followers of other revealed faiths, for the purpose of achieving a practical brotherhood of man through common spiritual values.

    Say, ‘O people of the Book! come to a word equal between us and you that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partner with Him, and that some us take not others for Lords beside Allah.’ But if they turn away, then say, ‘Bear witness that we have submitted to God’ (Ch.3: V65)

    As a corollary of belief in the existence and unity of God and in a divine purpose behind all creation, Islam emphasises the accountability of man in all spheres of life, and sets up a balance between this life and the hereafter. This constitutes the essence of Islam. Whoso, therefore, affirms faith in the existence and unity of God in the life hereafter and strives constantly after righteous action, becomes heir to the grace and mercy of God:

    Surely, those who have believed, and the Jews and the Sabians and the Christians-whoso believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds, on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Ch.5: V70)

    It will thus be seen that Islam does truly speak to man at a universal level and seeks, through the acceptance of common values which are essential to the preservation and fostering of man’s moral and spiritual life to bring about accord in the religious sphere.


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