CAIRO: Egypt’s president and other Muslim leaders should demand the U.N. criminalize contempt of religion after the release of an anti-Islamic film and cartoons which demonstrate growing racism, said the leader of the biggest ultra-orthodox Islamist party. Despite doctrinal and political differences with President Mohammad Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafist Nour Party played a key role in supporting it during presidential elections in June.
Led by Emad Abdel Ghaffour, it now ranks as the second-largest party in parliament and plays a formidable force in Egypt’s new politics.
“We call for legislation or a resolution to criminalize contempt of Islam as a religion and its Prophet,” Ghaffour, one of four permanent assistants to the president, said Saturday.
“The voice of reason in the West will prevail if there is mutual respect, dialogue and efficient lobbying for this critical resolution,” he said in an interview.
The recent violent unrest in some Muslim countries caused by anger at the anti-Islam film made in California and the French cartoons published by satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo is expected to be a closely watched theme.
“A proposal to look into the root causes of the obvious racism against Muslims and Arabs as the recent fierce campaign against their Islamic beliefs shows is much needed,” Ghaffour said.
Ghaffour blamed interest groups for trying to sow discord between Western countries and newly elected Islamist governments in the Middle East by defaming Islam.
“A new reality in the Middle East has emerged after the toppling of autocratic regime of Hosni Mubarak and others through democratic elections that brought newly elected Islamist governments,” Ghaffour said.
“There are interest groups who seek to escalate hatred to show newly-elected governments and their Muslim electorate as undemocratic.”
His Nour Party plans to produce a documentary film on the life of the Prophet for global release in an effort to counter the California-made film.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 24, 2012, on page 9.