Algerian author Said Djabelkhir sentenced to jail for offending Islam
An author of Islamic books in Algeria has been sentenced to three years in prison for offending the religion.
Said Djabelkhir said he was surprised by the severity of the sentence he had been given and would appeal.
He was tried after seven lawyers and a fellow academic lodged complaints against him for disrespecting Islam.
Mr Djabelkhir had said the animal sacrifice during the Muslim festival of Eid was based on a pre-Islamic pagan ritual.
He also suggested that parts of the Quran, such as the story of Noah’s Ark, might not be literally true and criticised practices including the marriage of young girls in some Muslim societies.
Islam is Algeria’s religion of state. The law imposes a fine or prison sentence on “anyone who offends the Prophet or denigrates the dogmatic precepts of Islam, whether it be by writings, drawings, a statement or another means”.
Speaking to AFP news agency after being released on bail, Mr Djabelkhir said: “The fight for freedom of conscience is non-negotiable. It is a fight which must continue.”
Mr Djabelkhir, 53, has written two books on Islam.
He has been quoted in media reports as calling for “reflection” on Islam’s founding texts.
He said his accusers believe that everything in the Quran is literally true, and do not distinguish between “history” and “myth” – such as the story about Noah’s Ark.
“Everyone thinks of history with a capital ‘H’,” he was quoted as saying.
He recently told AFP that “the traditional readings [of the Quran] no longer meet the expectations, needs and questions of modern man”.
Muslims believe the Quran is the word of Allah, and was revealed to Prophet Muhammad as a guide to mankind.
Algeria’s Minister of Religious Affairs Mohamed Aissa reportedly criticised Mr Djabelkhir, saying he would not allow “anyone who wishes to profit from Algeria’s cultural plurality to sow discord”.
Human rights activists condemned Mr Djabelkhir’s prosecution as “an attack” on freedom of expression.