Scientology in Egypt
The Church of Scientology has no official presence in Egypt and there are no known membership statistics available. In 2002, two members were detained by Egyptian authorities under the charges of "contempt of religion". However, some books by the founder, L. Ron Hubbard, have started to appear in several Egyptian bookstores in the late 2000s, and were even approved by Al-Azhar, the highest Sunni learning institution in the Muslim world. Egypt is listed on an official Scientology website as being a country "in which Dianetics and Scientology services are ministered". Narconon, an organization which promotes Hubbard's drug abuse treatment, has a branch in Fayoum.
Detention of two members
On December 24, 2001, Egyptian authorities arrested two members of the Church of Scientology: Mahmoud Massarwa, a 28-year-old Israeli citizen of Palestinian origin, and his Palestinian wife Wafaa Ahmad. They were charged with "contempt of religion" and were accused of trying to establish a branch in Egypt and harm the country's two main religions "with the aim of sparking riots". Two months later, a court extended their custody for 30 days to allow further police questioning, adding that they have confessed to have come to Egypt in order to spread their doctrine. Human rights director of the Church of Scientology, Leisa Goodman, denied these claims on behalf of the church and said that the couple was in the country representing the Italian branch of New Era Publications, a firm that publishes the works of L. Ron Hubbard, to promote Hubbard's book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, stressing that the authorities had allowed the book's entry to Egypt. "We are greatly concerned at their prolonged detention, which appears to be a violation of their right to freedom of expression," Goodman said. The two were finally released the next month and the court ruled that condemning people for adopting new ideas is a violation of human rights.
Scientology books in Egypt
Arabic-language translations of books by L. Ron Hubbard, such as Dianetics and The Way to Happiness, have been sold in several book stores in Egypt and were made available at the annual Cairo International Book Fair. The books bore the approval stamp of Al-Azhar, the Muslim world's highest Sunni learning institution. They were printed in Denmark, both in English and Arabic, and shipped to Egypt by New Era Publications. Ahmed Abdel Khalek, a professor at Al-Azhar University who has served as chief-of-staff and translator to the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, said that he had no objections to the approval of the books unless they violated "morality and traditions". "We should be open-minded and listen to the other. After all, if I disagree with something in a book, I should write a rebuttal," he said. New Era Publications' public relations office said that Al-Azhar's move was essential and insisted that there was nothing religious about the books' nature.
Narconon Egypt, a drug abuse treatment center based in Fayoum, is the Egyptian branch of the global Narconon organization. The branch's executive director, Mohamed Nour Salah, said that there is no connection between Narconon Egypt and the Church of Scientology, stressing that it is a non-profit organization and that none of the staff are Scientologists. Nevertheless, Narconon Egypt's website mentions Hubbard's work as an inspiration for its founding.
- El Dahshan, Mohamed (7 March 2010). "Scientology rears head in Egypt's bookstores". Egypt Independent. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
- El Amrani, Issandr (5 March 2002). "Egypt jails two Scientologists". United Press International. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
- "Scientology followers released from Egyptian jail". Channel Africa. Worldwide Religious News. 28 March 2002. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
- Al-Saadi, Yazan (17 October 2013). "Lebanon Cruises on Scientology's "Way to Happiness"". Al-Akhbar. Retrieved 29 August 2014.(→ Al-Azhar Validation Letter)