Algeria Sufism expert given jail sentence for 'offending Islam'

Algeria Sufism expert Said Djabelkhir sentenced to three years in jail for 'offending Islam'
3 min read
22 April, 2021
An Algerian academic has been sentenced to three years in jail over after being found guilty of offending Islam.
Said Djabelkhir was sentenced to three years jail [Facebook]
An Algerian academic has been sentenced to three years in jail and fined 50,000 dinars ($375) after judges found him guilty of blasphemy.

Said Djabelkhir, one of the world's foremost experts on Sufism, was charged in February with "mocking religion and the rituals of Islam" after a complaint from an academic and lawyers.

Djabelkhir, who has been released on bail, argued during the trial that his thoughts were "academic reflections" and pledged to appeal the court's verdict.

"The fight for freedom of conscience is non-negotiable," he told AFP. "It is a fight which must continue."
His lawyer, Moumen Chadi, said he was shocked by the verdict, saying there "is no proof" about the accusations, according to the agency.

Djabelkhir added that the plaintiffs have "no expertise on religious matters".

He told The New Arab earlier this month that he was shocked by the complaint from the plaintiffs which included a professor at Djillali Liabes University of Sidi Bel-Abbes.

"I was very surprised by this lawsuit that was filed against me for several reasons - because the plaintiff was a university professor and he was supposed to contact me and discuss with me my thoughts and publications with which he disagrees," he told The New Arab.

"At that time I would have welcomed and accepted his dialogue in the format he chose. But for him to turn to the judiciary against ideas with which he disagrees with, knowing though he is a university professor, surprised and amazed me."

They claimed that Djabelkhir's writings on the Hajj pilgrimage, animal sacrifices on Eid, and other critical comments constitute an "an attack and mockery of the authentic hadiths of the Sunna [the custom and practice] of the Prophet".

Djabelkhir denies this and says he has only questioned the validity of some of the hadiths attributed to the Prophet Muhammad.

Djabelkhir could have faced five years in jail for breaking Article 144 of Algeria's penal code.

His lawyers said the complaint against him was inadmissible because it came from individuals and not the public prosecutor. They warning that Djabelkhir's trial could lead to Algerian court houses becoming arenas of "religious debates".

Djabelkhir also received the backing of academics, journalists, and politicians.

Amnesty International condemned the court's verdict.

"It is outrageous that Said Djabelkheir is facing three years in prison simply for voicing his opinions about religious texts," said Amna Guellali, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. 

"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."

Agencies contributed to this story

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