Chairs in a Cairo cafe
Photo by: 
Andeel

Authorities raid, close 'atheists' cafe' in downtown Cairo

Security forces raided and closed what they described as the “atheists’ café” in the Abdeen neighborhood of downtown Cairo, municipal authorities announced Sunday.

The café has also been described as a den for “Satan worshippers.”

The closure spurred a reaction on social networking sites, with “atheists’ café” trending nationwide.

The mainstream media portal Sada al-Balad reported on Sunday that the coffee shop was raided and demolished.

Gamal Mohie, chief of the Abdeen Municipality, told Mada Masr that the coffee shop in question was not raided on Sunday, but one month earlier, on November 10.

“There was no demolition involved, only confiscation of the coffee shop’s property. This was all done in accordance with the law and legal procedures,” Mohie clarified, adding that the only person arrested during the raid was the owner, “as his coffee shop was unauthorized, unlicensed, and also because drugs were found inside.”

The café had originally been licensed as an import/export and trade office, Mohie explained, adding, “There was no sign reading ‘atheists’ café’ outside, as nobody would put up such a public announcement. However, it was popularly known as a place for Satan worship, rituals and dances. There were also Satanic drawings at the entrance.”

The police chief did not explain how or why atheists might be worshiping Satan in a coffee shop. Atheists deny the existence of both God and Satan, as they deny the existence of both heaven and hell.

The municipal official said the “atheists’ café” was located at 61 Falaky Street in downtown Cairo. He added that it was raided last month, “following noise complaints from local residents. It was later shuttered and sealed off with red wax.”

In response to the news published in the Sada al-Balad portal, social networking sites were flooded with satirical comments regarding the actions of the authorities against perceived atheism.

One Twitter user commented that in light of this incident, “authorities might storm the Café of Vampires very soon.”

Another Twitter user sarcastically commented, “Religion has been introduced to Falaky Street during the reign of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.” Another wrote, “The ruling regime has proven to be a bunch of comedians … Even funnier than the Brotherhood.”

Scores of other users criticized the effectiveness of closing coffee shops as part of the state’s attempt to eliminate the phenomenon of atheism in Egypt.

On Wednesday, religious authorities — citing an alleged survey — announced that Egypt has a total of 866 atheists, a figure which has widely been dismissed as baseless.

Some religious authorities announced outreach programs to eradicate atheism nationwide. This year, Muslim and Christian clerics, alongside police forces, have established committees and launched campaigns to rid the country of atheism.

Being an atheist is not criminalized by Egyptian law, although Article 98(f) of the Penal Code stipulates that individuals found guilty by a court of law of defaming, insulting or ridiculing the heavenly (Abrahamic) religions are to be issued prison sentences ranging from six months to five years, and/or fines of LE500 to 1,000.