Egyptian atheist gets kicked out of television studio

Reader Barry called my attention to this tweet by Richard Dawkins, and, unusually, MEMRI has put the 3-minute video (with English subtitles) on YouTube. I’ve embedded it below:

The background given by MEMRI:

Mohammad Hashem, an atheist, was invited to the Alhadath Alyoum TV studio to participate in a debate with former Deputy Sheikh of Al-Azhar Mahmoud Ashour. However, his statement that there is no scientific evidence for the existence of God and his attempt to talk about the Big Bang theory met with a barrage of insults from Sheikh Ashour and from TV host Mahmoud Abd Al-Halim, with Sheikh Ashour recommending psychiatric treatment and Abd Al-Halim refusing to allow him to remain on the show. The TV host, apologizing to his viewers for subjecting them to “inappropriate” and “destructive ideas,” advised Hashem “to leave the studio and go straight to a psychiatric hospital.” The show aired on February 11.

It’s amazing how violently the presenters react to Hashem’s claim that there is no scientific evidence for God.  They fulminate, tell him he is “mentally ill” and then, in a pot/kettle/black moment, say that he “has nothing to offer”. But of course it is the hosts who are deluded; yet their delusion is so common in Egypt that it’s taken as the norm.

Now I’m not sure how much of the posturing of the loud host in the royal-blue blazer is merely for the benefit of the camera and the government, but surely both hosts knew that Hashem was an atheist when they invited him on. What did they expect?

And, of course Hashem is persona non grata in Egypt now, perhaps even in danger of his life.  This is a brave man.


  1. GBJames
    Posted May 3, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink


    • eric collier
      Posted May 4, 2018 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      A brave man indeed in a region full of God-fellators, conformity-fetishists and cowards. I’d like to email him with moral support, but that might do more harm than good.

  2. Frank Bath
    Posted May 3, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I saw this clip earlier. One wants to give up on these people who not so much don’t think as won’t think. Where are we, medieval Europe? I hope our non-believer is safe.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted May 3, 2018 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      I tweeted it and posted this on my site a couple of months ago. I’m glad Richard Dawkins has posted it because it will get a lot more views.

      MEMRI has a YouTube channel and a Twitter feed. Its own website doesn’t link to them so they can be hard to find.

  3. BobTerrace
    Posted May 3, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    What is funny, is that his last name, Hashemite, means god in Hebrew.

    • BobTerrace
      Posted May 3, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      I typed Hashem but the grammar/spell check changed it.

  4. ploubere
    Posted May 3, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Such animosity is the product of fear.

  5. Posted May 3, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure they had him on just to throw him out. The host was interviewed about the incident, and felt everything was justified.

    • ploubere
      Posted May 3, 2018 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Good to see some pushback, to see that odious host questioned.

    • Vaal
      Posted May 3, 2018 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      Wow, that TV host Mahmoud Abd Al-Halim sure has a low appraisal of his fellow Egyptians, and Arabs!

      He reminds me of the cosmological equivalent of a “White Hole.” A hell of a lot spews out, but nothing seems to be able to get in.

    • Posted May 4, 2018 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      It’s amazing. According to the presenter, they invited him on because the segment was about atheism. What were they expecting him to say?

      I think the atheist was set up.

      • Posted May 4, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

        Reminds me of how police departments run stings where they notify people they want to arrest that they’ve won a prize in a contest and all they have to do is show up somewhere to collect it.

  6. Posted May 3, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    The scary thing is this is mainstream thinking in many countries, right? It makes me think about the refugee situation here in the US. Should we allow a kid like this to seek refuge here? I would certainly support it. I have no idea whether he wants it but if this was watched throughout Egypt, the poor kid is going to need it. On the other hand, we’re going to need more guys like this if things are going to improve. So what do most Egyptians say about this interview? Which side are they on?

    • Posted May 4, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      Canada has non-believers from Bangladesh to be sponsored as refugees, so there is at least some precedent. Mind you with Trumpism (or rather, Pence-ism) in the US …

  7. alexandra Moffat
    Posted May 3, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Is there some way for us to express support for him? If they haven’t killed him as a blasphemer. Religion, irrationality is getting more and more scary. As times worsen, society breaks down, religion swoops in with even more power to seduce. It is hard not to believe that there are 2species of humans – the faithists appear so very mind disabled as to have different DNA.
    JC: there is a cats -pro- environment cartoon in the 5/7 New Yorker, I could not pull it out to send to you.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted May 3, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      Framed screen shot. Command-Shift-4 for a Mac. Don’t know what is the command for a PC.

      • alexandra Moffat
        Posted May 3, 2018 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

        thank you. yes, old i mac. and tech stupid
        operator. will give it a try

  8. Posted May 3, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    These are still the Dark Ages.

  9. busterggi
    Posted May 3, 2018 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    “But of course it is the hosts who are deluded; yet their delusion is so common in Egypt that it’s taken as the norm.’

    Have you looked at American tv lately?

  10. dave eberth
    Posted May 3, 2018 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    This morning I just primed our new and returning summer staff here at the Royal Tyrrell Museum (Alberta, Canada) on how to assess and address creationist challenges that occur during their public presentations and interactions. Fortunately, here in Canada, even our fundamentalist creationists tend to be somewhat more polite than in the USA (and certainly Egypt). However, this timely video serves perfectly to reinforce for our staff that arguments based in religious authority are often driven by emotion and fear, not evidence. Thanks for re-posting the video.

    • Posted May 3, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      I love the Royal Tyrell! Went on a DinoTour with Phil Currie back in the early 90s. We started and finished the tour at the museum. Such a good time.

      • Posted May 3, 2018 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        Have you seen the fossilised dino poo?


        • Posted May 3, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

          I have, though I don’t remember if it was at the Tyrell. Of course, once you’ve seen some dino poo you’ve seen it all. 😉

    • Posted May 3, 2018 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      “more polite” Well, of course; they’re Canadians.


    • Posted May 3, 2018 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      The Royal Tyrrell Museum was one of my, and my husband’s, favorite places to go. His last visit was taken a month or so before he died. He had a blast talking with the staff and taking a jillion photos of dinosaurs (including one for me of a dinosaur, that taken from the right perspective, looks as though it’s holding the planet Earth in it’s front feet.) And, he scooted around all over using his new, deluxe walker (with wheels). Fortunately, I heard no screams from injured patrons. Thank you for all the pleasure you’ve given me, my husband and so many others. World class museum.

  11. Randall Schenck
    Posted May 3, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Are we sure this was not Fox TV?

  12. bjornove
    Posted May 3, 2018 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    It’s really sad, but not really surprising to see how non believers are treated in Islamic countries. I have been to Egypt 6 times and really love the country. The people are really nice and friendly (most arabs are really) but when they ask about my religion I used to lie and said I am a Christian (which is OK, even Jewish is acceptable, but an atheist…… way)

    A few years ago I was in Yemen, studying Arabic for two months and once my teacher asked me about my religion. I hesitated and said……..well, I am not very religious…..He pressed on and at last I said, I do not believe in God, I am an atheist. The teacher, a very nice guy, was really chocked, but he didn’t change his behavior towards me, he still was very nice to me. Maybe I lighted a spark in him and perhaps he had doubts about religion himself.

    I am going to Egypt again this summer and I am really looking forward to this. I do know, however, that when in Muslim countries, you should be really careful to openly declare your atheism. I do when asked directly, but would rather avoid a direct question about my (non)-belief, not because I am afraid, but because so many Muslims find it really offending. I am highly critical of any religion, and especially Islam, but I see no point in offending nice people. As I said, the vast majority of Muslims are nice and welcoming people

  13. revelator60
    Posted May 3, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    He is indeed brave, for Egypt is a dangerous place for atheists, as shown by Quillette’s recent article “A Life of Pretending: Being Egyptian and Atheist”:

  14. bjornove
    Posted May 3, 2018 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I am somewhat optimistic about the prospect of non-belief spreading in religious countries and the reason is internet. This rather old youtube video is giving me hope

  15. Cicely berglund
    Posted May 3, 2018 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Poor kid. His manner reminds me of James D’amore. Very smart and thoughtful and totally naive and unpracticed in dealing with bullies. The announcer in turn reminds me of Sean Hannity. Seems like they asked him on in order to make a show of him.

  16. Curt Nelson
    Posted May 3, 2018 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    “You have not uttered one convincing word!”
    Because the loud-mouth won’t let him talk.

    “And don’t use big words.” (We are simple cave men.)

  17. Posted May 3, 2018 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    The host was saving his own butt and hard at it he was too… that i found amusing.

    Ashour needs to take his own advice.
    Tragicomedy is alive and well.

    As for the young man, i hope he is safe. If not, that is the only true tragedy here.

  18. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted May 3, 2018 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t go to a Muslim country, because of things like this.

  19. freiner
    Posted May 4, 2018 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    “Destructive and bad for Egyptian youth.” How many more Socrates’ is this world going to keep driving to the hemlock?

  20. Jason Coyle
    Posted May 4, 2018 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Wow… just wow.

  21. None
    Posted May 22, 2018 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    He’s trying to get out of Egypt now. He is in danger.

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