PEN International has called on Algerian authorities to abandon the investigation of writer Anouar Rahmani for allegedly insulting Islam in his latest novel ‘Jibril’s Hallucination’.
If prosecuted under article 144 (bis 2) of the penal code, the writer could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 100,000 dinars (approx. USD $920) for “offending the prophet” and “denigrating the dogma and precepts of Islam”.
The writer said he received a summons on 27 February 2017 to appear at a police station in Tipaza in northern Algeria. Once there, seven policemen interrogated Rahmani for ten hours about particular passages in the novel, including a chapter where a child speaks to a homeless man who call himself Allah.
They also questioned him over his religious and political views, and his opinion of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
“The biggest blasphemy is to think that God could be hurt by a novel, and that he is so weak that he needs to be defended by the police,” Rahmani told Human Rights Watch.
On 14 March 2017, the writer had to wait for more than six hours at the Houari Boumediene airport in capital city Algiers before being allowed to travel to Lebanon for a conference, under the pretext that he had not completed his military service. Rahmani, who is also a law student, is legally exempt from military service.
Rahmani writes about human rights issues in the country and has said that he is often threatened and insulted for his work. His other novel ‘The City of White Shadows’ revolves around a gay relationship between an Algerian freedom fighter and a French settler during the war for independence.
» PEN International – 23 March 2017
Algeria: The writer Anouar Rahmani is under imminent threat of arrest for blasphemy
» International Business Times – 10 March 2017
Who is Anouar Rahmani? Student facing blasphemy probe and death threats in Algeria for novel
» Human Rights Watch – 8 March 2017
Algeria: Don’t prosecute a writer for insulting Islam