When I ran into author Youssef Ziedan and his publisher, Ibrahim Moallem, at the 2010 Sharjah International Book Fair, Ziedan was not concerned about case No. 686:
This was a case that eleven Coptic rights organisations had filed with Egypt’s prosecutor general, in the wake of his novel Azazeel and his nonfiction work Arab Theology. (Islamist attorneys also filed a case, but theirs was dismissed.) The case accused Ziedan of contempt of Christianity. The groups apparently stated that Ziedan “taunts the doctrines of the trinity, unification and redemption adopted by Christians.”
Nothing would ever come of the case? I asked Moallem and Ziedan.
Ziedan hemmed about it a little, saying that anything was possible, but–
Nothing, Moallem said. Never.
And yet now, perhaps, something is coming of it. Monday, Ziedan posted on Facebook that he’d been called in by the prosecutor’s office. Yesterday morning, Ziedan went in to explain himself and answer to the accusations in Case 686. He was released after questioning, but must return to further respond to the case. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, among others, attended the investigation, and promises more information about the proceedings. According to reports, prosecutors are less interested in Azazeel than in Arab Theology.
In a 2010 interview with NileTV, Ziedan said that he believes his 2008 novel, Azazeel, “was attacked by some people who want the Egyptians to stay an ignorant people.”
Ziedan also told the Guardian in 2010: “Many Orthodox bishops and monks welcomed the novel, and some of them wrote positively of Azazeel, whether in Egypt, Syria or Lebanon.” Ziedan described his novel as “not against Christianity but against violence, especially violence in the name of the sacred.”
However, Omar Cheta asserted in a 2010 article for the Egypt Independent, that Ziedan hadn’t done enough to dispel the notion that his books, particularly Arab Theology, “disproved Christianity,” and Ziedan was thus worsening the rift between Egypt’s Muslims and Christians. Cheta wrote that Arab Theology — written in a dense style — probably didn’t become a bestseller because of its prose, but, “It is more likely the book is selling because of Ziedan’s unfortunate reputation as a scholar exposing the falsity of Christianity.”
Omar Cheta in the Egypt Independent: Youssef Ziedan: Misrepresentations of an intellectual
Khaled Diab in the Guardian: So what if Egypt’s Copts find a book insulting?