Court bans Internet pornography in Egypt

REPORTING FROM CAIRO -- An administrative court has banned Egyptians from surfing the Internet for pornography and ordered the state to block X-rated websites, the state newspaper Al Ahram has reported.

Pornographic websites emit "poisons in spreading immorality" that "destroy all religious beliefs, ethics and moral values," the court said in its verdict. "Not blocking them destroys. . .values. This can't be considered in the frame of freedom of expression because what's shown on these websites harms the country's higher interests and its national and social security."

The verdict comes after an inquiry by Younis Makhioun, a member of parliament with the ultraconservative Islamist Al Nour party, who called for pornographic websites to be outlawed. He said X-rated sites have destroyed morality, corrupted the youth and spread obscenity, family troubles, rape and divorce.

"Instead of focusing on important issues affecting our country, Egyptian youth have become busy with lust.... Just making it difficult for users to surf these websites will be a positive step," he said.

His comments and the court's ruling raised questions about the priorities of the Islamists, who control parliament and whose conservative elements are pressing for the nation to be guided by sharia, or Islamic laws. This has stirred worries among secularists and activists, who argue the country faces more pressing problems than pornography, such as economic turmoil, lack of security and social unrest.

Makhioun's inquiry was endorsed by Telecommunications Minister Mohamed Salem, who announced last week that his agency is forming a committee to find ways to block pornographic websites.

"Parliament will be represented in the committee. The issue is becoming persistent and worrying to families," Salem said.

According to Google trends, Egypt ranked fifth in the world in searching for the term "sex" in 2011. It was also reported that at least six pornographic websites rank among the top 100 sites in Egypt. A similar court verdict to block such sites was handed down in 2009 but was never implemented under former President Hosni Mubarak's rule.

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