Muslims prepare Eid al-Adha sacrifice in Lahore, Pakistan (file)
Muslims prepare Eid al-Adha sacrifice in Lahore, Pakistan (file)Reuters

Egypt's prosecutor has referred a female writer to trial for allegedly insulting Islam by criticizing the slaughter of animals during a major religious festival, a judicial official said on Saturday.

"Happy massacre," Fatima Naoot wrote on her Facebook page in October during Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice.

Animals are slaughtered during Eid to commemorate the willingness of Abraham to fulfill God's command to sacrifice his own son, although in the end God provided him with a sheep. Unlike in the original Biblical story, the Koran's version sees Abraham willing to sacrifice Ishmael, not Yitzhak.

"Massacre committed by men over the past 10 centuries and followed by men each year with a smile," Naoot wrote at the time.

"Annual massacre observed because of a nightmare of one (prophet) about his son... ," she wrote in Arabic.

"Although the nightmare has passed for the prophet and his son, each year helpless animals pay with their lives the price of this sacred nightmare."

Naoot, who is Muslim, deleted her posts from Facebook after controversy erupted about them.

But a judicial official said on Saturday that she admitted during questioning that she had written them.

The 50-year-old columnist denied she had any intention to insult Islam, the official told AFP, adding she had also been charged with "making fun of the right to sacrifice".

"It is the price paid by those who carry torches of enlightenment at every age," Naoot wrote on Friday after having been informed of her trial which is due to start on January 28.

She said that in October she had posted messages on Facebook to congratulate Muslims for Eid al-Adha but "urged them to respect the offering and not humiliate it by flooding the ground with animal blood".  

Egypt's constitution outlaws insults against the three monotheist religions recognized by the state - Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

But despite that supposed nod to diversity, non-Muslims in Egypt face rampant discrimination and attacks.

The Jewish community today comprises of just a few dozen individuals after most Jews were driven out in a campaign of ethnic-cleansing in revenge for the establishment of the State of Israel. And Christians - including the indigenous Coptic community, which makes up some 10% of the Egyptian population - have long complained of discrimination in the Muslim-majority state. They have also been targeted in several deadly attacks - a terrorist campaign which escalated since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

But though attacks against Christians by Muslim extremists have lessened since current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took power, discrimination against both them and secular Muslims remains an issue.

Earlier this year a female Coptic teacher was jailed for six months after parents of her students accused her of evangelizing and insulting Islam. 

In June, in a separate case a Coptic Christian man was sentenced to six years in jail for insulting Islam.