Since the 2011 uprising in Egypt, the Egyptian state has increasingly used the charge of contempt of religion (izdira’ al-din) to regulate speech. This charge, though sometimes assumed to be a medieval holdover, is part of a modern genealogy of the politics of religious freedom. This article examines how religious freedom accumulated meaning in Egypt after World War I, when it became an international legal standard. Protestant missionaries in Egypt advocated religious freedom as the right to proselytize and the right of Egyptians to convert. For many Egyptians, by contrast, it came to mean the right to protect one's religion from perceived missionary attacks (ta‘n). Using British state archival records, missionary sources, and Egyptian parliamentary transcripts and periodicals, this article traces the formation of this paradox in public discourse and law. Drawing on theorizations of seduction and moral injury, I show how Egyptians articulated notions of religious freedom centered around feelings of moral injury and through a local ethical vernacular that, though embedded within the Islamic tradition, was broadly shared. The Egyptian state gradually incorporated these sensibilities into its expanding modern legal system as part of maintaining a majority-defined public order, transforming offense to religion from a moral issue into a punishable crime. Forged through a contingent process involving missionaries, local communities, and the Egyptian state under the shadow of colonial rule, religious freedom has exacerbated rather than resolved religious divides in Egypt, and has helped to define and delimit the country's political, moral, and religious imaginaries.