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Arabisc: Bloggers Rally to Kareem's Support

New York Rally to free Kareem - Photo courtesy of Free Kareem

Egyptian blogger Kareem Sulaiman was today (Thursday) sentenced to four years in prison for defaming Islam and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on his personal blog.

Despite a support site, petitions and demonstrations in Bahrain, London,
Stockholm, Paris, Rome, New York (twice) and Washington DC calling for his release, an Alexandria court found him guilty and sentenced him to four years in prison.

In his own words on his blog, 22-year-old Kareem describes himself and sums up his goals as follows:

I am down to earth Law student; I look forward to help humanity against all form of discriminations. I am currently studying Law in Al Azhar University. I am looking forward to open up my own human rights activists Law firm, which will include other lawyers who share the same views. Our main goal is to defend the rights of Muslim and Arabic women against all form of discrimination and to stop violent crimes committed on a daily basis in these countries.

Dreams and aspirations which will have to be put on hold for the time being I suppose.

When Kareem was first detained in early November for this writings, many bloggers in the Middle East tried to distance themselves from the case because they did they did not want to be associated with blasphemy against Islam. Today, while some condemn the sentence as an attack on freedom of expression, others believe the blogger got what he deserved for swimming against the tide.

Even his very own family disowned him a few days before his trial.

“His father, a retired mathematics teacher, has demanded applying the Sharia [Islamic law] ruling on him by giving him three days to repent, followed by having him killed if he does not announce his repentance.

The father of the Al-Azhar student, who is accused of contempt of the Islamic religion, harming the reputation of Egypt, and inciting to disrupt the peace and to overthrow the regime, has decided to rescind from boycotting his trial hearing sessions. [He has decided] to attend the court verdict session with his four brothers, who completely memorized the Holy Quran, to announce disowning the accused Abdul Kareem inside the court room, in order to reduce the embarrassment and pressure that civil rights organizations are applying on the court panel.”


So how did bloggers react to his sentence?

Egypt
ian blogger Sharaqwi calls for a campaign to release Kareem and promote freedom of expression in his country.

الحكم مقلق وضد حماية حق الرأى والتعبير وممكن يبقى بداية لسجن النشطاء بتهمة أهانة الرئيس..
يسقط يسقط حسنى مبارك………
مش عاوزينة مش عاوزينه.. مهما يقولوا اننا بنهينه
مطلوب حملة تضامن مع كريم والدفاع عنه وعن حرية الرأى والتعبير،
وهنسيبنا من أى دعاوى اننا بنتضامن مع مدون كافر..
احنا بنتضامن مع مصرى منتهكة حقوقه.
“The sentence is alarming and against freedom of expression. This could also be the beginning of imprisoning activists for insulting the president. Down Down Hosni Mubarak.. We don't want him.. we don't want him.. however much they say we insult him..What is required now is a campaign to support Kareem and defend both him and freedom of speech. And let's not argue about whether we are supporting an atheist blogger. We are supporting an Egyptian who is being denied his rights,” he explains.


Big Pharaoh
, meanwhile, took a break from his hiatus, to comment on the news as follows:

I just can't go without reporting this. Abdel Kareem was sentenced to 4 years in prison. Abdel Kareem was sent to jail because he merely stated his opinion on the country's regime and religion.
What really upsets me is the fact that Abdel Kareem enjoys very little sympathy in the Egyptian street because of what he said about Islam and religion in general. Some are calling for his execution.
Abdel Kareem will enjoy sympathy in the Egyptian street once Islam gets reformed. Once cussing Mohamed, Allah, whatever does not send you to prison or the gallows. If Abdel Kareem was living 500 years ago in Europe and he would have wrote the same thing about Christianity, he would have been burned at stake. Luckily Christianity got reformed, Christians in Europe understood that God would not be a very happy person if they imprisoned or killed someone who wrote/said something they considered offensive to the Christian faith. This is the reason why Dan Brown and Tom Hanks are still alive today.
One day Islam will reform and the future Abdel Kareems will not fear prison and execution anymore. In the meantime, we're stuck with stupidity and cruelty.

Egyptian Zabinzo sums up his reaction to the sentence in one word: sickening!


America
n blogger and a supporter of Kareem Dr Tom Palmer insists that the sentence will not go unchallenged.

“This will not go unchallenged. His case is the case of every blogger, every dissident, every person who aspires to life as a free citizen. My sincere thanks and recognition to all who have helped the cause of free speech and the case of Abdelkareem. Please be ready to act again, respectfully and with dignity, in the hope that this grave miscarriage of justice will be corrected, perhaps in a way that will allow the Egyptian authorities to do the right thing and save face,” he writes.

Another American blogger Doug Mataconis wonders what his government's reaction to the sentence would be.

Keep in mind. An American ally and supposed example of moderate Islam. And what has the Bush Administration had to say about this travesty ? So far, nothing:

The Bush administration has not commented on Nabil’s trial, despite its past criticism of the arrests of Egyptian rights activists.

We’re waiting Mr. President.

Also from the US, Lee Garnett is worried about Kareem's condition in prison.

It probably goes without saying, but four years in an Egyptian prison can often mean a death sentence. Picture your worst apprehensions about detention in a Western correctional facility and multiply them by one hundred. The experience for political prisoners such as Nabil, is certain to be particularly harrowing.
It says a great deal about conditions in their prisons, that Egypt only banned flogging for disciplinary infractions in 2001. Medical care is virtually nonexistent, malnutrition common, torture is widespread and those are the positives. For Nabil’s real danger will come from the inmates, a large share of which will be political prisoners of a different type: some of the most fanatical Islamic extremists in the world.

Meanwhile,
Bahrain
i blogger Mahmood Al Yousif, who is himself facing a defamation case in a Bahraini court, was also quick to the defence of Kareem, describing today as a sad day for freedom of expression.

“And if Egypt leads, the Arab world are supposed to follow, right? So the arrest, detention and jailing of people for simply writing their thoughts is forging ahead unchecked in the Middle East… and there doesn’t seem to be any will whatsoever for anyone to stop it, even for a moment, to think of what that is going to do for this and future generations.
Yet another reason for one to maintain their anonymity at all times.
Big brother is not just watching, but is waiting to pounce at the slightest chance to silence critics in the full sight of the world and even they are not interested in doing anything about the situation,” writes a concerned Al Yousif.

Frederik Richter, writing for The Arabist, echoes similar sentiments:

This is a strong message to Egypt’s bloggosphere.
In a first trial against a blogger, Kareem has been sentenced to four years in jail for insulting Islamic institutions and the President.
A very sad day for freedom of expression in Egypt.


Jose Castillo
, writing from the US, says Kareem was punished for something bloggers around the world take for granted.

“A 22-year-old Egyptian blogger, Abdel Kareem Nabil, has been sentenced to 4 years in prison for criticizing Islam, President Hosni Mubarak, and the university Al-Azhar. His posts were centered around the restriction of free speech – interesting irony. Most of us take it for granted that we can say what we want on our blogs and not have an oppressive government punish us for our thoughts. I wonder if there will be enough public outcry around the world to release this guy,” he notes.

Needless to say, the sentence did not please Reporters Without Borders, who stated:

Reporters Without Borders strongly condemned the four-year prison sentence imposed today by a court in Alexandria on Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman for “inciting hatred of Islam” and insulting President Hosni Mubarak in his blog, for which he used the pseudonym of “Kareem Amer.”
“This sentence is a disgrace,” the press freedom organisation said. “Almost three years ago to the day, President Mubarak promised to abolish prison sentences for press offences. Suleiman’s conviction and sentence is a message of intimidation to the rest of the Egyptian blogosphere, which had emerged in recent years as an effective bulwark against the regime’s authoritarian excesses.”
Reporters Without Borders continued: “As a result of this conviction, which clearly confirms Egypt’s inclusion in our list of Internet enemies, we call on the United Nations to reject Egypt’s request to host the Internet Governance Forum in 2009. After letting Tunisia, another violator of online freedom, host the World Summit on the Information Society, such a choice would completely discredit the UN process for debating the future of the Internet.”

23 comments

  • I am saran, a geek living in US, I just read this news, and shocked, I don’t know about the much about the laws in that country, If he hurts anyone, they would have given warning couple of times and asked him to remove the post, but 4 years jail means, its too much, and unacceptable, we are living in the world where maturity increasing rapidly, and after hundreds years we are going to know there is no God concepts, everything happening by chemical reactions, objects delivering its properties, science going to find out everything, I am not sure why lot of countries still sticking rules around a “block box” concepts. All the people that we are praying, believing as a God is/are good people in the past, they thought ethics to people, they told how to live, what is important, they removed animal behaviors from us, they tried to remove negative thinking from our brains etc, that’s what still we are remembering them, building temple for them, praying them and believing them.

    Kareem you should come out from all the struggles soon and continue your education.

    Kind regards
    Saran

  • […] The Syrian blogsphere reacted to the news about the sentencing of Egyptian blogger Kareem Nabil Sulaiman with disgust. Abu Kareem from Levantine Dreamhouse wrote… The language of the charges is sickeningly familiar. It is the language that paranoid authoritarian governments use when they feel threatened, when someone tells the TRUTH. They ring hollow as if drawn up by a bored bureaucrat, the same set of charges paraded out thousands of times before; all they had to do was change the name of the accused. And for what? Abdel Kareem just expressed his thoughts, he did not incite or threaten violence, he did not undermine the security of the country. His only true crime is that of having and expressing critical thoughts, an inexcusable deviance for an autocratic and corrupt regime much more difficult to deal with than a bomb tossing terrorist. Citizens of such countries are expected to be subservient automatons without critical thought. They are supposed to act like castrated sheep, bleating meekly and bowing to the almighty, infallible leader, Hosni Mubarak (or Bashar al-Assad, or, or…..). […]

  • […] The Middle East: Blogging & Prison Published March 11th, 2007 World Events , Thoughts , Politics , Journalism Blogging against Islam or the nation-state is dangerous territory – and that fact is too well known by Kareem Nabeel Sulaiman. […]

  • […] Jailed Egyptian blogger Kareem Nabeel Sulaiman won the 2007 Hugo Young Award for Journalism at the 7th Annual Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards Ceremony, according to Free Kareem, a website dedicated to his freedom. Amira Al Hussaini […]

  • […] Nora Younis, who is in the US, also continues to update her story as more details emerge. “Reading the list at Alaa’s blog I stopped breathing. I have been also reading lists for days and days at Abdel Monem blog – ana ikhwan and everyday carries more numbers and faces behind bars. The day will come when I will read the name list of government officials and state security generals held accountable for their crimes Mr. Mubarak. Your suggested constitution is farce and you already know it. It wouldn’t hurt your aging delicate ears to hear it once more in Tahrir Square – would it? You sell yourself internationally as a secular regime while you impose on us article II of the constitution and use it to discriminate against Copts, Baha’is, other Egyptian citizens and Abdel Kereem. You sell yourself locally as a religious government while you crush the Muslim Brotherhood. You make sense no more!” she writes. […]

  • […] Even though the “Free Kareem” campaign has not yet achieved its primary goal of getting the 22-old blogger Kareem Nabel Sulaiman released from the prison where he is sentenced to spend the next four years for insulting Islam and the Egyptian president Hosni Moubarek, support for the case is growing rapidly, both online and offline. Even those who may not agree with the things he wrote on his personal blog — or the manner in which he wrote them — are expressing solidarity with Kareem by signing petitions, demonstrating in the streets, blogging about the case and adding his banner to their sites and blogs. Worldwide rallies designed to help “Free Kareem” have taken place in front of several Egyptian embassies around the globe and the case has caught the attention of both mainstream and citizen media. […]

  • […] Even though the “Free Kareem” campaign has not yet achieved its primary goal of getting the 22-old blogger Kareem Nabel Sulaiman released from the prison where he is sentenced to spend the next four years for insulting Islam and the Egyptian president Hosni Moubarek, support for the case is growing rapidly, both online and offline. Even those who may not agree with the things he wrote on his personal blog — or the manner in which he wrote them — are expressing solidarity with Kareem by signing petitions, demonstrating in the streets, blogging about the case and adding his banner to their sites and blogs. Worldwide rallies designed to help “Free Kareem” have taken place in front of several Egyptian embassies around the globe and the case has caught the attention of both mainstream and citizen media. […]

  • […] But while the first – Kareem Nabeel Sulaiman – got all the attention a four-year-sentence could muster for insulting Islam and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, the second, – Abdul Monem Mahmood – who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, is not as lucky. “It isn’t surprising to see this happen – but it is surprising to see the lack of concern among the same people who were pretty loudly expressing their dismay at the arrest and imprisonment of Abdelkareem Soliman. “The big difference between the two? Abdelkareem was heavily anti-Islamic in his writings and Mahmoud blogs for the Muslim Brotherhood. That’s all I can really see,” explains Gara. Ironically, Mahmoud actually got some attention for writing in support of Abdelkareem. Just for some context here, lets remember Abdelkareem is the guy who wrote that […]

  • […] Abdul Monem Mahmood, a Muslim Brotherhood blogger, was arrested by State Security on April 15 for articles he wrote online. Though different in ideologies, fears are that he will share the same fate as his country-blogger Kareem Nabeel Sulaiman. It is no wonder then that Sandmonkey has given up blogging and Ala’a is no longer a blogger. أنا أصلا مش مدون، يعني قلب كده في المدونة مش هتلاقينا قمنا بأي عمل يندرج تحت الصحافة الشعبية، ولا أنا بعبر عن نفسي بجد بدليل أني تقريبا مكتبتش عن أي حاجة مهمة بالنسبة لي بجد، لا كتبت عن مراتي ولا أهلي ولا كتبت عن الكوميكس ولا كتبت عن البرمجيات الحرة و الهوة الرقمية و لا عن شغلي ولا أي حاجة ليها القيمة في التكنولوجيا ولا عن أفلام ولا موسيقى بحبها. حتى السجن مكتبتش عنه بجد. […]

  • […] February 22, Egyptian Blogger Abdel kareem Nabil Soliman Amer was sentenced to four years in prison for his writings. He is spending three years in jail for his writings on the Sunni Al-Azhar […]

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