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Free Kareem!

Posted by Richard on November 10, 2006

In Egypt, they imprison people for blogging about women's rights, freedom of expression, and "secular thoughts":

Egyptian security forces have arrested a student blogger whose writing was critical of Islam and the government, security sources and rights activists said on Tuesday.

Arabic blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman, a 22-year-old aspiring human rights lawyer, was arrested in the coastal city of Alexandria on Monday.

His detention was the latest crackdown on political opposition by Egyptian authorities following arrests and beatings at street protests earlier this year, despite calls from Egypt's U.S. ally for political reform.

"The accusations directed against him are that he published opinions aimed at disturbing public order, insulted the head of state and defamed Islam," said Sally Sami, programme officer at the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRInfo), which is representing him.

Suleiman was the latest of several bloggers to be arrested in Egypt, where news of his detention came shortly after rights group Reporters Without Borders added Egypt to a list of worst suppressors of freedom of expression on the Internet.

His arrest was unusual in that he was arrested solely because of comments made on the Internet, activists said. Other bloggers were mostly picked up during anti-government protests earlier in the year.Several have spent weeks or months in jail.

According to Tom Palmer, Kareem is part of Cato's "Arabic liberal project" — I'm sure that "liberal" in this context means "classical liberal."

Kareem had been previously tossed out of al-Azhar University — described by Reuters as "Egypt's most prestigious seat of Islamic learning" (oxymoron alert!) — for expressing "secular thoughts," and they apparently urged prosecutors to go after him. Jason Kuznicki expressed well how outrageous this is:

A student dismissed from a university for “secular thoughts:” The very act makes the institution unfit to be called a university in the modern era. That it would then inform on the student and cooperate in a government inquiry only makes the situation the more deplorable.

HAMSA (Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance) is gathering signatures on a statement demanding that Kareem be freed — please take just a moment to add your name. For other actions you can take, check the Palmer and Kuznicki links above. For complete background information and the latest news about Kareem's case, visit Free Kareem!

If you call or write the Egyptian embassy or other Egyptian officials, heed Kuznicki's warning:

Please be respectful and well-reasoned in all your contacts with the Egyptian government. Remember that our case is the stronger one, and that only the weaker party must resort to name-calling or abuse. As the ancient playwright put it, the very fact that Zeus must reach for his thunderbolts is proof enough that he has no argument.

Remember also that a man’s freedom is at stake here, not just in the abstract, but in the real world, and what you say might make the difference.

It's enormously tempting to heap contempt upon a country that imprisons people for blogging while urging mercy for Saddam Hussein, a country that takes billions every year in U.S. aid and claims to be an ally, but does everything it can to undermine the spread of democracy and freedom. But Kuznicki and Palmer are right — be respectful and polite. You can curse them under your breath later.

Free Kareem! www,

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