Sad day for freedom of expression

22 Feb, '07

This is a very sad day for the freedom of expression in the Middle East:

Egyptian Blogger Sentenced to Prison

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — An Egyptian blogger was convicted of insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak and sentenced to four years in prison on Thursday in Egypt’s first prosecution of a blogger.

Abdel Kareem Nabil, a 22-year-old former student at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, an Islamic institution, had pleaded innocent to all charges, and human rights groups had called for his release.

The judge issued the verdict in a brief, five-minute session in a court in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. He sentenced Nabil to three years in prison for insulting Islam and inciting sedition and another year for insulting Mubarak. Nabil had faced a possible maximum sentence of up to nine years in prison.
Washingtom Post :: 22 Feb, ’07

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.

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Comments (24)

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  1. Day Dream Believer says:

    What was it he wrote that inulted Islam?

  2. Amjad says:

    Yeah, I wonder too how did he insult Islam. Is he a Muslim though?

    Anyway. I really never got the chance to read Kareem’s blog. However, I deeply feel sorry for him and it’s really sad indeed.

  3. can we talk says:

    you still can. at
    he is an ex-Azhar student.

  4. Amjad says:

    Thanks for the link can we walk.

  5. Esra'a says:

    Our fight for him will continue, and we are posting his breaking news at –

    Including letters he has written from prison.

  6. Anonymous says:

    so did he loose his life and career? how are his family and friends.. Is ones life so cheap in our countries…..

    It is sad, very sad to hear such stories, a young guy like him should be out there enjoying life. I do not know, what will happen to him after 4 years, whom will he mix with in jail, and what new ideas and thoughts will he have?!

  7. mahmood says:

    That’s why you should never imprison people for their thoughts. You throw them in with hardened criminals and when they get out they are changed for ever, hatred of the regime is bred in such situations. So if they are afraid of him now, better watch out when he does come out!

    And I am willing to bet that he will blog from prison, and the whole world will be listening with a lot more attention now.

  8. Ash says:

    Don’t these idiots realise that they’re just pissing in the wind when they lock up people like Kareem? In this age of global communications and interactions, you cannot stop ideas from spreading and you cannot prevent people from thinking for themselves. Eventually, freedom of thought and freedom of expression will triumph because in this day and age there is no way of stopping the flow.

    Not to mention the fact that if people are frightened their religion will fall apart just because someone “insults” it, then they are already operating from a position of defeat. If ideas are strong, they will withstand “insult” and criticism. If people really believe in their ideas, they will be able to defend them by reasoned argument. But if they fear their ideas are weak and will collapse under scrutiny, that’s when they start trying to silence those who question them …

  9. Lujayn says:

    Its amazing that he would get 3 years for insulting Islam, and a third of that for insulting Mubarak. Mubarak is inching slowly towards becoming untouchable and unquestionable.

  10. mahmood says:

    inching slowly?


  11. It is amazing how little coverage there has been of this case in the Arabic press. Not completely surprising, but still very distressing. The bottom line is that authorities can get away with things like this because the people let them.

  12. mark k. says:

    Hi mahmood,

    In Israel we had a small scandal when a popular blogger issued racist remarks toward arabs. It is describe in this article

    No legal charges were brought against the blogger (either because bloggers are not considered to be important enough, or because some legal fine line was not crossed), but there were some vocal calls to remove her from 4 itoot like feed aggregators. Two of the aggregators had removed her, and two had refused based on freedom of speech principals.

    I’m interested in your views on how much should the speech be free in “blogland”.

  13. mahmood says:

    How very true inpursuitofjustice, that’s why NGO’s concerted effort to educate the lethargic masses to rise and demand their rights, particularly as freedom of information is concerned.

    Letting them having it their way all the time is no longer an option. As citizens we do have the right to at least with with dignity. And taking away our voices is not going to achieve that, in fact it should be regarded as the start to complete erosion of our dignity. Just like they have a right to speak, so does everyone else.

    My theory as to why the Arabic press have not highlighted this is because of the blasphemous charges. They are most probably scared of losing their advertising cheques.

    So what if Kareem criticised Al-Azhar? Is it a place that God Himself built and filled with clerics to “protect Him”? Does He need protection? Does His religion need protection? No, They are much bigger than criticism no matter how harsh that criticism is. Islam is secure – or at least it is supposed to be – so what does it have to be afraid of for a 22-year-old criticising it? It is his complete right to question his beliefs, maybe it is his own way of strengthening them.

    The only thing that imprisoning him would do is turn him resolutely away from religion and the government that took away his God-given rights.

  14. mahmood says:

    Hi Mark, racism is a line that should not be crossed. Doing so would immediately encroach on others’ freedoms, and my belief is that one’s freedoms stops at others’ beginning.

    So if the blogger intentionally wrote a racist epithet, he or she shouldn’t complain from being ostracised by the community so that they know the error of their ways and hopefully correct it.

  15. I don’t think the Arab press is neglecting the issue because of the blasphamous charges. That didn’t stop them from reporting on the Danish cartoons. They could easily carry the story without quoting the controversial statements.

    I think its an issue of the Arab press being afraid of attacking an Arab regime. Ironically, freedom of thought and freedom of speech are not a topic for open discussion in the Arab world.

  16. There must be rules to protect us and other from our way of thinking and our thoughts, limits to the chaotic freedom of speech.

  17. can we talk says:

    to add to #14.
    those who might object to his opinion in countries all over the globe, and shout “blasphemy” everytime they don’t like someone else’s opinion would have little knowledge of the Azhar institution, whereas he had first-hand experience, having been on the inside of it, and has an informed right to think what he thinks and feel what he feels..

    and by the way, did you hear that the head judge of the court of appeals has a blog himself and is a blogging expert?

  18. i SEND THIS TO JAPAN says:

    No one gets jailed for insulting Islam, how can you insult something that is already GREAT & LARGER THEN MAN? The simple fact is that the despot rulers of the Middle East use the religion to jail anyone that they feel is a fret to there hold on power.

    The Jews did it to Jesus and the almighty kings and prime ministers of Arabia do it to there citizens. That’s how they hold on to power the British and the Ottomans did it during there colonial Middle East rule, and that’s how they trained are rulers to hold on to power….IT works does it not. Imagine all this Oil wealth and what have we done with it. Most countries have no natural resources and they are centuries ahead in development. Oil is wasted on the middle east better we give it away for free

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