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  15 February 2012  | 15:46  . ET


Kareem Amer


On February 22, 2007, Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman was sentenced to four years in prison in Egypt for blogging inflammatory phrases against Islam. Abdel Suleiman, more commonly known by his blogger name, Kareem Amer, is a 22 year old student who attended Egypt's al-Azhar University, an Islamic institution.


His parents enrolled him in Al-Azhar for elementary and secondary school and continued his education at the Department of Shari'a and Legal Studies at Al-Azhar University, despite his deep desire to study biology at another school. In 2004 he began to write for reformist websites such as www.rezgar.com, http://copts-united.com (a Coptic website) and even created his own blog, http://karam903.blogspot.com. His views however were not in line with the conservative university, which he called "the university of terrorism" and stated that Al-Azhar University "stuffs its students' brains and turns them into human beasts ... teaching them that there is no place for differences in this life.”


In October 2005 he faced the consequences of his words and was arrested after he published an article on the Coptic-Muslim conflicts in Alexandria but was released 18 days later. In March of 2006, as a result of his controversial writings, he was ordered before an Al-Azhar disciplinary committee. The committee expelled him from the university but in response to his expulsion, Suleiman defiantly wrote, "Thus ended a black period in my life, which I spent between the walls of the big prison known as 'The Al-Azhar Institution.'" Shortly after expelling him from the school, Al-Azhar pushed prosecutors to bring Suleiman to trial for his writing.


Among his provocative writings, he described President Mubarak’s regime as a "symbol of dictatorship" and called the Prophet Muhammad and his seventh-century followers ''spillers of blood'' for their teachings on warfare. Suleiman was arrested along with other bloggers connected to a pro-democracy reform movement. All the bloggers were released except for Suleiman who then had to face trial. After a five minute court session the judge declared him guilty.


He was convicted for three years for offending Islam and inciting sedition and one year for insulting President Mubarak. In response to the conviction, he said: The very existence of laws that define freedom of thought as a crime, and that punish with imprisonment anyone who expresses criticism of the religion [i.e. Islam] in any way, is a dangerous flaw in the law… I declare here, frankly and clearly, that I decry any law, legislation, or regime that does not respect human rights and individual liberty, does not recognize an individual's complete freedom to do anything and everything so long as he causes no physical harm those around him, and does not recognize an individual's complete freedom to express his opinions, whatever they may be, so long as those opinions remain words and entail no physical act that harms others.


Amnesty International has called the sentencing a "slap in the face of freedom expression," but despite the outrage from the international community and from bloggers who sympathize, Suleiman remains a prisoner in Egypt. He is the first person in Egypt to be convicted of blogging.

Published : 1/11/2007 1:12 PM
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