Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Tale of Two Bloggers

The Technorati Home page proudly proclaims "55 million blogs, some of them have to be good." And it's more than true. I frequently catch myself surfing through MySpace and I'm constantly amazed at the quality and depth of writing on the millions(???) of teenagers and ever pre-teens who post there.

Writing is no longer a "lost art." If anything we are chronicling life in 21st century as never before. And it's a world wide phenomena. We can catch a peak into the daily lives of everyone from soldiers stationed in Iraq to students in Japan.

Today I want to write about two of these young people who write about politics and religion. Like most youth, both these bloggers, one man and one woman, are idealistic, full of hope and eager to fight for those they believe are oppressed. Both want to see society changed for the better.

Both writers are smart, articulate and well versed in the technology of the Internet and the world of blogging. Today, both are relatively famous, and both are well read, at least in blogger terms. After all, there are 55 million blogs and we can't read them all.

The similarities don't stop there. Both are crusaders for women's rights. And both take on established religion as an oppressor of women. To say this ruffles the feathers of conservatives is an understatement. Both have been accused of writing "hate speech" in their attacks on religion. I personally have been very hard on one of the two bloggers profiled here today.

Both also are quick to attack the government when they feel the government is wrong. This is especially true when they see their government officials side with religious leaders in an effort to take away the rights of women.

They both absolutely refuse to support a President they believe is wrong, wrong headed and stubborn. They cannot and will not blindly follow a President who is leading the country in the wrong direction. They both are quick to fight for free speech and against a government they feel is involved in denying people their basic legal rights. They hate the abuse of power they see coming from the top.

Once again, their positions and their harsh, sometimes hateful language has made them very unpopular with conservatives, who fight back. The conservatives attack these bloggers political and religious positions, their language, their lack of respect for authority and their outrageous writings with equal force and vitriol. Conservtives accuse these bloggers of being unpatriotic, even of being traitors.

But, you know what? If you read as many blogs as I do, you quickly discover that there are an awfully lot of young people who feel exactly the same way as our two profiled bloggers. These young people write about the same things.
The marketplace of ideas is rich with great young voices.

One of these two bloggers has recently had some great difficulty because of their blogging.

O.K., it's time for me to admit that one of these two bloggers is
Amanda Marcotte, who I have personally accused of writing hate speech right here in my blog. But let's give Marcotte some credit. Marcotte believes she must be strong and gutsy and bold and forceful to make her points. She is fighting for women's reproductive rights against a church and religion she believes only wants to subjugate women into subservient roles.

She is fighting a government and a President she feels is guilty of taking our country into a misguided war. She is fighting against the torture of prisoners, the rights of those in prison to receive representation and the rights of all Americans to receive honesty and justice from their government.

Now Marcotte may chose to use verbal atomic bombs where another writer might use rapier sharp logic and wit, but she is still fighting for the causes for which she believes.

But Marcotte is not the one in trouble. Unless you consider media adoration, millions of new readers and a faithful, vocal group of ardent followers to be a problem. Sure, she lost her job with the Edwards campaign, but her voice is stronger and more vibrant than ever. In many ways she will now be a more effective voice for her causes because of the visibility the Edward's flap gave her.

No, the blogger in trouble is Abd'al-Karim Nabil Suleiman, better known by his pen name
Karim Amer. Karim Amer has done exactly what Amanda Marcotte has done. He has blogged for the rights of women against a repressive church. And he has lobbied in his blog for changes in the law to assure that all people, including all women, have the same basic rights. And he has been vocal in his attack on the President.

Amer's problem is that instead of blogging in the United States, where such rebels land jobs advising presidential candidates and receive numerous television appearances, Amer is blogging in Egypt.

In Egypt, such blogging land you in jail, in solitary confinement for months, without any legal representation, without charges being filed and without any contact to or from your family.

Now charges have been filed against Amer, he faces nine (9) years in prison or possibly much worse. Under sharia law he could actually face the death penalty.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both been active in demanding Amer's release. Amnesty International writes:

Amnesty International today called for the immediate and unconditional release of Karim Amer, the first Egyptian blogger to be tried for writing blogs criticizing Egypt's al-Azhar religious authorities, President Husni Mubarak and Islam.

Karim Amer, a former al-Azhar University student and blogger, is facing up to 10 years in prison for his writings in a trial that resumes today. Charges against him include "spreading information disruptive of public order and damaging to the country’s reputation", "incitement to hate Islam" and "defaming the President of the Republic".

"Karim Amer's trial appears intended as a warning by the authorities to other bloggers who dare criticize the government or use their blogs to spread information considered harmful to Egypt’s reputation," said Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme. "This is particularly worrying as bloggers have increasingly been posting information about human rights abuses in Egypt, including torture and police violence against peaceful protesters."


Amer is on trial now with a verdict possible as early as today. And the situation looks grim. In a posting on the FREE KAREEM! website his lawyer writes, "I am very pessimistic about the verdict."

To make matters worse, Amer's own parents have turned against him. From the Free Kareem! website:

The family of Al-Azhar student Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman, accused of “contempt of religion”, has disowned him before his court verdict session on the upcoming Thursday. 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.

The father of the accused also described the organizations that are working on having his son acquitted as “monkey rights” organizations, in his own words. He also described his son as the “monkey” who has imitated the atheists of the West in their intellectual thinking.

The family also said that they will announce their disownment of their son on the Internet as well.

The Dean of Sharia in Al-Azhar University, which the student Abdul Kareem attends, had him attend a disciplinary hearing after he attacked the Islamic religion on the Internet, and spoke against the Messenger of Allah – peace and blessings be upon him – and the companions [of the prophet of Islam].


This is a tragic story and one that may have no happy ending. Kareem Amer will never return home. He will likely face either prison or extradition from Egypt to a foreign country, away from family, his university studies and his country. Because he is accused of insulting Islam, he may face constant death threats and a lifetime of hiding.

Fortunately there is international outrage. There is great pressure on Egypt to change laws which forbid free speech. There is pressure to allow and permit blogging as a method of free expression.

From the Human Rights Watch website:

“Charging someone for the peaceful expression of their views is sadly not new in Egypt,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “By curbing a blogger’s freedom to post, the government may be trying to close an important space for Egyptians to speak openly about events and issues that worry them.”


I urge you to add your voice to the efforts to secure basic freedoms throughout the world. To join us in the fight to free Abd'al-Karim Nabil Suleiman. I urge you to support Amnesty International and Human Right's Watch in their efforts.

Let's make sure everyone has the same rights you, I and Amanda Marcotte have.

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3 comments:

Robin Edgar said...

I have already added my voice to the efforts to secure basic freedoms throughout the world, I have been doing my bit within the so-called U*U World for some time now with little success. . . I will see what I can do to join you in the fight to free Abd'al-Karim Nabil Suleiman. Amnesty International totally ignored my communications inviting them to participate in the first observance of World Day of Conscience on March 29th last year. Who knows? Had Amnesty International and other human rights organizations helped to promote and organize observances of World Day of Conscience in Egypt and Libya last year Karim Amer might not be in the situation he finds himself in today. One of my hopes was to have Amnesty International and other human rights groups help to persuade Libya, and indeed Egypt and other countries, to release prisoners of conscience on or about World Day of Conscience.

The seriousness of the penalties that Karim Amer faces is quite severe but *in principle* I have been subjected to almost identical attempts to suppress legitimate criticism and dissent by totalitarian Unitarians. . .

"Charging someone for the peaceful expression of their views is sadly not new in the U*U World. . . said Robin Edgar, Canada and North America director at U*U Rights Watch. "By curbing a U*U’s freedom to protest, the "church" may be trying to close an important space for U*Us to speak openly about events and issues that worry them."

It is all very well for U*Us to proterst against censotrship and suppression of freedonm of speech in the Middle East but U*Us lack the credibility and moral authority to protest too much when they are clearly and unequivocally guilty of engaging in very similar censorship and suppressio of legitimate criticism and dissent themselves. In that I have been permanently banned from every UUA sponsored list serve and internet forum for exposing and denouncing internal U*U injustices, abuses and hypocrisy I think that I can safely say that outrageously hypocritical U*Us have given a whole newe meaning to the famous phrase "banned in Boston". . .

Robin Edgar said...

I have already added my voice to the efforts to secure basic freedoms throughout the world, I have been doing my bit within the so-called U*U World for some time now with little success. . . I will see what I can do to join you in the fight to free Abd'al-Karim Nabil Suleiman. Amnesty International totally ignored my communications inviting them to participate in the first observance of World Day of Conscience on March 29th last year. Who knows? Had Amnesty International and other human rights organizations helped to promote and organize observances of World Day of Conscience in Egypt and Libya last year Karim Amer might not be in the situation he finds himself in today. One of my hopes was to have Amnesty International and other human rights groups help to persuade Libya, and indeed Egypt and other countries, to release prisoners of conscience on or about World Day of Conscience.

The seriousness of the penalties that Karim Amer faces is quite severe but *in principle* I have been subjected to almost identical attempts to suppress legitimate criticism and dissent by totalitarian Unitarians. . .

"Charging someone for the peaceful expression of their views is sadly not new in the U*U World. . . said Robin Edgar, Canada and North America director at U*U Rights Watch. "By curbing a U*U’s freedom to protest, the "church" may be trying to close an important space for U*Us to speak openly about events and issues that worry them."

It is all very well for U*Us to proterst against censotrship and suppression of freedonm of speech in the Middle East but U*Us lack the credibility and moral authority to protest too much when they are clearly and unequivocally guilty of engaging in very similar censorship and suppressio of legitimate criticism and dissent themselves. In that I have been permanently banned from every UUA sponsored list serve and internet forum for exposing and denouncing internal U*U injustices, abuses and hypocrisy I think that I can safely say that outrageously hypocritical U*Us have given a whole newe meaning to the famous phrase "banned in Boston". . .

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