Egyptian Blogging on Trial

The trial of Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer, who is on trial for his writings criticizing Egypt’s al-Azhar religious authorities, Islam and President Husni Mubarak, resumes in his home town of Alexandria today. Fellow blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy writes:

    From the way the trial has been going, and Kareem’s family’s recent media stunt, unfortunately I’m expecting a harsh verdict. I hope I’m proven wrong…
Kareem is a student at Al Azhar University, where he enrolled with, I presume, the strong support of his very religiously observant family. He broke with their religious values/practices– and now as I understand it his dad has publicly excoriated him. It must be very painful for all members of the family.

Kareem’s supporters have been running a support blog called Free Kareem, which distributes news of the various public actions being held in his support in various places around the world. I see that sadly none are listed for Egypt. The only Middle Eastern country in which activities are posted is Bahrain. The photos indicate that many of these actions are very sparsely attended. Having taken part in any number of sparsely attended public actions of my own I understand that doing that– especially in a place where such public actions are not very common– takes a certain amount of courage.

The way I see it, this trial is about Kareem Amer– but it is also about the fate of blogging and the freedom of expression in general, in Egypt. In the past few years all of the public media here has become markedly more open and more ready to publish views highly critical of the regime. This applies to the print media as well as the blogosphere and other portions of the internet.

Here, by the way, is a very interesting article on the whole subject that was posted recently on the Muslim Brotherhood’s website. It surveys the whole scene of the Egyptian blogosphere– secular and pro-MB– and has material from an interview conducted with Hamalawy:

    Hossam el-Hamalawy, one of the most famous Egyptian bloggers, whos is publishing, says that the Muslim Brotherhood experience with the Internet started early, seeing the Islamic group as among first political powers to use the Internet and Email groups from an early time.
    El-Hamalawy suggested that he was receiving many Emails and statements from Muslim Brotherhood Email Groups as early as 2002.

    El-Hamalawy added that the weblogs have been introduced to Egypt by the secularists, specially Leftists whether the mainstream Left ( those affiliated to a leftist party or group ) or leftist individuals; but the actual revolution of weblogs in Egypt was during 2005 referendum, after which bloggers managed to make weblogs a credited source of news.

    El-Hamalawy pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood’s young members’ use of the weblogs took place later on may be because the weblogs are considered personal diaries in which personal feelings are expressed while the Muslim Brotherhood discourse avoids such methods, specially under the tense relation with the regime and security.

    El Hamalawi added that the most important Muslim Brotherhood weblog that has been recently browsing is: because it follows up the news of detentions among the Muslim Brotherhood group.

The article also contains a whole blogroll of blogs maintained by “MB Youth”. They start off there with some female-authored blogs… Haven’t had a chance yet to check many of them out.

And here is a post from yesterday on the MB website, under the title Blogs against military rulers, which summarizes some recent blog postings on the continuing campaign of detention and economic expropriation that the Egyptian authorities have been maintaining against the MB.

I just note, finally, that if Kareem Amer is sentenced to a jail term it is possible he could be subjected to some bad harrassment in jail– from guards or fellow prisoners who object to the criticisms he has voiced of the role of Muslim religious authorities and/or are influenced by the government’s accusations that that makes him un-Islamic and a threat to national security. I think it would be excellent if an influential organization like the MB could declare publicly that it stands against any mistreatment of Kareem Amer or any individual on the basis only of views that he or she has expressed and of government accusations against him…

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