• May 6, 2007
  • 11 minutes read

Free Monem, Free Karim, Free Egypt

Free Monem, Free Karim, Free Egypt

An international campaign to free Monem was launched by a group of activist bloggers from several countries. Reporters Without Borders released a petition calling for the release of bloggers Abdel Monem Mahmoud and Karim Amer (Abdel Karim Soliman). Several other activities are taking place in New York and Europe to line up more international support for prisoners of conscience in Egypt and to bring more attention to the human rights violations by the Egyptian government and its assault on freedom of expression and peaceful opposition.


The arrest of Karim Soliman and Abdel Monem Mahmoud was unfortunate and bad for freedom, but if anything, it actually became the driving force behind the merge of all pro-democracy forces we are witnessing today.


We always dreamed to see all freedom supporters across the political and ideological spectrum would join forces in their long fight against tyranny and authoritarianism plaguing our part of the world. Today, our dream came true. We have people form the far left, right and center who are working together to defend the common good, which is freedom, democracy, and human rights, in an unprecedented show of solidarity in the history of political activism in the Middle East. However, the struggle is just beginning and it is far from over. We still have a lot of work ahead of us to get the word out and encourage others join our freedom campaign.


It is worth noting how the campaign to free Monem did not get the same level of international support which Karim’s campaign enjoyed. To further elaborate on this, I would entertain three important facts,


1-The lack of apparent enthusiasm to defend Monem on the part of Western government officials despite the increasing public awareness of his case by NGOs and internet activists, does not really surprise us. The West’s double standard approach in dealing with Islamists when it comes to democracy has been evident, as if Islamists are not entitled to same standards of human rights as seculars or liberals do. Governments have never been fair to the MB and we don’t rely much on their support. The West’s strategy of pick and choose from among democracy and freedom values has cost it its credibility as an effective and reliable partner to many reformists in the Middle East


2-The magnitude of oppression and injustice the MB has suffered at the hands of brutal regimes throughout its history has certainly undermined its ability to better explain its views and vision to the public. Before the internet, we were deprived of all avenues to communicate with our own people in Egypt, let alone the outside world. We mainly relied on our grassroots branches to convey our message. Our members are on the run, and many of our leaders are being tried by military courts even after they were acquitted several times by civil courts. Our newspapers are closed down, we are blocked from accessing national TV, our assets have been frozen and businesses shut down. Even most recently two of our elected parliament members were arrested for meeting with citizens in their constituencies to debate issues being discussed in Parliament. On the international level, we are facing a relentless smear campaign of misinformation and deception organized by powerful lobbies and special interest groups to ensure that we do not receive any sympathy worldwide for our cause. Even Ikhwanweb, our only English window to the outside world, has been repeatedly blocked by Egyptian authorities and closely monitored overseas. In a world post 911, you can call anyone a terrorist and the gates of hell will open loose.


3-Islamists, have not been able to effectively and unambiguously communicate their genuine commitment to democracy and free speech, which made some groups and governments reluctant to throw their support behind Monem who is counted among Islamists. I must also admit that some conservative Muslims, whether MBs or not, do not share the same tolerant and open minded approach when dealing with issues of freedom of expression or democracy. Quiet frankly, some MB members even objected when the movement called for Karim’s release due to the highly offensive nature of his remarks on Islam and the prophet Mohamed (Peace be Upon Him), in addition to that Karim himself hated the MB and criticized those who spoke up against government crackdown on its members. However, one of the main reasons the MB has been able to remain intact as an organization and withstand the continuous attempts to crush it by totalitarian regimes; is its ability to allow for different opinions to exist within its ranks, and for people to freely express their views, and at the end of the day, we are all still Brothers. Indeed, I believe the brand of democracy the MB is practicing is a lot better than what some Western governments are trying to promote for the region.


Monem was not an extremist and certainly not a terrorist. He never insulted a president or defamed a religion. He is not even imprisoned simply because he is a member of the MB, an illegal organization according to Egyptian law. Monem has been put away because he is a liberal minded member of the MB. He is a true reformist and freedom fighter who was able to reach out to others and change the taboo that depicted the Brothers as fundamental conservatives who are living in the dark ages, and who would not shake women’s hands.


The Muslim Brotherhood believes in modern societies based on democracy and freedom for all. The society we are aspiring to is built on family values, accountability and honesty. All citizens have equal rights with no discrimination based on sex, religion or race. These values are embraced by any modern society as well as all religions, including Islam. We believe in right of others to exist and we are not waging global jihad to apply Sharia laws, and we”re certainly not going to throw Israel into the sea, as they want you to make believe. Women are integral part of our society and they are entitled to same rights and have the same duties as men. They go to schools, work and wear what they choose to wear.


Finally, I would like to reiterate the Muslim Brotherhood stance regarding Karim Soliman which Monem eloquently expressed in his blog. On January 28, we released a statement on Ikhwanweb condemning the arrest and sentencing of Karim to four years in prison for offensive comments he made on his blog. We clearly stated that although we totally reject Karim’s attack on religion, but we thought arresting him and throwing him in jail is not the right way to handle his case. We believe that individuals have the right express their opinions freely but we also believe that freedom of expression should not include insulting religions (any religion) or sacred symbols. We called then for Karim’s immediate release. Today, I repeat the Muslim Brotherhood’s call for Karim’s freedom, as well as freedom for all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Egypt.