USA’s favorite Arab nation jails bloggers

[Could there be a better example of US double standards than the comparison between US foreign policy towards Egypt and towards Cuba?
Egypt is the second largest recipient of US military support, yet it jails its citizens merely for expressing their views. Its current dictatorial leader has never stood in a free election and has ruled over his people at the point of a gun for 26 years. He is the USA’s favourite Muslim leader. He is also probably the USA’s leading supplier of subcontracted human rights violations including torture, rape and disappearances. Meanwhile the democratically elected government of Cuba is subject to the longest and most intense blockade in human history.
Its main subcontracted services to the world are first class healthcare which it provides to poor people in 67 nations, usually free of charge. Go figure. -SMcG]

The Irish Times – Feb 23, 2007

Egyptian blogger jailed for insulting Islam

by Ian Black

EGYPT: In a landmark case for freedom of expression in Egypt, a young blogger has been jailed for insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak, drawing angry condemnation at home and abroad.

Abdel-Karim Nabil Suleiman (22), a former law student at Cairo’s
Al-Azhar University, was sentenced to four years in prison by a court in Alexandria yesterday after being arrested last November over eight articles he posted on his blog

Suleiman was expelled from Al-Azhar for criticising the curriculum and attacking religious extremism. At the university’s urging, he was then charged with spreading information disruptive of public order, incitement to hate Muslims and insulting the president.

Hafiz Abu Saada, of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, said:”This is a strong message to all bloggers who are put under strong surveillance that the punishment will be very strong.” Suleiman was one of several bloggers arrested last year, most of whom have connections to Egypt’s pro-democracy reform movement. Others were freed but he was put on trial – a sign of the sensitivity of his writings on religion. He was first detained in 2005 after criticising Muslim rioters in a post about sectarian clashes in his neighbourhood, headlined “The Naked Truth of Islam as I Saw it”.

Human Rights Watch Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said: “This sets a chilling precedent in a country where blogs have opened a window for free speech. The Egyptian government should abide by its commitments to uphold free expression and release Suleiman without delay.”

Amnesty International called it “yet another slap in the face of freedom for expression in Egypt”.

Blogging is increasingly used across the Arab world to challenge governments and discuss taboos. In Egypt it has helped get around restrictions on traditional media. The pro-democracy Kifaya movement and the banned Muslim Brotherhood group have created many websites and encourage blogging.

The case highlights the way secular regimes are showing increasing sensitivity about criticism of Islam for fear of helping the cause of opposition Islamist movements. Last year Egypt was included on a blacklist of countries considered enemies of the internet and freedom ofexpression by press freedom watchdog Reporters without Borders.

Last month, a court in Morocco banned Nichane magazine for insulting Islam with an article entitled “How Moroccans laugh about religion, sex and politics”.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Tunisia and Bahrain block access to, a secularist site known for advocating freedom of expression.