Free Speech & Blogging: Don't Take It For Granted

The world of blogging can be dangerous, especially if you live in Egypt and oppose Al-Azhar, the most prominent religious center in Sunni Islam. Abdel Kareem Nabil, a 22-year old former student at Egypt’s prominent university found this out last week when he was convicted of a crime for, among other things, calling the school “the university of terrorism.” He was sentenced last Thursday to four years in prison for his Internet comments and his “insults” to Islam. Nabil’s lawyer, in a vast understatement if there ever was one, said this conviction will “terrify other bloggers and have a negative impact on freedom of expression in Egypt.” You bet it will. Thankfully Egyptian and international human-rights groups have already unleashed major criticism. A New York committee to protect journalism and freedom notes that as of December there are 49 bloggers now behind bars for such expressions of free speech. Anyone want to guess what religious practice and faith fosters such a reaction to freedom of speech and vocal secularism?

A U.S. State Department spokesman, Tom Casey, had no comment on the Nabil case, adding that the U. S. is always concerned when freedom of expression is infringed. What courage. I am simply unimpressed, as I often am, by our State Department’s detachment from those who desire real freedom in the world. Where are our leaders when they should speak out? Are we so fearful of radical Islamic reaction that we will not speak up to Egypt? Is Hosni Mubarak such a great American ally that we can’t tell him to defend freedom?

The Associated Press reported that Nabil offered no response to the verdict but when he was led away he was placed in a prison truck and seconds after the door closed a slap was heard form inside the truck and then a scream. One thing both liberals and conservatives can and should agree upon is violations of free speech. I wonder how much we can count on either to pressure Egypt in this particular case? I have my doubts.

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