Sara Ghorab / Feb 14, 2007

For a country whose torture methods are burning up YouTube and other such arenas, Egypt has outdone itself in coming up with a new method of torture. No, this punishment has nothing to do with beating by cane, raping by broom-stick, hanging by toes or being handcuffed 24/7. (And yes, Americans will be interested in learning more about this, because it’s your $1.3 billion that’s making these things possible. Talk about adding insult to injury.)


Rather, Egypt, home of The Trumped Up Charge (TM), now “detains” prisoners—many of whom have never been charged or convicted of anything—for weeks, months, or indefinitely.


Recently, blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah (among others) was detained for a total of 45 days (the way State Security managed to swing that was by “renewing” his lock-up time. Just imagine if that happened to someone in America!)


This seems to be the case in the case of Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman, the most recent victim of Egypt’s strict Anti-Free-Speech laws, otherwise known as “Sharia,” or better yet, “Islam.”


For those who’ve never heard of Abdelkareem (Kareem to his friends), I’d like to inform you that he’s the first Egyptian blogger to actually be brought up on charges and tried (the oft-postponed trial is slated to conclude February 22, but there’s no telling when it could end up happening).


Back to Kareem’s illegal detention, it’s been going on since early November (2006). The charges didn’t immediately appear, but once they did, it was obvious that not only were they bogus beyond belief, but exceedingly ridiculous (to anyone who subscribes to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, anyway).


Furthermore, Alaa was known for being something of an agitator or instigator. While he may not have started fist-fights with state security, sources tell me that he was not one to back down from them. In other words, he was pretty “in your face” about whatever cause he was championing at the time. Alaa was also very outspoken about freedom and activism and such (in more than one sense).


On the other hand, Kareem is a lamb (in more than one sense)—both for his gentle and sweet demeanor, and because it seems that he’s being led to the slaughter. (God forbid it 1000 times.)


Is he guilty? Well, it all depends on what the charges are. He’s guilty of being a great guy, a dear friend to those who know him, well-read and interested in everything to do with freedom and human rights. Do these pastimes merit punishment? I should hope not.


If the charges are “Spreading data and malicious rumors that disrupt public security,” then I’m torn as to his guilt or innocence, because he’s only guilty of spreading the truth, a truth that anyone with a brain could have arrived with on his own. Why should Kareem be the only one punished, then?

In regards to the next charge against him, the one accusing Kareem of “defaming the President of Egypt,” who hasn’t? And if imprisonment came from speaking ill of President Bush, then most of the U.S. population is in trouble.

Since when having an opinion is a criminal offense? Are we back in the days of our ancestors, when the Pharaoh was a god? Quite the contrary, it is Mubarak who should be on trial for the misallocation of $1.3 billion.

Next charges: “Incitement to overthrow the regime upon hatred and contempt” and “Incitement to hate "Islam" and breach of the public peace standards.”

Come again, WHAT peace standards? Did Egypt become a giant love-fest when I wasn’t looking? Are Copts and Muslims hanging out and feeding each other grapes and commenting on their good fortune to be Egyptians? No! People are climbing over each other to escape the hell that Egypt has become under Nasser, Sadat, and our old friend Hosni.

Finally, and as I may have mentioned before, the charge of “Highlighting inappropriate aspects that harm the reputation of Egypt and spreading them to the public” is the most idiotic one of them all.

1-     Shouldn’t the government be taking measures to make things right so that there AREN’T any inappropriate aspects?

2-     Egypt’s reputation isn’t great, and there’s only one person to blame for that (and it’s not Kareem!)

3-     Non-great reputations don’t stay secret for long, especially in a country with such a big Diaspora, and such a big percentage of born gossips and complainers.

It’s interesting that “hating Islam” is considered a crime, but if the situation were reversed, not one government official would have a problem because someone spoke out against Christianity. (You have to admit that “Love your neighbor” and “Love your enemies” and “Turn the other cheek” have a nicer ring to them than do “Slay the infidels where ye find them” and “Christians and Jews are apes and pigs, so think twice before befriending them!”)

But this isn’t about what the “better” religion is (although Egyptian law makes many decisions in favor of the party belonging to “the better religion,” and it isn’t  Christianity, if you catch my drift).

This is about who the adult is. (In Egypt, we have a saying that says “Khaleek enta el Kebeer,” or “You be the adult.”) And I don’t mean that Egypt should be the parent to punish her son (especially since he did nothing wrong, but never mind that now); rather, I think those in “authority” (and no, you aren’t imagining the haughty and disgusted tone in my voice) should be “big enough” to allow people their own opinions.

After all, if certain religions would realize that their gods are big enough to defend themselves (aren’t they?) without having to rely on humans to go around slaughtering people “in god’s name” (sic) then at least half of the world’s problems would disappear.

And if the countries that derive their laws from certain religions would bring about a complete separation of “church and state” (not that I’m talking Christianity here, but anyway) then even more problems would disappear.

And if you’re thinking that the similarity between my words here and Kareem’s in “The Essay” (the Maharram Bey one that started all this) proves his “guilt” then you have another think coming, because I’ve been singing the same tune since before Kareem was in diapers.

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