In today’s UK Guardian, Khaled Diab (a Belgian-Egyptian journalist and writer), writes about the very disturbing turn of events in Egypt in which bloggers are being jailed. Apparently the new regime have cracked down on bloggers who ‘insult’ either the military council or religion. He writes …
The revolution seems to have made the Egyptian regime very quick to take offence from all those ungrateful pesky Egyptians. In April, the courageous blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad was jailed for three years on the ludicrous charge of “insulting the military” – which is an offence only to our intelligence. The posts that got him in trouble include one in which he contends that “the army and people were never a single hand” and another that accuses the interim regime of “recycling the same old shit” but this time on a china plate.
In protest against his sentencing, Sanad began a long hunger strike in jail. Now reports are emerging that he has been moved to a psychiatric hospital, drawing severe condemnation from Egypt’s mental health community. An interesting blog containing Sanad’s determinedly outspoken writings from prison has been set up by his friends.
OK, so far I get it … a military junta takes offense when a blogger criticizes them in public. That in itself does not bode well for the political future in Egypt and is in isolation of extreme concern, but it gets worse …
Now Egypt’s civilian courts have joined the Egyptian institutions making offenders out of bloggers who cause offence. Ayman Youssef Mansour also received three years, but this time not for offending the demigods of the military but rather for “insulting” Islam, “promoting extremist ideas” and “inciting sectarianism” on Facebook.
It’s not exactly clear what Ayman wrote that qualified him for three years in jail, according to the official MENA news agency, Mansour was tried in a criminal court, and his ruling stated that he “intentionally insulted the dignity of the Islamic religion and attacked it with insults and ridicule on Facebook.” (Hey, I do that all the time). While it remains unclear exactly what the posts contained, Egyptian daily, Al Masry Al Youm reported that the court stated that the posts on the Facebook page threatened national unity.
This is quite frankly insane, no belief system is beyond criticism and no idea has some form of right that prevents such criticism no matter how firmly it is believed. This is not actually a judgement upon Ayman, but rather is a judgment upon Islam and also the current regime in Egypt, it exposes both as morally bankrupt.
The revolution in Egypt was supposed to have embodied freedom, but is in fact having quite the opposite effect. Where exactly is this going to go next? Christianity is by its very nature, “defamatory” to Islam, and of course the reverse is also true, so will we now see them all going after each other in the Egyptian courts? Unless they recognize the basic right of all to believe or not believe in whatever they wish, then this will not end well at all.
There is a very basic and simple principle that the current Egyptian regime and courts do not comprehend …
Beliefs and ideas do not have rights, only people do