‘Yes, I’m a blasphemer. Get over it.’ by Maikel Nabil Sanad

We support our right to freedom of expression and thought, if it is called ‘blasphemy’, so be it. 

.

On October 7, 2012, the office of the Egyptian General Prosecutor decided to start an official investigation accusing me of “blasphemy” — or, as they call it, “insulting Islam.” My crime was expressing my atheist beliefs on my Twitter account. The Egyptian authorities also arrested my friend Alber Saber on similar charges. He remains in jail to this day.

Egypt has signed many international treaties that ensure freedom of expression, but the Egyptian penal code still has approximately 20 laws that make certain opinions a crime.

The specified offenses include criticizing the president, the parliament, the military, or the judiciary. Criticizing a foreign president, such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Bashar Al-Assad, is also a crime, punishable with a three-year term in prison.

When I learned of the charges against me and Saber, I remembered my friend Kareem Amer, a famous Egyptian blogger who was sentenced to four years in prison in 2007 for insulting both Islam and then-President Mubarak. Kareem suffered a great deal in prison. He was tortured several times, and spent a long time in solitary confinement under horrible conditions.

The latest threat of legal action against me has also stirred up memories of my previous imprisonment last year, when I was imprisoned in Egypt for 10 months for the crime of “insulting the institution of the military.” Since then, two corrupt police officers, Sayyed Abdel-Kareem and Mohammed Abdel-Rahman, have declared that they want to file an additional case against me. They’re both accusing me of insulting Islam during my imprisonment in El-Marg Prison. They’ve tried to use this new case as a form of blackmail to keep me from speaking about the torture I faced while I was there. (Their accusation is entirely separate from the case brought against me by the prosecutor, by the way.)

Alber is not the only opinion prisoner in Egypt accused of criticizing Islam. There are at least six Christians (three of them under the age of 18), four atheists, and one Shiite who now face the same charges, and it is no surprise that not one of them is a Sunni Muslim. It’s a new Inquisition happening in Egypt in the twenty-first century while the whole world remains silent.

It started last year when Ayman Youseef Mansour, a 22-year-old Christian blogger, was sentenced on October 22, 2011 to three years in prison because he criticized Islam on his Facebook page. Egyptian courts later refused his appeal, denying him his right to reconsider the severity of the sentence.

Ayman’s case was followed in January 2012 by the case of Gamal Abdou Masoud, 17, a Christian from Asyut in Upper Egypt. Gamal was tagged on Facebook in a picture that criticized Islam. Angry mobs surrounded his house because of this picture, burned his house and the houses of other Christians in the village, and forced his family to leave. The police didn’t arrest anyone from the mobs. Instead, Gamal was sentenced to three years in prison for “insulting Islam.”

Then, in April 2012, another Christian was imprisoned on the same charges. Makarem Diab Said, a teacher (also from Asyut), was sentenced to six years simply for using some aggressive words against Islam when he was quarrelling with one of his colleagues at work.

Last month, on September 12, a court in Sohag sentenced another Christian, Bishoy El-Beheri to six years in prison for criticizing Islam and criticizing President Mohammed Morsi. This case is very similar to Kareem’s. The only difference is that in Kareem’s case he got only one year in jail for criticizing Mubarak, while criticizing the present president leads to three years.

Earlier this month, the Al-Ahram newspaper reported that two Coptic Christian children ,Nabil Nagy Rizk, 10, and Mina Nady Farag, 9, were arrested for insulting Islam because they were caught playing with papers that happened to have some verses of the Quran written on them. The kids were released later, but the case against them hasn’t been dropped yet, meaning that they can be jailed also for three years.

On October 6, a female student, known only by her initials of “B.R.,” went to the police station in Sharkia asking for help, complaining that her mother tried to poison her. But the authorities decided that the student and her boyfriend should be jailed because they are atheists who believe that premarital sex is not a sin.

It is not only atheists and Christians who are being jailed in Egypt for blasphemy. A Shiite man,Mohammed Asfour, was sentenced to three years in prison last July for speaking against the crimes made by followers of Mohammed the prophet of Islam.

Many others are in prison on the same charges and more will surely follow. The General Prosecutor has just sent a case against Google officials to the State Security Investigations department in Egypt, accusing the Internet company of failing to block the movie Innocence of Muslims from its search engine. The prosecutor has also started an investigation against the poetHisham al-Gokh, whom he accused of insulting religion in his poetry.

These activists suffer because Egypt doesn’t have an independent judiciary. Many cases take decades to go before Egyptian courts. But when the issue is political, they can finish the case in a few days, just as they finished my trial 12 days after my arrest in March 2011. They are now doing the same with Alber. Obviously there is a political reason for the Egyptian regime to jail him. They wish to intimidate Christians and other minorities to force them to leave the country. That is why Alber’s trial is being processed so fast in comparison with other cases in Egypt. If there was a proper international response, perhaps they would proceed with more caution. Alber expects to be sentenced to three years’ imprisonment within a short time. Meanwhile, though, there is a campaign supporting his freedom on Facebook and Twitter, which is gaining momentum every day.

The worst part is that this phenomenon of jailing bloggers on charges of “insulting religion” is now becoming widespread in Muslim countries. In Saudi Arabia, young blogger Hamza Kashgari is now in jail on blasphemy charges, and could face the death sentence. In Tunisia, Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Beji were sentenced on March 28, 2012 to seven and a half years in prison. In Morocco,Mohammed Socrates is spending two years in jail for his atheism, but the authorities in Morocco were smart enough to accuse him of narcotics trafficking, and there is no need to say that he confessed under torture. One might even include Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old girl shot by the Pakistani Taliban because of her public calls for secularism and female education.

Religions are just collections of beliefs which can’t be proved. I still can’t imagine that in the twenty-first century there are people going to prison because they don’t believe that someone walked on water, a virgin gave birth to a child, or a man flew to heaven on a donkey. Tolerating this new Inquisition moves our world back to the Middle Ages, and this could have devastating consequences for our lives.

Maikel Nabil Sanad is an Egyptian activist and leader of the “No to Compulsory Military Service” Movement. He became a prisoner of conscience after boycotting military trials in August 2011 and spent 130 days on a hunger strike. He is also a member of the board of Cyberdissidents.org.

http://transitions.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/10/19/yes_i_m_a_blasphemer_get_over_it

..

Pak man shot dead after being acquitted of blasphemy

Another blasphemy killing in the Punjab. Sajjad Hussain’s murderers surrendered to the police, but will they be tried and punished for their crime?

.

Lahore: A Pakistani man who was acquitted of a blasphemy charge has been shot dead by two men in Punjab province, police officials said Saturday.

Sajjad Hussain, a resident of Khan Muslim village in Gujranwala district, 80 km from Lahore, was gunned down yesterday.

He had been arrested in February 2011 after Sath Sanaullah, a resident of his neighbourhood, accused him of committing blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed during a private conversation.

Hussain was booked under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, the harsh blasphemy law.

Hussain’s family held a demonstration and demanded that the two men be punished.

PTI

http://zeenews.india.com/news/south-asia/pak-man-shot-dead-after-being-acquitted-of-blasphemy_806642.html

..

Blasphemy: Another ‘Honour Killing’ Platform – Don’t Support It This Friday

Blasphemy is another ‘Honour Killing’ Platform.
Please Don’t Support It This Friday

‘Honour Killings’
Description

Where women, and some men, are harassed and killed by the male members of their families on the pretext of ‘saving the honour of the family’, but actually to keep control of the property and sexuality rights of women.

Male members are supported by the local authorities such as the police, jirgas, civil and army administrators, and other influentials, in propagating and committing these violent and abusive crimes.

This vile concept of control of women through extreme punishment is presented by the mainstream culture as a crucial part of the ‘moral fibre’ of Pakistani society.

‘Honour Killings’ support male control and power over all women, but most women who actually get killed are the poorest in a city, town or village.

Do you support ‘Honour Killings’?

.

Blasphemy
Description

Where non-Muslim and Muslim men, and some women, are killed or required to be killed by the extreme religious Muslim groups on the pretext of ‘saving the honour of Islam and its prophet’, but actually (1> to keep control of the property and civic rights of non-Muslims and Muslim minority sects, and (2> to use it as a Muslim-mob-generating hysterical street weapon for their petty political ends.

The extreme religious Muslim groups are supported by the local Muslim authorities such as the police, jirgas, civil and army administrators, politicians, lawyers, educators and other dignitaries in propagating and committing these violent and abusive crimes.

This vile concept of control over minority communities through extreme punishment is presented as a crucial part of the ‘moral fibre’ of Pakistani Muslim society.

‘Blasphemy Killings’ support the control and power of Muslims of a majority ruling sect over all non-Muslim and minority Muslim communities, but most people who actually get killed are the poorest in a city, town or village.

Do you Support ‘Blasphemy Killings’?

.

Blasphemy is another ‘Honour Killing’ Platform.
Please Don’t Support It This Friday
Or Ever After!

From
Repeal Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws
Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/RepealBlasphemyLaws

Web Page
https://lifethelove.wordpress.com/
Email
uddari@live.ca
.

Where women, and some men, are harassed and killed by the male members of their families on the pretext of ‘saving the honour of the family’, but actually to keep control of the property and sexuality rights of women.

Male members are supported by the local authorities such as the police, jirgas, civil and army administrators, and other influentials, in propagating and committing these violent and abusive crimes.

This vile concept of control of women through extreme punishment is presented by the mainstream culture as a crucial part of the ‘moral fibre’ of Pakistani society.

‘Honour Killings’ support male control and power over all women, but most women who actually get killed are the poorest in a city, town or village.

Do you support ‘Honour Killings’?

.

Blasphemy
Description

Where non-Muslim and Muslim men, and some women, are killed or required to be killed by the extreme religious Muslim groups on the pretext of ‘saving the honour of Islam and its prophet’, but actually (1> to keep control of the property and civic rights of non-Muslims and Muslim minority sects, and (2> to use it as a Muslim-mob-generating hysterical street weapon for their petty political ends.

The extreme religious Muslim groups are supported by the local Muslim authorities such as the police, jirgas, civil and army administrators, politicians, lawyers, educators and other dignitaries in propagating and committing these violent and abusive crimes.

This vile concept of control over minority communities through extreme punishment is presented as a crucial part of the ‘moral fibre’ of Pakistani Muslim society.

‘Blasphemy Killings’ support the control and power of Muslims of a majority ruling sect over all non-Muslim and minority Muslim communities, but most people who actually get killed are the poorest in a city, town or village.

Do you Support ‘Blasphemy Killings’?

.

Blasphemy is another ‘Honour Killing’ Platform.
Please Don’t Support It This Friday
Or Ever After!

From
Repeal Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws
Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/RepealBlasphemyLaws

Web Page
https://lifethelove.wordpress.com/
Email
uddari@live.ca
.

‘Libya: The Questions We Should Be Asking’ by Barry Lando

This article provides some context to the violence now erupting against USA in the Muslim world, where the actual film on YouTube is an opportunity for the Extreme Right to drum up mass hysteria.
Though US-NATO alliance must be confronted, it cannot bring much improvement in the lives of people if it is done on the basis of ‘avenging Islam’, that it is now being done.
We cannot support the Extreme Right, neither can we support the aggressive colonization of US-NATO alliance in the region. We must expose both for their profiteering, and their violent and abusive politics.

.
September 15, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – – Apart from Mitt Romney’s ridiculous slur against President Obama after the slaying of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, Americans should focus on the state of affairs suggested by the following questions: When was the last time a Chinese diplomat was killed or even roughed up by an angry mob? When did you last hear about a Chinese embassy being burned down or pillaged?

From Morocco and Tunisia to Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Iraq, anti-American crowds have taken to the streets. The outpouring of hatred is symptomatic of the fact that across much of North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, American policy is in tatters—probably more than ever before. The region is strewn with the wreckage of failed U.S. ambitions and disastrous American plans.

Incredibly, even as the U.S. surveys the shambles that Libya has become, there are still American officials pushing for the United States to intervene in Syria’s bloody civil war. (In fact, for months now, the U.S. and some of its Arab allies have been clandestinely doing just that.) Even the prime minister of Israel, supposedly America’s most valuable ally in the region, makes political points by sticking his finger in President Obama’s eye.

We’ve heard for years that America is obsessed with this part of the world because its trade routes and resources are critical to U.S. interests. That may once have been true, but as things stand now, those trade routes and resources are more crucial to China than to America. China gets a greater percentage of its oil through the vital Strait of Hormuz—which the U.S. spends billions of dollars to patrol—than does the United States.

And although the U.S. has been lavishing hundreds of billions of dollars on military bases, the Chinese have been spending their considerable financial resources across Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, buying up mineral deposits, land, forests and petroleum, inking construction contracts for huge infrastructure projects as well as opening up vast new markets.

Where are the Chinese troops to protect all this? Where are the sprawling Chinese naval and air bases, their drones, killer teams and special forces? Not needed, thanks. The U.S. is handling security.

This makes for some sad ironies. For instance, the fact that Stevens spent months aiding the Libyan rebels during their uprising against Moammar Gadhafi while China was one of the last major allies to continue supporting the dictator. Yet the Chinese are back in Libya wheeling and dealing for construction contracts and oil.

Meanwhile, next door in Egypt, newly elected President Mohamed Morsi, whose country continues to receive more than $1 billion in aid from the United States, judged he had more to gain by joining in attacks against the U.S. than by cooling popular passions. And where was his first trip abroad after winning election? To China.

Yet China would seem a very appropriate target for Muslim anger. The U.S. may have invaded Muslim countries, but for decades China has been brutally persecuting and repressing millions of its own Muslim minorities, such as the Uighars in northwest China.

But how many furious crowds have taken to the streets in Muslim lands to protest the plight of the Uighars? How many people have even heard of them? How many of the Muslim leaders who are lambasting the United States because of an off-the-wall film that the U.S. government had absolutely nothing to do with have ever uttered a single word of protest against China in public?

That’s not to say the Chinese are beloved in the region. There have been violent, sometimes bloody, protests against their labor and trade practices but nothing that compares in scale and depth to the hatred and suspicion of the United States throughout the region.

The current outcry over a film insulting the Prophet Muhammad is just the tip of an emotional iceberg. Underneath it all are more than half a century of Western and American interventions in the region, as well as the U.S.’ continued support of Israel.

While the U.S. has spent huge sums trying to overthrow regimes, punish perceived enemies, prevent nuclear proliferation (except in Israel) and shape the impacts of the new political dynamics that are roiling the area, the Chinese have had their eyes fixed on one set of objectives only: getting hold of vital natural resources to fuel their ravenous economy and finding new markets for their products and mammoth projects for their construction companies.

Why can’t the U.S. do the same? That’s the kind of basic question Americans should ask in the wake of the killing of a U.S. ambassador, as they go about electing a new president. But don’t count on it.

This article was originally posted at TruthDig

From
Information Clearinghouse
..

U.S. official killed in Libya protest over anti-Islam film – CBC

CBC.ca
Sept 11, 2012

Protesters angered over a film that ridiculed Islam’s Prophet Muhammad fired gunshots and burned down the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, killing one American official, witnesses and the State Department said. In Egypt, protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo and replaced an American flag with an Islamic banner.

It was the first such assaults on U.S. diplomatic facilities in either country, at a time when both Libya and Egypt are struggling to overcome the turmoil following the ouster of their longtime leaders, Moammar Gadhafi and Hosni Mubarak in uprisings last year.

The protests in both countries were sparked by outrage over a film ridiculing Muhammad produced by an American in California and being promoted by an extreme anti-Muslim Egyptian Christian campaigner in the United States. Excerpts from the film dubbed into Arabic were posted on YouTube.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed that one State Department officer had been killed in the protest at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. She strongly condemned the attack and said she had called Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif “to co-ordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya.”

Continued…
http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/09/11/cairo-embassy-protest.html?cmp=rss
..

‘Countering intolerance’ by Shandana Khan Mohmand

From Dawn.com

A FEW years before the Nazi government arrested him in 1937 and sent him to a concentration camp, Martin Niemoller, a German theologian, spoke the powerful words that have come to epitomise the guilt of the bystander who watches in silence as those around suffer.

He lamented how he had not spoken up as they came first for the communists, then the unionists, and then the Jews. Finally when they came for him, “there was no one left to speak out”.

Pakistan has arrived at a point where ‘they’ have come for the Ahmedis, the Christians, the Hindus, and the Shias. It has come to a point where we need to speak out because at some point they will come for even those that are not part of a minority community.

They will come for you either because you are a Barelvi, a Deobandi, a woman, an intellectual, a liberal, the wrong ethnic group, or simply someone who does not agree with the worldview of those who are armed and have no compulsions against killing a fellow human being. But what is the most effective way to speak out? What will make a difference?

The simple answer, of course, is that we need to learn to be more accepting and tolerant of each other. But while noble, this is a generally useless suggestion because there is a large difference between being intolerant and actually pulling people off a bus, identifying them as Shias and then murdering them for that simple fact.

What takes a person from general intolerance towards others to actually killing people for their belief? I do not have an answer to that, but I do know a few things that contribute.

It contributes when murderers like the Taliban are allowed to get away with it. Not bringing perpetrators publicly to justice in courts that speak out clearly in favour of protecting every single citizen — regardless of caste, creed and religion — contributes
to making the next incident possible.

It contributes that in attack after attack, a few of which have been on their own bases, we do not see the police or the army going after the outfits that sponsor these.

It also contributes that in its official documents the state continues to divide us all into religious categories. What, and whose, purpose does this serve?

It contributes when public figures do not speak out loudly and regularly in favour of minorities and against the violent crimes that they suffer.

It contributes that electronic media is not awash with dramas, public service messages and talk shows promoting an understanding of minority cultures and beliefs, the value and beauty of diversity, and the idea that there should be no ‘us’ and ‘them’ within Pakistan.

It certainly contributes that the career of television anchors does not suffer terribly when they publicly convert members of minority communities to Islam on their shows. And despite popular belief, it is not a lack of education that contributes to this, but rather, the content of our educational curricula that appears to be responsible.

I discovered in my research in rural Pakistan that the person in the village with active membership of a sectarian organisation was never the uneducated farm labourer, but rather the schoolteacher.

The only person that I met who told me he had participated in a religious protest was a man with an FA degree who had travelled to Lahore to protest against the Danish cartoons. As we strive to educate more and more of our population without a review of what we are teaching them, where can we expect to head?

So, how do we speak out? Maybe the answer lies in becoming intolerant as well. We need to become vocally intolerant of religious groups that seek to organise people on the basis of differences and preach violence against others.

We need to become intolerant of the army’s strategic games, and of the fact that deals are struck with those that kill openly and thump their chests publicly to take responsibility for it.

We need to be intolerant of political parties that cosy up to the army and tow its line of negotiating with murderers. We should be intolerant of a state that requires us to reveal our religion in official documents.

We need to be intolerant of a system that is seen to go into hyper-drive to weaken an elected government, but that allows known religious fanatics to walk free for lack of strong evidence.

How do you express such intolerance? By getting our politics right. Withdraw support for the judiciary when it lets a terrorist go. Push the political party you support to have a clear stance against those that kill minorities, and do not vote for those that
make excuses for terrorist outfits.

Change the channel when talk show hosts insist that the real problem is another country, politicians or corruption, all the while defending those that kill the name of religion.

Write to channels to demand that there be more programmes on issues that affect minorities. Use social networking sites, newspapers and public protests to reduce divisions within Pakistan. Refuse to identify yourself with a religion or sect when asked to do so.

And on a personal level, stop trying to match your children with a spouse of the same sect, biradari, or class. Embrace diversity and the possibility that that will only make you less insulated and less inbred.

Do this before they come for you.
..

The writer is a researcher of political economy.

From
Dawn.com

Pointed to by Hoori Noorani

..

‘Blasphemy and the Governor of Punjab’ a BBC Radio 4 Presentation

DURATION: 1 HOUR

On 4th January 2011, self-made millionaire businessman and governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, was gunned down in the car park of a popular Islamabad market. He had been leading a campaign to amend Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, after an illiterate 45-year-old Christian woman, Asia Bibi, from a village in his province had been sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Within hours of his death, a Facebook fan page for the assassin Mumtaz Qadri had over 2000 members, before site administrators shut it down. When Qadri was transferred to jail, he was garlanded with roses by a crowd of lawyers offering to take on his case for free. President Asif Ali Zardari, an old friend of Taseer’s, didn’t go to the funeral for fear of inflaming public opinion. Leaders of state-funded mosques refused to say funeral prayers for the slain governor. The Interior Minister even gave an impromptu press conference announcing that he too would kill any blasphemer “with his own hands”.

Using his extensive contacts in Pakistan, presenter Owen Bennett-Jones has interviewed Taseer’s family and friends and the family of the assassin. He has also secured access to court documents including the killer’s confession.

The programme includes both interviews and dramatic reconstructions.

Presented by Owen Bennett-Jones
Sound Design Steve Bond
Executive Producer Jeremy Skeet
Director John Dryden

A Goldhawk Production for BBC Radio 4

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01mhn54
.
.
.