Who is Kareem Amer?
Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman, better known by his Internet pseudonym Kareem Amer, is a 24-year-old native of Alexandria, Egypt. He grew up in a very religious family and attended the Al-Azhar religious school system his entire life. He began to rebel against the religious extremism he perceived in his school and began to express his opinions on a blog and Modern Discussion. When the Al-Azhar administration discovered his blog in late 2005, he was expelled from the school and his case was referred to state prosecutors. On February 22, 2007, Kareem was sentenced to four years in prison: three years for ‘contempt of religion’, and one year for ‘defaming the President of Egypt’. An appeal court in mid-March upheld the four-year prison sentence against him, and the judge approved a civil claim filed by the eleven lawyers who want to fine Kareem for ‘insulting Islam’. Kareem’s lawyers will apply for the Court of Cassation (third degree).
On his blog, Kareem describes himself as:
I am down to earth Law student; I look forward to help humanity against all form of discriminations… I am looking forward to open up my own human rights activists Law firm, which will include other lawyers who share the same views. Our main goal is to defend the rights of Muslim and Arabic women against all form of discrimination and to stop violent crimes committed on a daily basis in these countries.
What did Kareem post on his blog?
Please visit this page: What Kareem Said.
Why was he expelled from Al-Azhar University?
In early March 2006, Abdul Kareem was told to attend a disciplinary board at the Sharia & Law Faculty (Damanhour Campus) of Al-Azhar University. He was confronted with articles he had posted on his blog, as well as on Modern Discussion and Copts United, in which he expressed secular views, promoted gender equality, and criticized Al-Azhar University.
Articles he was questioned on included those that spoke of his secular opinions, criticized the university’s gender segregation policy, and disagreed with Al-Azhar’s Grand Sheikh’s pressuring the Islamic Research Academy to pledge allegiance to President Mubarak.
Kareem did not deny writing these articles, stating that they represented his own personal opinions and that they were published on the Internet, not on the campus premises.
At the end of the session, he was charged with:
→ Contempt of religions in general, and specifically Islam;
→ Insulting the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, as well as another professor; and
A few days later, he was formally expelled from the university, and the Dean of the Sharia & Law Faculty, Dr. Hamdi Shalby, submitted a copy of the investigation documents to the Public Prosecutor.
What did the Egyptian government accuse him of?
According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Kareem stands charged with the following alleged crimes: (1) Spreading data and malicious rumors that disrupt public security; (2) Defaming the President of Egypt; (3) Incitement to overthrow the regime upon hatred and contempt; (4) Incitement to hate “Islam” and breach of the public peace standards; (5) Highlighting inappropriate aspects that harm the reputation of Egypt and spreading them to the public.
On what grounds is he being held?
Kareem was called into the prosecutor’s office in early November. Despite the presence of a human rights attorney representing him, he was interrogated about his personal religious practice and his opinion on current political issues. When he refused to recant his blog writings, he was detained for a few days. That detention has since been extended on several occasions, and over two months later Kareem is still in jail without trial. By the end of February 2007, he was sentenced to four years for the material he posted on his blog. An appeal court in mid-March upheld the four-year prison sentence against him, and the judge approved a civil claim filed by the eleven lawyers who want to fine Kareem for ‘insulting Islam’. Kareem’s lawyers will apply for the Court of Cassation (third degree).
What did his family say about all this?
Days before the jail sentence, his family publicly disowned him, and his father called for applying the Sharia on his son by giving three days to repent, followed by having him killed if he did not announce his repentance.
What comment has the Egyptian government made?
- Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit issued a statement rejecting the interference of anyone, “whoever he may be”, in the work of the Egyptian judiciary, or anyone commenting on its provisions.
- The Egyptian Embassy in Washington, D.C., wrote a letter to The Washington Post defending Kareem’s imprisonment, claiming that Kareem was sentenced under an impartial judicial process. U.S. Congressman Trent Franks and the Free Kareem Coalition both had their responses to the Embassy published.
Are governments worldwide doing anything for Kareem?
- USA: The U.S. State Department issued statements expressing the United States’ concern over the conviction, as well as its disappointment in the unsuccessful appeal. Kareem’s indefinite detention in 2006 was reported in the State Department’s 2006 human rights report on Egypt. Furthermore, two Congressmen co-signed a joint letter to the Egyptian Ambassador to the USA, demanding Kareem Amer’s release.
- Italy: Three Italian MPs have written letters to the Egyptian Ambassador to Italy. An Italian MP and a Senator were present in the rally at Rome on Free Kareem Day.
- Sweden: A member of the Swedish Parliament was a main speaker during a Stockholm demonstration held one day before Kareem’s verdict was delivered.
- UK Independence Party Euro MP Derek Clark, intervening in a Euro-Mediterranean debate in the European Parliament, brought up the case of Kareem Amer’s imprisonment.
How did human rights groups react to Kareem’s imprisonment?
- In March 2007, Kareem was awarded the 2007 Hugo Young Award for Journalism at the 7th Annual Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards Ceremony.
- Kareem has been adopted as an Honorary Member of English PEN, “the world’s only international fellowship of writers, working together to promote literature and defend the freedom to write.”. Kareem’s English PEN profile is available here
- Reporters Without Borders, along with well-known French bloggers, held a surprise demonstration for Kareem at Paris’ world tourism trade fair.
- Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters without Borders, and The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information all have condemned the arrest and sentence.
Were any demonstrations held to protest Kareem’s imprisonment?
On Free Kareem Day, rallies were held in front of Egyptian Embassies around the world in Washington, D.C., Paris, London, Rome, and New York City. Demonstrations were also held on other dates in Bahrain, Stockholm, New York City, and Washington, D.C.
Most recently, Reporters Without Borders, along with well-known French bloggers, held a surprise demonstration for Kareem at Paris’ world tourism trade fair.
I want to help Kareem. What can I do?
Visit our What You Can Do action center!
I want to send Kareem a letter. How can I contact him?
Please visit our Write to Kareem! page.
I feel sorry about Kareem, but it seems your campaign only cares for him and not for other prisoners.
We do care for everyone who’s imprisoned only for expressing their views. Please see our response here: Why Kareem? What About the Others?
I am a Muslim. Why should I support someone who criticized my religion?
Excellent question. This Web site supports Kareem for his right to express himself, not for what he said. This was never about agreeing or disagreeing with what he said. It’s about his right to say it.
- Please read this explanation, as well as Muslims Standing with Kareem.
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