Free This Egyptian Blogger

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The sentencing of Egyptian blogger Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman [editorial, Feb. 28] seriously threatens freedom of expression and religion throughout Egypt.

While Mr. Soliman was critical of extremism within Islam, the ability to discuss one's religious beliefs is an important aspect of freedom of religion and expression, both of which are essential in democratic societies and should not be prohibited in legislation. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief has stated that "defamation of religions may offend people and hurt their religious feelings, but it does not necessarily or at least directly result in a violation of their rights, including their right to freedom of religion."

In a March 5 letter, the Egyptian Embassy stated that speech defaming religion can be limited for "not just Islam but all religions."

Yet Egyptian law protects only the three "heavenly religions," and Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court has refused to recognize the Bahais, who were declared incompatible with Egypt's nature as an Islamic state. No action has been taken to protect faiths other than Islam, including the Christian Copt minority, a move Mr. Soliman called for.

Egypt is an ally of the United States in the struggle for freedom, receiving nearly $2 billion in foreign aid annually. However, Congress is concerned with Egypt's stifling of basic human rights. I call on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to immediately pardon Mr. Soliman.


U.S. Representative (R-Ariz.)


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