December 7, 2006
Egyptian Blogger Abdelkareem Suleiman Arrested for Criticizing Al-Azhar
Sheikhs: "You Will End up in the Dustbin of History"
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A Reporters Without Borders report released in early November 2006 showed
Egypt to be among the 13 countries with the gravest violations of freedom of
expression on the Internet. Shortly after the report's release, on November 6,
Egyptian blogger Abdelkareem Nabil Suleiman, known by his web pseudonym Kareem
Amer, was arrested.(1)
Abdelkareem Nabil Suleiman had attended Al-Azhar for elementary and secondary
school, in accordance with his parents' wishes. He wanted to pursue university
studies in biology, but family pressure forced him to abandon these studies
after two years and to enroll in the Department of Shari'a and Legal Studies
at Al-Azhar. In 2004, he began to write for the reformist website
www.rezgar.com. He also published articles on the Coptic website
http://copts-united.com, as well as on his own blog,
In October 2005, Suleiman was arrested after he published an article on
Copt-Muslim confrontations in Alexandria, and was released 18 days later.(2)
In March 2006, he was summoned to appear before an Al-Azhar disciplinary
committee because of his Internet writings criticizing the role of religion in
Egypt. The committee decided to expel him from the university. About his
expulsion, Suleiman wrote: "Thus ended a black period in my life, which I
spent between the walls of the big prison known as 'The Al-Azhar
Institution.'"(3) In the last blog entry before his arrest, Suleiman harshly
criticized Al-Azhar, and predicted that he would be arrested for doing so.(4)
A petition calling for his release has been posted online by the HAMSA
organization ("Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance"), an American Muslim
association for promoting civil rights in the Middle East. It is a branch of
the American Islamic Congress, a group established post-9/11 to promote
interfaith and interethnic understanding.(5)
Following are excerpts from Abdelkareem Suleiman's last article before his
Al-Azhar's Teachings "Contradict Reason and Incite to Violence Against People
of Other Beliefs"
"I started studying at Al-Azhar in accordance with my parents' wishes. Despite
my later absolute opposition to Al-Azhar and religious thought, and despite my
fiercely critical writing on religion's infiltration into public life, and
religion's control over people's behavior and their relations with others...
freeing myself from the bonds of being a former Al-Azhar University student
was not... an easy thing.
"When I received my liberty, in the form of my final expulsion papers from the
university in March, 2006, I thought that this would be the end of the matter,
and that the fact that I had received these papers was, for me, a certificate
of liberty from my Al-Azhar captivity and from Al-Azhar University, which
arbitrarily controls first the lives of its students, and, to varying degrees,
also the public and life in this country ...
"However, it seems that Al-Azhar's 'blessings' to its students cannot easily
be wiped out, and they continue to pursue the student like a shadow. A student
who finished high school at Al-Azhar cannot apply to any state university. I
attempted to do this several times this year and in previous years, before
they expelled me, but none of my attempts met with any success. It is enough
that you hold this infamous diploma [from Al-Azhar] for you to be unable to
study like other citizens in the country, who differ from you in that they
hold state high school diplomas.
"It seems that Al-Azhar's 'blessings' to its students are not limited to
preventing them from completing their studies far from Al-Azhar. What happened
to me, and what is going to happen to me in the coming days, clearly proves
that Al-Azhar's 'blessings' will not leave in peace a student who tries to
rise up against the university and oppose things he is forced to learn there -
things that contradict reason and incite to violence against people of other
beliefs - until he stands at the edge of his grave... or until he enters the
prison gates. And it seems that this is what I am about to deal with in the
"I Decry Any Law, Legislation, or Regime That Does Not Respect Human Rights
"A few hours ago, a summons from the general prosecutor arrived at my house,
demanding that I show up for questioning next Monday...
"It seems that Al-Azhar's 'blessings', which I vainly imagined I had escaped
when I received my certificate of liberty, continue to pursue me to this day,
and my summons for questioning by the prosecutor is one of their
manifestations. These 'blessings' do not leave their bearer in peace, until he
is in a situation like that of Dr. Nasser Hamed Abu Zayd, for whom Al-Azhar's
'blessings' led to [a court] ruling that he must be separated from his wife;
or a situation like that of Dr. Ahmed Sobhi Mansour, for whom Al-Azhar's
'blessings' led to his imprisonment and forced emigration from the country,
once and for all; or, in the best of cases, a situation like those that of Dr.
Nawal Al-Sa'dawi, Ahmed Al-Shahawi, and others, for whose writings Al-Azhar
always advises boycotts and prevention of market distribution.
"I am not at all afraid. Luckily for me, the enemies of free thought, who
treat me in ways that only the intellectually bankrupt employ, make me more
sure of myself, more steadfast in my principles, and ready to deal with
anything in order to express my free opinion, without any limitation
whatsoever imposed on me by governments, religious institutions, or even the
"The very existence of laws that define freedom of thought as a crime, and
that punish with imprisonment anyone who expresses criticism of the religion
[i.e. Islam] in any way, is a dangerous flaw in the law - [the law] which
exists to regulate relations among people in society, not to suppress their
liberty for the benefit of religion, the law itself, or the social order...
"I declare here, frankly and clearly, that I decry any law, legislation, or
regime that does not respect human rights and individual liberty, does not
recognize an individual's complete freedom to do anything and everything so
long as he causes no physical harm those around him, and does not recognize an
individual's complete freedom to express his opinions, whatever they may be,
so long as those opinions remain words and entail no physical act that harms
"Human Rights Are Something Self-Evident That Needs No Legislation or Laws to
Regulate It or to Define Its Essence"
"In addition, I hereby clearly declare that these laws do not obligate me in
any manner. I do not recognize them, and I detest, from the depths of my soul,
everyone who acts to implement them, and everyone who approves of them and
derives benefit from them... I hereby declare that I do not recognize the
legitimacy of my summons for questioning, since it is something [that
violates] my right to express my opinion - a right established in the
Declaration of Human Rights to which Egypt is a signatory. [Moreover,] even
without referring to this declaration, and even if it did not exist and Egypt
was not a signatory to it, human rights are something self-evident that needs
no legislation or laws to regulate it or to define its essence.
"To all those who hate me and are hostile to me, who think that these
primitive deeds might make me change my stands, influence me, and force me to
stray from the path I set before myself, I say: Die in your anger and hide in
your burrows, I will not, for a single instant, retract any word I have
"And to Al-Azhar, Al-Azhar University, to the professors and sheikhs at
Al-Azhar who stood and stand against anyone who thinks freely, I say: You will
end up in the dustbin of history. Then you will find no one to cry for you..."
(1) Al-Quds Al-'Arabi (London), November 8, 2006.
(2) http://www.rezgar.com/debat/show.art.asp?aid=48653, December 23, 2005.
(3) http://www.rezgar.com/m.asp?i=432 .
(4) http://www.rezgar.com/debat/show.art.asp?aid=79430#, October 29, 2006.
(5) The petition may be read and signed on
http://www.hamsaweb.com/c2/home.php?id=Kareem. For more on HAMSA, see:
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