My former Cato Institute colleague Tom Palmer has penned an important editorial in today's Washington Post along with Raja Kamal of the University of Chicago that illustrates how very lucky we are to live in a country that respects freedom of speech and religious differences. Palmer and Kamal tell the story of Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman, a 22 year old student who is sitting in an Egyptian prison, awaiting sentencing tomorrow. "His alleged 'crime': expressing his opinions on a blog. His mistake: having the courage to do so under his own name," note Palmer and Kamal. They continue:
Soliman.. was expelled from Al-Azhar University last spring for sharply criticizing the university's rigid curriculum and faulting religious extremism on his blog. He was ordered to appear before a public prosecutor on Nov. 7 on charges of "spreading information disruptive of public order," "incitement to hate Muslims" and "insulting the President." Soliman was detained pending an investigation, and the detention has been renewed four times. He has not had consistent access to lawyers or to his family.
Soliman has criticized Egyptian authorities as failing to protect the rights of religious minorities and women. He has expressed his views about religious extremism in very strong terms. He is the first Egyptian blogger to be prosecuted for the content of his remarks. Remarkably, the legal complaint originated with the university that had expelled him; once, it was a great center of learning in the Arab world, but it has been reduced to informing on students for their dissent from orthodoxy.
Whether or not we agree with the opinions that Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman expressed is not the issue. What matters is a principle: People should be free to express their opinions without fear of being imprisoned or killed. Blogging should not be a crime.
Amen. Again, it's stories like this that should remind us how good we have it here in America.
By the way, a website has been set up to petition for his freedom: www.FreeKareem.org