The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Egyptian blogger arrested

I just received this Email:

Abdolkarim Nabil Seliman [aka: Kareem Amer] is a 21 year-old Egyptian student of law at the Azhar University, Damanhour Campus, a women's-rights activist and a correspondent for Copts United. In addition to writing at Civic Dialogue, he also publishes at a blog he maintains.

On Wednesday 26 October 2005, Egyptian State Security took Abdolkarim from his home, and confiscated hard copies of his writings. He is now on his way to an unknown detention. Three Egyptian bloggers visited Abdolkarim's family. The family attributed the state security raid to his writings, although it was not clear if his blogging is directly related. According to his brother, Abdolkarim's relations with Islamist Fundamentalists in his neighborhood of Moharram Bek, Alexandria, are tense. It is possible that the fundamentalists have filed a security complaint that led to his detention

This arrest no doubt comes in the context of the recent sectarian riots between Copts and Muslims in Alexandria. This blogger is Muslim and a student at Al Azhar. In recent weeks his blog has been devoted to events in Alexandria and has included several rather scathing attacks on those Muslims who had rallied against the controversial play.

State Security likely arrested him as a precautionary move. Someone like Kareem Amer does not fit the mold, and this always makes state security nervous. Amer wasn't arrested because of what he was writing. He was arrested because of who he is. Had he been a Copt railing against Muslim extremism it would never have caught state security's attention. But because he's Muslim and an Azhari, he is more dangerous. Amer was arrested because state security doesn't want to have to deal with the fall out if some radical decides to stab him for his inflammatory writings.

A similar case would be the case of Metwallif Ibrahim Saleh, a bearded Salafi who has been in prison for nearly three years, because of his reformist writings on Islam. Saleh had written that it is okay for Muslim women to marry non-Muslims and that the Koran does not sanction death for Muslims who convert to other religions. There are dozens of writers in Egypt saying the same thing, so why has Saleh been singled out? Because he's a Salafi fundamentalist, and they're not supposed to make such arguments.

Here's ex-state security chief Fouad Allam on the Saleh case, but I think it is equally applicable in the case of the arrested Egyptian blogger:

State security has nothing against moderate, tolerant Islam, explained fomer head Fouad Allam. “Their logic is that writings like this, about Muslim women marrying non-Muslims, and about changing religions, is very dangerous because of the huge impact of Islamic extremist ideologies,� he said. “It could produce a problem and impact the security situation.�