Wednesday, June 19, 2013

In post-Mubarak Egypt, blasphemy is prosecuted, even when people are impersonated on Facebook

Islamist blasphemy lawsuits and prosecutions seem much more likely in Egypt now than they were under Mubarak, which makes one question the end results of the “Arab spring” there.
Ben Hubbard and Mayy El Sheikh have a disturbing story on p. A4, International, of the New York Times on Wednesday, June 19, 2013, “Islamists press blasphemy cases in New Egypt”, link here
What is disturbing is that the new authorities hold individuals responsible for their reputations, especially online, when others implicate them, even falsely. 
In Sohag, a Christian teacher Beshoy Kamel was told that someone had created a fake Facebook page imitating him, and then publishing insults against Islam and president Morsi.  Kamel created his own page and tried to counter the other page as false.  But when the fake account insulted another cleric, Kamel was arrested anyway, and the Egyptian court and police did not seem very concerned about the possibility of identity theft. TOR and anti-surveillance measures could not have saved him.  
In a “real world” case, another Christian teacher, a rural secretary in a Christian village, Makarim Saeed, was overheard supposedly denigrating Islam, and eventually prosecuted on such rumors.
Why “blasphemy” is viewed as a crime in this culture is hard to grasp for westerners.  But people in these cultures act as if permitting it destroys the meaning of the discipline expected in their lives.

One wonders if it is safe for a controversial western blogger (like me) to even travel to Egypt now, even to see the Pyramids.  

Scott C. Johnson, a modern war correspondent, tried to explain all this in his recent book about his relationship with his father in the CIA, in the book “The Wolf and the Watchman”, reviewed on the Books blog today. 

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