18 March 2007

…but today let me look farther away.

First, Kareem Amer was sentenced to four years imprisonment in Egypt last month. Why? Officially, for insulting Islam and the president of Egypt. What exactly did he do? He has a blog and on it he criticised the president of Egypt and what he sees as the sectarianism and sexism of the state-financed Azhar University, and criticised the attack by some Muslims on a Christian church in Alexandria. He has criticised violence and dictatorship.

Four years for free speech. Everyone who blogs or reads them should think about this. Here is a young man who is exercising freedom of thought and expression and is putting forward views that are routine in the democratic west. In any case it does not matter whether one agrees with his views or not, the issue is free speech. It is gratifying that several Muslims have bravely supported him though they disagree with his views.

We should support him. Visit the website,

And westward, on 12 March 2007 Pete Stark, a Democrat member for California in of the house of representatives in the USA, has said he does not believe in a supreme being. He is the first American congressman to say he is a nontheist. Since religious belief, or profession of it, is commonly held to be necessary to get elected to government in America, Stark’s declaration is courageous. It will be fascinating to see whether the other rationalists in Congress come out and what happens to them.