Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Freedom Suffers a Blow in Egypt

by Elliott Abrams
April 5, 2012


Egypt is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 18 states that:

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

Yet today, we learned that “An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced a 17-year-old Christian boy to three years in jail for publishing cartoons on his Facebook page that mocked Islam and the Prophet Mohammad, actions that sparked sectarian violence.” The Reuters report continued that “Assiut child’s court ordered the jailing of Gamal Abdou Massoud … for three years after he insulted Islam and published and distributed pictures that insulted Islam and its Prophet.”

When the cartoons first appeared in December, violence against Christians erupted: several houses were burned and several Christians were injured. Here is one report:

Angry Muslims locked horns with Christians in the villages of Bahig and El-Adr, with both sides stoning each other. Meanwhile, some Bahig residents rallied in front of Abdullah’s school in the village. Security forces interfered to protect to him inside the school, eventually managing cool down tensions. In El-Adr, however, feelings were more heated. Hundreds embarked on a march heading to the student’s house with the intention of lynching him. Security forces had to use tear gas to disperse the crowd. Meanwhile, Abdullah’s family left their home. Later on, it was reported that some angry Muslims attacked the house, trying to set it on fire. In nearby El-Salam Village, three houses owned by Copts were set ablaze. The arson caused other buildings to catch fire also.

Now this 17-year-old Christian boy has received the maximum sentence for his “crime.” One wonders how many of those who tried to lynch him, committed arson, and stoned others have been sentenced to three years in prison. Egypt’s new government will have to decide whether freedom of religion will apply equally for Christians and Muslims, or “public order” and “public morals” arguments will be used to prevent the slightest comment on Islam other than praise. Today the prospects for full freedom of religion and of expression appear grim.



Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Dan

    Mr. Abrams, I certainly hope this didn’t catch you by surprise.

  • Posted by Liberal Koshari

    I agree with you that it is sad and disgusting to have a 17-year old kid in prison for posting on Facebook about Islam. However, the reference to the ICCPR and using it as the cornerstone of your argument against Egypt’s decision is simplistic and inaccurate. I respond in full to your post here:

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