Saturday, May 18, 2013
CAIRO (AP) — The pale, young Christian woman sat handcuffed in the courtroom, accused of insulting Islam while teaching history of religions to fourth-graders. A team of Islamist lawyers with long beards sang in unison, "All except the Prophet Muhammad."
The case againstin southern Egypt's ancient city of Luxor began when parents of three of her pupils claimed that their children, aged 10, complained their teacher showed disgust when she spoke of Islam in class. According to the parents, , 24, told the children that Pope Shenouda, who led the Egyptian Coptic Church until his death last year, was better than the Prophet Muhammad.
Blasphemy charges were not uncommon inunder the now-ousted autocrat 's regime, but there has been a surge in such cases in recent months, according to rights activists. The trend is widely seen as a reflection of the growing power and confidence of Islamists, particularly the ultraconservative Salafis.
"Salafis are the engineers of these stories," said Abdel-Hamid Hassan, a Muslim and the head of the parents' council at the primary school where Abdel-Nour teaches. Hassan's daughter was among several students who denied any wrongdoing by Abdel-Nour.
"If the pope himself came here from the Vatican and tried to spread Christianity among us, he would fail. We learn about our religion starting from the age of 5," he said, alluding to the allegation against Abdel-Nour, since withdrawn, of "spreading Christianity."
Criminalizing blasphemy was enshrined in the country's Islamist-backed constitution that was adopted in December.
Writers, activists and even a famous television comedian have been accused of blasphemy since then. But Christians seem to be the favorite target of Islamist prosecutors. Their fragile cases — the main basis of the case against Abdel-Nour's case the testimony of children — are greeted with sympathy from courtroom judges with their own religious bias or who fear the wrath of Islamists, according to activists.
The result is a growing number of Egyptians, including many Christians, who have been convicted and sent to prison for blasphemy.
In at least one celebrated case, the offense was clearly provocative: Seven Coptic Christians living in the United States received death sentences in absentia for producing an anti-Islam film that sparked waves of protests by ultraconservative Islamists in front of U.S. embassies across the Arab world on Sept. 11, 2012.
But rights groups say the vast majority of blasphemy cases are merely attempts by Islamists to crack down on their opponents.
"Islamists are using the law to hunt down critics to the Coptic Christian activist whose organization Copts United tracks such cases. "The numbers of Christians implicated is unprecedented," he added., and the Christians are the weakest," said Medhat Klada, a Switzerland-based
Many believe that restrictions on freedoms are more severe under Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's first freely elected president, than during his predecessor's 29-year reign.
Under Mubarak, "you might have had 50 cases, which means a case or two a year on average, but now you have like 10 cases in a year," said Mamdouh Nakhla, who leads The Word Group for Human Rights and focuses on Christian-related persecution.
Freed Tuesday on nearly $3,000 bail after almost a week in detention, Abdel-Nour is due to stand trial on May 21. Her family refused several requests by The Associated Press to speak to her. Her father, Ebid Abdel-Nour, said: "She is innocent. God be with us. She can't talk because she is in very bad condition."
Emil Nazeer, a Christian activist who visited her, says she is suffering a "nervous breakdown."
Rights advocates see cases like Abdel-Nour's as politically motivated persecution. They say the verdicts tend to be harsher in southern Egypt, where Islamists are particularly powerful and Muslims are more conservative.
"Any move or word by a Christian is enough to get the rumor mill working," said Amr Ezzat, a prominent researcher in Islamic groups at the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). "Rumors quickly spread in villages or the towns where the radar of Islamist activists detect them and turn them into a rallying cry under the pretext that Islam's supremacy is endangered."
Salafis advocate an uncompromising and literal interpretation of the Quran, believing society must mirror the way the prophet and his immediate successors ruled in the 7th century. Some Salafi-based political groups are at odds with Egypt's, an Islamist group from which Morsi hails, while others are avid supporters of his government.
Part of the Salafis' antagonism toward Christians is rooted in the belief that they were a protected group under Mubarak's regime while they, the Salafis, were persecuted. Now empowered, they may be out to exact revenge on the Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 90 million people.
The Egyptian Federation for Human Rights, led by former judge Naguib Gibrael, detects a trend in the number of lawsuits and court rulings leveled against Christians and school teachers in particular over the past year.
Gibrael, a lawyer who is representing Abdul-Nour, says it's his 18th case defending Christians — several of them teachers — detained over insulting Islam. He says his 17 other clients received three to six years in prison. They go to appeals courts, hoping for retrials or lighter sentences.
Another rights group, the EIPR, said it chronicled at least 36 blasphemy cases in 2011 and 2012, including more than 10 convictions, and that Christian school teachers were frequent targets.
"Teachers are an easy target," said Gibrael. "Any two students can say anything about their teachers. Islamist teachers collect signatures, and quickly Islamists move a case, then terrorize the court by holding protests and besieging the court building until the judge issues a verdict. I have seen it all," he said.
In Cairo, public figures who have lately faced blasphemy accusations or trials like movie star Adel Imam were all cleared, thanks to media attention, lobbying by rights groups and heavy police presence.
In rural areas, according to EIPR researcher Ishak Ibrahim, even those acquitted or otherwise cleared of blasphemy accusations face social or administrative punishment, with some forced by villagers to leave their homes, pay a fine or get demoted or suspended by their state employers.
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood likes to project itself as a more moderate Islamist group when compared to the ultraconservative Salafis, but they still play a role in the blasphemy cases.
The top Brotherhood leader in Luxor, Abdel-Hamid el-Senoussi, is a lawmaker and the head of the legal team representing the families whose children testified against Abdel-Nour.
He acknowledged that two investigations by the school found no justification for the children's claims, but said he does not trust those findings.
"They just want to avoid discord. But we prefer to get to the bottom of it," he said. "Even if the court clears the teacher and rules that she is innocent, she must be fired from the school."
"There are people who want to mess up with the ship of the nation and this teacher is one of them," he said.
For him, the penalty for contempt of religion is not harsh enough. "I prefer 10 years imprisonment and, in case the judge clears the defendant, a fine that goes toward the upkeep of places of worship."
"Anyone who insults religions must be punished to deter further assaults," he said.
By Jeffrey T. Brown
Now that the low-information/low-knowledge segment of the country is waking up to what conservatives have been pointing out since Barack Obama was first sanctified by the left, we are being treated to the spectacle of a liberal epiphany. How, they ask themselves, could this have happened? How could they have been suckered so completely? After all, liberals/progressives tell us all the time, they are a superior manifestation of the species. They are always right, and their political opponents are always bad people, motivated by ignorance and stupidity at best, and impure designs at least.
Our progressive masters proclaim that they are not nearly so ignorant, and that those to whom the liberal legions pledge their fealty have "evolved" into more modern, nobler beings. That they have done so in direct proportion to the demands of political correctness presents a hitherto unknown form of evolution, but science somehow always favors liberals, doesn't it? And if it is necessary to ignore truth now and then to enhance the evolution, or cook the science, so be it. Progress demands blindness to all prior lessons, especially those involving human nature and human failings. Progressives evolve in the opposite direction of history, experience, and evidence.
And yet, at least some of these self-appointed wizards are finally asking themselves how it's possible that those troglodytes, those conservatives, might have been right all along about the pathological dishonesty of the lords of progressivism while they, the ever-evolving, were duped.
Perhaps the answer lies in the modern practice of progressivism. Progressivism as played out in the last fifty years in America is the belief system of deeply unserious people. It exists to indulge a complete and utter lack of maturity and responsibility in large enough numbers that it is assured of getting its way. It celebrates vices. It must be imposed coercively. Overt fraud and deceit are admired skills. Its practitioners wallow in behaviors and beliefs that prior generations recognized as embarrassing character flaws. It is the belief system of spoiled, antisocial children and misguided enablers, rather than responsible grownups.
Mature adults disapprove of outright deception. It is a violation of the social code. Progressives, however, need it like air.
Indeed, no vice is quite so highly prized and honored in progressivism as lying. Every achievement attributed to progressivism is a product of pure dishonesty. Welfare, illegal immigration, gun control, socialized medicine, energy policy, our present concepts of diplomacy and foreign policy -- all are based on lies, as to both the original object and the ultimate progressive claims of success. They spring from modern liberal concepts of charity, fairness, safety, respect, and cooperation, but those concepts have themselves been redefined to conceal the progressive's immoral interpretation of them from the casual observer.
Progressives have thus brought us Socialism, economic paralysis, rampant unemployment, social division, officially endorsed discrimination, rejection of God and traditional morality, the hyper-sexualization of children, devaluation of all human life, and absolutely no hope of improvement. Despite their successes in this effort, and do not doubt that they consider these outcomes successes, they lie to Herculean heights to conceal them. They lie even about their victories lest we see them clearly in time to reverse them.
When one sets about to fundamentally transform a moral country -- that is, one which has adopted a legal code and social structure founded upon traditional morality -- one simply cannot do so transparently. We have seen that when liars profess their transparency, they are lying. When liars blame their enemies for events that either did not happen or which the liars themselves brought about, they are lying. When liars tout their own actions or intentions, they are lying. One does not create an unjust social structure and replace justice with injustice by telling the truth about what is afoot.
We have never had a more dishonest president than we do at this time in our history. He is the embodiment of progressivism. He lies effortlessly. It is not merely second nature to such a man. It is his essence. Every public statement he makes is the perfect opposite of truth.
Thus, however implausibly, we are assured he knows nothing of his own actions. He has never done anything, approved anything, or been informed of anything that can be held against him. He is not merely Teflon -- he is invisible. Those working for the most powerful man in the world also know nothing. Those in his Cabinet know nothing. They do nothing. They see nothing. They sign nothing. They produce nothing. They are responsible for nothing. And yet, somehow, enormous things keep happening that required someone to do something, and know something, and produce something.
Everything is the fault of someone else. When the progressive errs, others are to blame. Those bad straw people made the progressive do what he did. It's not his fault. It is never his fault. Thus, the unserious child, the one who is never to blame and who is always a victim, emerges to offer his excuses. His enablers do the same, possessed of the same lack of seriousness and integrity, at least for as long as they can do so without worrying that they are becoming obviously foolish. That some of them seem to know where that line is speaks volumes about the lies they tell before seeing that it is in their best interests to stop.
One of the problems with this system, however, is that to eventually overwhelm its precursor, the deceptions must be carried out constantly and on a very grand scale, and some of us who have read books know that while there are still serious people contributing to the country, something will eventually give. It appears that we may finally have reached such a tipping point.
Those who have shielded and coddled the liars from scrutiny and criticism have themselves been bitten by the spoiled brats. They have seen briefly what it is to be the target, both of lies and of bad behavior, and they don't like it. In brief moments of lucidity, despite having such clarity forced upon them, even the enablers begin to grasp that everyone is expendable for the cause. The question is, are there enough serious people left in this country to see progressivism clearly, as it is being laid bare before them, and punish the liars who have already done so much damage?