#SaveBasit: From Deportation to Death Sentence

A moral disaster in the making. Please share and consider signing the petition and/or making some other sort of contribution.

Students have launched an urgent campaign to save their teacher who faces the death penalty in Egypt following what human rights groups say was a sham trial to punish him for political activism. His asylum application was just denied and he was put in immigration detention two weeks ago. 

Backgrounder from northjersey.com. Backgrounder from HuffPost. From Carbonated.TV. Editorial from the Newark Star-Ledger. From Jersey City Patch.

Change.org petition, signed by PoT’s own David Riesbeck and yours truly.

I’d like to think that the prospect of an actual death sentence will get as much coverage as the hypothetical hanging that got Kevin Williamson fired from The Atlantic. But I somehow doubt it. These deportation cases have all become a dime a dozenContinue reading

Egypt’s Disgrace (with postscripts on ISIS and Austria)

The Egyptian blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah has been convicted, by a court in Cairo, of blogging without permission of the state.

An Egyptian court has sentenced a prominent pro-democracy activist to five years in prison for violating a law banning unauthorised protests in what rights groups describe as an ongoing clampdown on dissent.

Alaa Abd El Fattah – a software engineer, blogger and activist – was one of the public faces of the 2011 revolution that removed Hosni Mubarak from power.

The verdict came in a retrial of 25 defendants who had previously been sentenced to 15 years over a demonstration against military trials of civilians in 2013. The remaining defendants in the case received three-year sentences on Monday, while 15-year sentences were upheld for others tried in absentia.

Before the hearing, Abd El Fattah and other prisoners were brought into the courtroom but confined to a metal and glass cage, unable to speak to their families, other activists, and journalists.

As the judge read out the sentences, the courtroom at Tora prison in Cairo erupted in outrage. The activists’ supporters scrambled on to the wooden benches, raising their fists and chanting: “Down with military rule!”

More here.

In case  you’re wondering…

Question: What is the breakdown of U.S. aid to Egypt? What money has been paid out and what is left?

Answer: The Egypt bilateral foreign assistance budget for FY2014 is approximately $1.5 billion and includes $1.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) – $200 million in Economic Support Funds; and over $7 million for other security assistance programs, including International Military Education and Training, International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, and Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs. The $650 million from FY2014 FMF will be the first of this funding to move forward, pending Congressional notification and approval.

More on the “green light from Congress” that kept the aid flowing.

Here’s the text of Milton’s Areopagiticain case you need to wash the bad taste of it all out of your mouth and mind.

If you lack the time to slog through Milton right now, perhaps the words of President John Tyler will suffice:

The body may be oppressed and manacled and yet survive; but if the mind of man be fettered, its energies and faculties perish, and what remains is of the earth, earthly. Mind should be free as the light or as the air.

Postscript, February 25, 2015: There’s an apocryphal story to the effect that the Caliph Umar, upon entering Egypt, burned down the Library of Alexandria on the premise that its contents either contradicted Islam or were consistent with it; in the first case they were heretical and in the latter, they were pointless–flammable in either case. Head a few hundred miles to the northeast, and it turns out that the apocryphal tale has now effectively been realized: ISIS has burned 8,000 rare books from the library of Mosul (Iraq). It reminds me a bit of the destruction of the Library of Alexandria in  the film, “Agora.” People have complained about the film’s lack of historicity, but at this point, I wouldn’t worry about it: substitute twenty-first century Muslims for fourth century Christians, and “Allahu Akbar” for “Hallelujah,” and the rest is close enough. (ht: Walter Donway)

Postscript 2, February 26, 2015: Though it doesn’t rise to Egyptian or ISIS-levels of repression, I’m perennially startled by the degree of European authoritarianism with respect to free speech. Here’s an example from Austria:

Parliament on Wednesday passed a law that seeks to regulate how Islam is administered, singling out Austria’s Muslim minority for treatment not applied to any other religious group. The law bans foreign funding for Islamic organizations and requires any group claiming to represent Austrian Muslims to use a standardized German translation of the Quran.

Any nation that has an official religious establishment faces the problem of “standardizing” the religion to satisfy the demands of the establishment. Note that the law doesn’t outright ban competing translations of the Qur’an, but gives the official imprimatur of the Austrian government to an approved translation. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Austrians to distinguish the rights-protecting and religious-establishment-establishing functions of the state, and to dump the latter over the side. But I suspect it hasn’t occurred to the Austrian Parliament because it hasn’t quite occurred to Austrian Muslims, either. There are perks to be had if you accept government sponsorship of your religion: once you’re enticed by them, it becomes hard not to do a deal with the Devil to keep them in place. I don’t know about the standardized German translation, but my translation of the Qur’an suggests that seduction is the Devil’s AOS.