Saturday 8 October 2011

Yep. The Muslim Brotherhood Supports Free Speech

النص العربي لتصريح الدكتور محمد البلتاجي في أسفل المقالة)

Dr. Mohammed El Beltagy, Secretary-General of the FJP in Cairo.

While the question of free speech in Egypt and the case of Maikel Nabil in particular have been the subject of intense debate and discussion, Nabil and the cause of free speech in general have apparently gained somewhat of an unexpected supporter: the Muslim Brotherhood.

First, the Brotherhood's English website published this extract and link to this fantastic piece by Dr. Tamer Fouad (@FouadMD), an oncologist & writer, aptly titled: "Michael Nabil’s Release Is Essential For Egyptian Democracy & Rule Of Law". While this was enough to make a few heads spin, the English twitter feed for the Brotherhood @ikhwanweb made some extremely liberal statements on the matter. The surprises started with:
“@Ikhwanweb: @SultanAlQassemi @2imen @Libraliyya @FouadMD we call it # a human right for #Miakel to freely express his mind, even if we disgree with him” [sic]
While recovering from the surprise of the clarity and directness of the statement, they continue:
“@Ikhwanweb: @NPSusa @acarvin it's a lot simpler; it's a matter of principle for us, regardless. #Freedom is a human value worth fighting for!”
I begin to look deeper into the timeline, and just a few tweets earlier I find:
“@Ikhwanweb: @FouadMD @2imen #MB continues to press SCAF to release all #prisoners of conscience, please review our statements on #ikhwanweb"
Going a bit further, it appears that it all started when this was tweeted a day earlier:
"@2imen: Shame on @Ikhwanweb #MB #ikhwan for their silence on #MaikelNabil speaks volumes of their commitment 2freedom of expression"
When asked by the tweeter if they would speak out about the case, the same feed responded:
“@Ikhwanweb: @2imen @fouadmd absolutely! We spoke up for #Philip Rizk, #Karim Amer,#Mohamed Adel and many other bloggers across #ME. Stay tuned”
Of course, while all of this was encouraging, they were mostly "answers" to other tweets, not unsolicited voluntary statements, and the lack of a statement from an official MB figure meant that all of this could have been the personal adventures of a more liberal MB webmaster. But then, they finally made this proper tweet as published this:
“@Ikhwanweb: FJP: Despite Differences With Maikel Nabil, We Oppose Military Trials For Civilians”
The article itself says: 
THURSDAY, 06 OCTOBER 2011 20:17
Dr. Mohamed Beltagy, of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) Executive Bureau, criticised the continued detention of an Egyptian citizen tried by a military tribunal for his blogs.
Blogger Michael Nabil, serving three years for insulting the army, had staged a hunger strike to protest his sentence, while numerous human rights groups have called for his release.
Speaking to Ikhwanweb, Beltagy stated: “The FJP completely rejects the referral of civilian to military tribunals, regardless of the reasons. Military trials should be reserved for those in the army”. 
He added “Regardless of whether we agree with Nabil or not, we call for his release. Furthermore, we reject that any citizen be tried by martial law simply for his opinions. People in Egypt must be given the liberty of speaking their minds freely, practising freedom of speech”.
And there you have it. A leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood and its FJP party just declared his & both of his organisations' full commitment to, and support of, Free Speech. While statements are rarely sufficient in anything political, this one genuinely means something, at least in my opinion, especially in this particular time & case.

Even a day later:
"@Dilmunite @ghadeerusa @abuhatem MB opposes military trials for civilians and believes no one should be tried for expressing their opinions”
“@Ikhwanweb: @Z_Egyptian plz read our statements carefully- #MB supports freedoms & no military trials although we disagree w some of maikel's views!” 

A cautiously hopeful modicum of optimism ensues...

Postscript: I am still looking for an Arabic version of the statement by Dr. Mohammed El Beltagy. The Brotherhood's English twitter feed responded immediately and kindly to my query, and said they will share it shortly. The same feed responded to queries regarding why the Arabic version of Dr. Beltagy's statement has not apparently been published, to which it answered: "“@Ikhwanweb: @SaraLabib @dilmunite @abuhatem I agree! These are purely editorial decisions, not #MB, #MB stance is clear. Let me see what I can do”" I will share the statement as soon as it I get to it.

Update: they kindly sent me the Arabic text. Here it is:

البلتاجي : سواء اتفقنا مع مايكل نبيل او
اختلفنا الا اننا نطالبه بحريته
كتب/ حسين محمود  

اعرب  د. محمد البلتاجي عضو المكتب التنفيذي لحزب الحرية والعدالة المجلس العسكري عن استياءه من استمرار مواطن مصري في محبسه بسبب محاكمة عسكرية حاكمته علي اراءه.

كان المدون مايكل نبيل  اضرب عن الطعام مؤخرا احتجاجا على سجنه بحكم من محكمة عسكرية وتطالب جهات عديدة باطلاق سراحه.

واكد د. البلتاجي في تصريح لاخوان ويب علي رفض الاخوان وحزب الحرية والعدالة علي تحويل المدنيين لمحاكمات عسكرية ايا كانت الاسباب مشيرا الي انه يجب ان تكون  المحاكمات العسكرية للعسكرييين فقط.

واشار الي انه سواء اتفقنا مع مايكل او اختلفنا مع رايه الا اننا نطالب بحريته وسنرفض ان تواجه الاراء بالمحاكمات.

وطالب د. البلتاجي بالحفاظ علي حرية التعبير والراي في مصر وعدم مواجتها بالمحاكمات العسكرية.

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