Rights groups rally behind detained Quranist blogger

A number of rights groups have taken up the defense of yet another detained Egyptian blogger, Reda Abdel-Rahman. But Abdel-Rahman is no twittering hipster; he is a member of the Quranist movement, which rejects the Sunnah and considers the Quran as the only possible source of law.
Dr. Ahmed Subhy Mansour is the founder of Egypt's Quranist movement. © Alarabiya.net

BEIRUT, December 8, 2008 (MENASSAT)—In a press statement by the Cairo-based human rights groups Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights (EIPR), blogger Reda Abdel-Rahman is described as "the latest victim of systemic violations of freedom of belief and expression by [Egypt's] State Security Intelligence."

But Abdel-Rahman is a blogger with a difference; he uses the internet to promote the cause of the "Quranists," Muslims who in the definition of the EIPR "believe the Quran to be the paramount source of jurisprudence." Quranists reject even the "sunnah," the traditions and sayings of the Prophet Mohamed, as a source for Islamic jurisprudence. The group maintains that only the Quran itself can be used to establish laws in Islam.

Since Abdel-Rahman's detention on October 27 during a pre-dawn raid, his family has demanded to know where he is being held. But according to the International Quranic Center (IQC), the authorities have so far refused to provide any information on Abdel-Rahman's whereabouts.  Last week, the IQC officially referred to the case of Abdel-Rahman’s as a ‘forced disapperance’. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said on Thursday that the case of Abdel-Rahman will be reviewed on December 14 in a Cairo court.

Abdel-Rahman, who moderates the blog "Justice, Liberty, Peace," has been an active blogger for the past two years and has published several articles on Islamic issues on a variety of web sites. But problems allegedly arose between Abdel-Rahman and his employer due to his writings.

Abdel-Rahman maintains a day job as a social worker in a school affiliated with Egypt's Islamic Al-Azhar University, and he was reportedly interrogated by the institution's legal department regarding his online articles. According to the EIPR, Abdel-Rahman was forced to sign a statement in which he promised "to stop publishing any articles on the Internet or any religious writing." The same organization also said that Abdel-Rahman had been interrogated by state security about his religious beliefs at least twice before his disappearance.

"Questions reportedly revolved around the detainee's Qur'ani beliefs and whether he believed in the validity of the  Sunnah. The EIPR also learned that SSI officers compelled the blogger to reveal the password of his email account and deprived him of food for the first two days of his detention," the EIPR said. 

There has been  a surge in detentions and interrogations of Quranists recently in Egypt, where the authorities have accused the group of "corrupting" Islam. In addition to Abdel-Rahman, IQC claims that state security also arrested Mostafa Kamel Mohamed, a relative of the founder of the Quranist movement, Dr. Ahmed Subhy Mansour, during the same raid.

"These arrests are a continuation of the systematic policy of harassing, intimidating and persecuting Quranists in Egypt, especially those who are related to Dr. Mansour," the IQC said in a press release, calling on the Egyptian authorities to "stop peaceful reformers from continuing their journey."

The ICQ describes the Quranist movement as "a group of peaceful Muslim scholars and activists who advocate a modern, progressive interpretation of Islam that respects the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international legal conventions, rather than the fanatic interpretations of Islamic law that are increasingly gaining strength in the Muslim world."

In May 2007, another Quranist, Amr Tharwat, was detained by State Security in Matereya. Tharwat, an employee at Egypt's prominent Ibn Khaldoun center for political and development research, had been involved in monitoring parliamentary elections and public opinion polling.