Dilemmas of Free speech
Like most similar cases, our reactions are often quick, emotional, and short-lived. We rarely take the time to think about the situation and come up with conclusions that will protect us from going into the same vicious circle of hate-blame the next time a similar situation comes around. Our recent history is abound with similar cases (The riots against the book Muhammad taught at AUC, the riots against A Feast of Sea Weed, stabbing Naguieb Mahfouz for a book published 50 years earlier, the killing of Yusuf El-Sebai for his opinions, and most recently the riots against the play in Muharem Beh's church, which the DA said never existed). The common factor between those incidents? The rioters, murderers, and stabbers never read Muhammad (the book or the person), A Feast of Sea Weed, Awlad Hartna, or watched the play. They were effectively amassed and mobilized to attack ideas, or persons, their puppet-masters thought were dangerous and threatening to their ideologies. That's why the Khawareg walked away on Aly Ibn Abi Taleb, causing the first rift in the Islamic state, and why the Assassins tried to kill Salah El-Din (Saladin). Note here that I gave those two particular examples, because they are now considered to be heroes of Islamic tradition, but were portrayed at the time as a threat to the very same religion.
Trying to avoid the same mistake, I set out to try to read some of the man's writing before rushing into this blog or any other trying to offer my opinion. (some may say that this is irrelevant, as the outrage is against a violation of free speech and not in support of the man's views, which I respect and agree with, but you can't form any opinion or defend or attack anything without knowing what the thing is; I can't defend somebody on the basis of free speech if he is, for example, calling for their invalidation, got it?) So, I read this article, and to say the least, I was furious. But as the subtitle of my blog suggest, I tried to remain cool-headed as is humanly possible.
The guy is obviously not an objective fellow. He is stereotyping Muslims in a way that most genuinely educated persons would despise. He is angry, repulsive, and takes a lot of liberty with the truth (for example, I know of some Muslim-owned liquor stores in which extremists have lobbed Molotov cocktails on some occasions). If you ask me what would I have done if I read the article a couple of weeks ago, taking him to court would be a very plausible idea.
BUT (and that's a very crucial 'but'), I would take him to the court as an individual who thinks that his religious beliefs were unduly insulted, and was labeled as a savage just for following a certain religion. I wouldn't prosecute him if I was in an official position, because it is my own belief that the government shouldn't serve as a defender of one religion or the other, but rather should preserve the right of its citizens to sue each other and stand accountable to law. In other words, the government, should respect freedom of expression as much as it should respect freedom of affected parties to seek redress and protection of the law against religious discrimination. In a truly liberal country, Muslims, despite being the majority in numbers, should have the same immunity from religious discrimination as followers of any other religions.
Now, I know that I may have gone on a somehow idealistic hyperbole, but in such matters, we need some sort of firm principles which we should return to for guidance.
Following my own principles, I don't think that the government represented in Amn El-Dawla should prosecute the guy (they are doing it for purely political reasons, to appease the masses who may sympathize with Muslim Brothers especially before the parliamentary elections; just as they did when they arrested some rock kids as Satan-worshippers, to balance their crack-down on Islamist terrorists in the mid-90s), and his freedom of expression should have been protected; but you won't see me walking in any rallies supporting him, as he and similar enticers (whether Muslims, Christians, or Jews) are as much a menace to freedom of expression as Amn El-Dawla is.