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Friday, November 04, 2005

Dilemmas of Free speech

Moved on! Check TheCairoCalls

Like many people interested in the Egyptian blogsphere (here is another cliche for you) I have been following the case of the detention of Egyptian blooger Abdel Karim Suliman by Amn El-Dawla (Egyptian state security).
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.

Moved on!

33 Comments:

Re: Your comments on http://jagan.biz
-----------------------------------
Tomanbay, I agree broadly with you.
My stand was that increased publicity will ensure a FAIR trial for Abdol Karim.

As much as I defend 'Free Speech', I also have the utmost respect for Rule of Law. But to ensure that the judicial procedure is not unduly influenced by one party (read Islamists), I support a drive to publicise this issue as much as possible.

Hope this clarifies MY position. Thank you for your posting.

By Anonymous Jagan Mohan, at November 04, 2005 5:41 PM  

I think that is as much as any law abiding person would require. A fair trial for the man, although I have to emphasize that I disagree with and oppose that the government should assume the role of religious defenders, as I have to stress that they shouldn't have any religious affliations. People do, governments shouldn't.
What is depressing however, is that I feel the government may influence the trial to try to portray itself as the defender of the Islamic religion, to oppose the increasing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, as I mentioned in the post.
This is complicated to say the least, and he may end up being a victim of a larger political game

By Blogger Tomanbay, at November 04, 2005 5:49 PM  

I JUST WANNA ASK ONE QUESTION WHY WHEN ISLAMISTS HURTS CHRISTIAN LIKE WHEN ZAGLOUL EL NAGAR SAID "علني" THAT THE BIBLE IS NOT MORE THAN STUPID WORDS NO ONE DO SOMETHING WHILE WHEN SOMEBODY TRIES TO EXPRESS HIS MENTALITY IN WORDS EVEN IF HE DID IT IN THE WRONG WAY ,OUR FIRST REACTION IS TO JUDGE HIM KILL HIM OR MAKE HIM FEEL WEIRD IN THE SOCIRTY INSTEAD OF ARGUING HIM: ON THE OTHER HAND IF A PRIEST SAID "علني"WHAT ZAGLOUL EL NAGAR HAS SAID BUT ABOUT ISLAM WHat CAN HAPPEN??????? AT LAST WHAT I WANNA SAY THAT IF U ALLOW THAT THE FIRST GROUP TO HURT THE SECOND GROUP THEN U CANNOT PREVENT THE SECOND GROUP TO ANNOY THE FIRST GROUP (THANKS TO U ,NICE BLOG BY THE WAY AND IAM HAPPY TO DISCOVER IT )

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 04, 2005 10:45 PM  

Well, I don't know what to say, thanks a lot, anonymous, although the ALL-CAPS thing didn't give me the feeling that you're that happy!!
Anyways, I agree with you, being in a society that respects freedom of speech and the rule of law isn't easy. It requires a belief that you will not just be free from detention if you expressed yourself, but you'll be in fact protected. It also require that we should believe in the pure motives of people who we disagree with, rather than thinking that they have a hidden agenda whenever they express their opinion. We should take this leap of faith to believe that all Egyptians, for a start, have Egypt's best interest in mind, and then move from there. Eveen if they don't, this will create a whole different atmosphere for discussion and civil discourse.
For everybody who still believe in this (freedom of expression, coexistance, respect of the other) I salute you. It's not easy.

By Blogger Tomanbay, at November 05, 2005 2:51 AM  

What Zagloul El Naggar said in Al Qahira Al youm was not that the bible is stupid but he said that the bible is not all the total message of god and many other Christian theologist said the same thing (read time magazine October 2nd issue). Although I do not agree that we should discuss these kind of arguments on TV and although I do not agree with a lot of what Zagloul is saying but I belive that any fanatic (Muslim or Christian) that is saying hate speeches should be prosecuted when we have a real constitution and real DA etc... The problem of Egyptians at the moment is not the Bible or the Quran...The real problem is much deeper that that and Egyptians should be focused on the real problems!!!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 05, 2005 10:17 AM  

I think that we have to cross the bridge when we get there. Meaning: we have to work out those petty problems that happen all the way between us, so that when we move into being a real democracy, nobody will be able to use those differences to gain political gains (read NB, NDP, etc...) I am not saying that we should settle theological matters regarding the bible or the quran, but rather agree on a way in which we can discuss those matters.
I hope thats clear enough

By Blogger Tomanbay, at November 05, 2005 1:40 PM  

إن التعاليم الإسلامية التى جاء بها محمد قبل أربعة عشر قرنا يجب أن تواجه بكل شجاعة وجرأة ، يجب علينا أن نفضحها ونبين سوءاتها ونظهر للعيان مساوئها ، ونحذر البشرية من خطرها ، يجب علينا ( على إختلاف إنتماءاتنا ) أن ننظر بعين العقل الى هذه التعاليم التى تعمل على تحويل الإنسان الى وحش مفترس لا يفقه فى لغة الحياة سوى القتل والنهب والسلب وإغتصاب وسبى النساء .

يجب علينا أن نقف بكل شجاعة وجرأة ضد هذه التعاليم التى أصبحت وبالا على البشرية ولم تخرج لها سوى المتطرفين من أمثال بن لادن والزرقاوى والظواهرى والهمج الرعاع الذين إعتدوا على إخواننا الأقباط وحرقوا منازلهم ونهبوا ممتلكاتهم وحاولوا الإعتداء على كنيستهم وقتل رجال دينهم


Would someone be so kind as to offer me a translation of the offensive speech I have a small snippet I found, but I don't know what it says, if you would rather not post it here, of if this is not the offensive part please, you can go to my blog and post it anonymously. Thanks

By Blogger madtom, at November 06, 2005 7:48 AM  

Well, it turns my stomach just reading it once again. Not just as a Muslim, but as an educated person (kindda remind me of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry was so offended that his dentist was making jokes about jews; when asked whether he was offended as a jew, he replied that he was offended rather as a comedian!).
Well, basically what the guy is saying is that what Mohammed came up with were only teachings that incite hatered and violence, and that all people should come together to stand against them. That's basically what he is saying.
Not much different from the average red-state, rednecks opinion about Islam. I would have tried to respond to that but it is really simplistic, and single-minded that, as I said, I feel offended just by reading it, much less replying to!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 06, 2005 8:15 AM  

Thank you. I have to say though that here in the us that would not rise to the lever of hate speech, as you said any red neck might say something similar, but not just of Islam, basically about any of the other Christian sects, or the Pope. It might offend people, and there might be some backlash, but no court case or arrest or anything like that. Just as an example we had a right-winger say the other day that if you got rid of all black people you would get rid of all crime.. words to that effect. People reacted because it's of course just stupid hate speech, but not illegal. Free speech is just that free. Now there are exceptions like yelling fire in a crowd just to cause panic, but I could yell Jesus was a fag all day with no consequence at all. If it offends you, close your door so you wont hear me any more, turn the channel.

From what I'm seeing Egypt still has a long road to go before it reaches democracy. Of course from my point of view the arrest of this guy is more offensive than what he might have said about religions.

By Blogger madtom, at November 06, 2005 4:39 PM  

"Just as an example we had a right-winger say the other day that if you got rid of all black people you would get rid of all crime.. words to that effect."

..you do know that you are completely loosing the mans point..sad..promoting more ignorance..go listen to the conversation...
http://mediamatters.org/items/200509280006
..remove black with anyone,would not the comment still be accurate..people like yourself see what they want and totally discard the rest..

By Blogger Rob_NC, at November 06, 2005 5:25 PM  

BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."

Is this what your referring too? Let me ask you how did I get it wrong?

Anyway you can all see how in the US this is legal speech, morally reprehensible, yes, but illegal, no!

By Blogger madtom, at November 06, 2005 11:41 PM  

"stupid hate speech"

..again you dont comprehend the discussion..black was used,but white could have been..he was just stating a hypothetical for discussion sake..racist,most differently not. This point,you seem not to grasp.
This is the corner stone for so many obstacles we face..its ((ALWAYS)) someone else's fault..never my own..be me black,white,Muslim,Christian..and until we due,"enlightened" we wont be..

By Blogger Rob_NC, at November 08, 2005 2:47 AM  

Look I understand the context quite well, and I have listened to the whole thing, and understand the it's a discussion on a hypothetical, but it's the deaf leading the blind.

If I were you I would take a closer look, your tiring to defend the un-defendable. If you were to abort all black/white/brown/take your pick babies, the crime rate would not go down. If anything it would go up, because some new minority would step in to take the old minorities place, and there would be a turf war somewhere in-between. The crime rate would go way up.
The very premise he's using is nothing but fascist, racist propaganda, that only a fool would buy into. You know people like Hitler or Stalin and now we can add Bennett to the list. "But I do know that it's true"

Anyway I think the Egyptians have there own problems and don't need our problems. If you want to continue this debate we should take it somewhere else. Unless of course they are enjoying it, and don't mind.

By Blogger madtom, at November 08, 2005 4:50 AM  

I'm actually enjoying it!
But listen, on a related note-not related to the blog, but to your discussion- I've recently read a book called Freakonomics. It is a very good book...This economist guy is hypothesing that crime went down during the late 90's because of the Roe vs. Wade case about 20 years earlier (The case which opened the way to legalised abortion).
He is arguing that allowing abortion, decreased the number of would-be criminals because most of these aborted babies would grow into hostile, and depressing environments.
Now he didn't say anything about blacks, whites, or asians. He was just saying that making abortion legal decreased crime.
Now I think he might have a point there, but certainly not the race thing. Certainly not

By Blogger Tomanbay, at November 08, 2005 9:54 AM  

Tomanbay,bingo,that's the point,Bennett even quoted the book,it was the "redneck right winger" remark that stirred the response.

Madtom,to say "The crime rate would go way up." well that is your opinion,and it could very well be true..but that's not the discussion is it..you made a comment,I responded.If we have a discussion,any discussion,about any topic,for discussion sake that makes someone a "fascist, racist propaganda, that only a fool would buy into.",is not that exactly what you stated of someone else..in a already hypothetical; that is never going to be....names even benign ones are still ...

"fascist, racist propaganda, that only a fool would buy into."

..and you are right we have waaay to many problems, to ponder this question anyway...
But as a Redneck Right Winger I felt I had to respnd..(((-;

By Blogger Rob_NC, at November 08, 2005 2:08 PM  

Yes but you see the point in Freakonomics is about abortions in general ~news flash~ 90 % of those abortion, and 90% of people in jail are white, or as there're known in the local slang white trailer trash. So how does Bennett take that and turn it into aborting all black babies will lower the crime rate? I'm all ears.

Anyway the point here was about freedom of speech, so I have to ask if Bennett had made the speech in Egypt and said that aborting all Muslim babies... how many years would he get in jail. And do you think there should be a law against such speech? It's not that different from what I understand that poor guy said in his blog.
Of course I don't know exactly what he said because no one has offered an exact english translation for me to read. If in fact anyone would like to offer us an exact full translation, in complete safety, I invite them to read the Mission Statement posted on the sidebar of my blog. Anonymity is guaranteed.

By Blogger madtom, at November 08, 2005 6:27 PM  

"But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

Actually, here's a better quote:

"Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting 'Jesus Christ,' so that it would read 'A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;' the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination."

-Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom

Pretty cool, huh?

Madtom, you might look up the statistics of abortion and imprisonment. Off the top of my head, I think black women in America are three times more likely than white women to have an abortion. I think Bennet's point was that you can take straighforward statistics and draw conclusions that are immoral and reprehensible. I think he was stupid to make his point in the way he did because everybody's initial response, mine included, was to assume that he was making a racist statement. I wish we would all calm down.

By Blogger Laura(southernxyl), at November 12, 2005 2:16 AM  

"Off the top of my head, I think black women in America are three times more likely than white women to have an abortion"

Even assuming that you are right, the number still wont add up. Blacks are a small minority, it's projected that we Hispanics will out number them in a few years. By shear number of white in this country their abortions will out number every other groups. And I would really like to know where you got that number, I for one do not believe it.

If you meet a black person on the street what is the first thing you say to them?

You have the right to remain silent, anything your say can and will be held against you in a court of law, you have the right to an attorney, if you cant afford one, one will be provided for you...

By Blogger madtom, at November 12, 2005 7:00 PM  

Madtom, I live in Memphis, Tennessee, which is >60% black. I meet black people every day of my life, in my neighborhood, at work, at the grocery story, at church, you name it. I've never read anyone his Miranda rights.

Here are some statistics about abortion. You can scroll down to Abortion Statistics - Demographics and read this: "Race - 63% of abortion patients are white, however, black women are more than 3 times as likely to have an abortion, and Hispanic women are 2.5 times as likely."

I've seen it argued that the crime rate went down as the abortion rate went up, therefore we need to keep abortion legal in this country. If you put that statistic together with the one about black women having a higher rate of abortion, you could conclude that we could do even better by aborting all black babies. Or you could ask yourself why black women have all those abortions: are they more vulnerable to rape or otherwise coercive sex? Are they less able to afford to take care of their children? Is birth control, or knowledge about birth control, less available to them? These are things that perhaps our society ought to try to tackle, and that would be a lot better than congratulating ourselves on keeping abortion legal. I think Bennett's point was that reasoning from statistics alone can lead you over a cliff if you don't have some morals to go with your reasoning.

By the way, as of the 2000 census, white people made up 75% of the pop. of the US, black and Hispanic each about 12.5%. I think that by now Hispanics are up to over 16%. census table Since we white people aren't replacing ourselves, bring it on.

By Blogger Laura(southernxyl), at November 13, 2005 5:02 AM  

"I've never read anyone his Miranda rights."

I'm sorry I did not mean you. I meant it as a joke.

"If you put that statistic together with the one about black women having a higher rate of abortion, you could conclude that we could do even better by aborting all black babies."

This is the part I don't understand. It would seem to assume that all blacks are criminals. Even if there is a higher rate among black women, the whites are still having more abortions, the whites are still a greater part of the prison population.

And I agree with you on one thing, that we do not need to make up justifications for abortions. Abortions are a personal medical issue, and I doubt that people making that decision are thinking of statistics and crime rates and are most probably making a personal decision based on their current situation, or future plans. And I agree more education would probably go much further to reduce the crime rates and the number of abortions. But I doubt that number will ever go to zero.

" Bennett's point was that reasoning from statistics alone can lead you over a cliff if you don't have some morals to go with your reasoning"

If you ask me this Bennett guy needs to think harder on the question of morals, I for one don't believe he has any.

By Blogger madtom, at November 13, 2005 9:52 PM  

Just dropped in to read your blog. We are reading what others have to say and are introducing ourselves as well. We are intoducing The new Holy Bibles King James Versions and New Living Translations and especially The New Children's Bibles on DVD and invite you to stop by and visit us at: **BibleMediaDvd.Com**

We hope you don't mind our comment on your site and do so repectfully.
Thank you and God Bless.

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