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Oct 27 2011

Another Reason to Love the First Amendment

Here’s another disturbing story that should make us thankful for the First Amendment. An Egyptian court has sentenced a man to three years in prison for insulting Islam with his postings on Facebook.

The Cairo court found that Ayman Yusef Mansur “intentionally insulted the dignity of the Islamic religion and attacked it with insults and ridicule on Facebook,” the agency reported.

The court said his insults were “aimed at the Noble Koran, the true Islamic religion, the Prophet of Islam and his family and Muslims, in a scurrilous manner,” the agency reported.

It did not provide details on what he had written that was deemed to be offensive.

Mansur was arrested in August after police tracked him down through his internet address.

Egyptian law outlaws insults to religion. The law has been used in the past to try Shiite Muslims.

MENA did not mention Mansur’s religion or beliefs, but quoted the court as saying that “all members of religions are obligated to tolerate the others’ existence.”

The court is being ridiculous. Tolerating the existence of other religions has nothing at all to do with not criticizing those religions. I don’t know why people have such a difficult time with that very simple concept. A child could understand it. And I highly doubt that the Egyptian courts apply this same standard to Muslim criticism of Jews.

And of course, the Pam Geller crowd will link to this story and say, “A ha! You see what the Muslims want to do here!” As if there was nothing to prevent such things from happening in the United States. And as if recognizing the barbarism of such ideas requires us to think that Sharia law will soon be enforced here. And as if anyone who doubts the latter much support the former.

11 comments

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  1. 1
    Aquaria

    What good did the Arab spring do, if all the countries become just like Iran?

    Religion poisons everything.

  2. 2
    lordshipmayhem

    They’re talking about insulting the belief that a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake into eating a piece of fruit, said act damning all of humanity for all time and requiring us to send psychic messages to an invisible, formless entity.

    Explain this to me again?

  3. 3
    tacitus

    Being thankful for the First Amendment is too narrow — we should be thankful for those who pioneered the Age of Enlightenment since there are many countries where such religious trials are now completely out of the question as a legacy of their efforts.

    It is curious that there is as much, if more more paranoia about the possibility of Sharia Law coming to the USA, where the First Amendment explicitly rules it out, than in most of the countries that don’t have such an explicitly codified constitutional clause.

  4. 4
    matty1

    In the interests of pedantry the “all humanity is damned by original sin” thing is a Christian interpretation. The Muslim view as I understand it is that believing in Allah (and therefore getting into heaven)is the default. This is why some Muslims use the term revert, arguing that converts to Islam have reverted to beliefs that are innate.

    As I say pedantry and pedantry about nonsense at that but it’s all I’ve got right now.

  5. 5
    anandine

    Lordshipmayhem wrote: They’re talking about insulting the belief that a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake into eating a piece of fruit, said act damning all of humanity for all time and requiring us to send psychic messages to an invisible, formless entity.

    No, they’re talking about insulting the belief that a man who heard voices in his head (can you say “schizophrenic”?) and said they told him to marry a 9-year-old girl (6 when she was betrothed) was in fact being advised by God.

  6. 6
    LightningRose

    “all members of religions are obligated to tolerate the others’ existence.”

    Good. As an atheist and therefore a member of no religion whatsoever, this is for Allah, Buddha, Siva, Yahweh, Xenu (especially Xenu), Baal, Isis, Mazda, etc, etc, etc, and all their myriad clueless followers:

    (_!_)

  7. 7
    eric

    Aquaria: What good did the Arab spring do, if all the countries become just like Iran?

    It took us 90 years to abolish slavery and 140 to give women the vote. I’m willing to give the new democracies a few years to get their house in order. Heck, maybe even a decade or two.

    Of course this post is about Egypt, which has not seen a significant democratization due to the Arab spring. So IMO this arrest doesn’t really imply anything about that movement (positive or negative).

  8. 8
    tacitus

    What good did the Arab spring do, if all the countries become just like Iran?

    Without democracy first, even a shaky one, then nothing changes. The best that authoritarian regimes can do (or more likely want to do) is keep a lid on the underlying sectarian and religious extremism and strife. It’s still there, and will remain there for as long as freedom is lacking.

    Only once the people have a say, and minorities can be heard without always being thrown into jail, beaten up, or killed, can change begin to take hold, but as eric pointed out, that process is likely to be a very long and messy one in many circumstances, and will not always succeed.

    The Arab Spring is not going to result in comprehensive democratic reform across the whole region. In fact, we’ll be lucky if we get one really good result out of it — that one being Tunisia, which is off to a promising start, anyway. It’s way too early to know what will happen in Libya, and Egypt isn’t looking all that promising at the moment.

    I think in the end, the results of the Arab Spring will look more like the results from the dissolution of the USSR than the aftermath of the 1989 Revolutions in Eastern Europe. In other words, there will be some advances in democratic reforms, but there will still be countries where authoritarian regimes hold sway, even as they pretend to be democratically enlightened.

  9. 9
    tacitus

    Just to clarify, when I say “results of the Arab Spring” I mean in the short-term — i.e. the next few years as the present turmoil and confusion works itself out.

    I am more hopeful, longer term, that things will improve, and if they do, we’ll probably look back at the events of the Arab Spring as an essential first step toward democracy and freedoms.

  10. 10
    jakc

    Maybe Pam Geller will link to it and say “here’s what we want to do to atheists & Muslims”.

  11. 11
    Bronze Dog

    Maybe Pam Geller will link to it and say “here’s what we want to do to atheists & Muslims”.

    If she says the atheist part, I’d probably take the moment to point directly at her and shout, “creeping Sharia!”

    I’d have to get slightly more clever if she included Muslims.

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