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Feb 22 2013

Christians Arrested in Libya for Handing Out Leaflets

So we helped get Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi out of power and the government that replaced them is arresting people for the “crime” of handing out Christian literature. Four Christians have been arrested and face a potential death penalty for proselytizing.

Four foreigners have been arrested in Libya on suspicion of being missionaries and distributing Christian literature, a charge that could carry the death penalty.

The four – a Swedish-American, Egyptian, South African and South Korean – were arrested in Benghazi by Preventative Security, an intelligence unit of the defence ministry, accused of printing and distributing bible pamphlets in the city.

Libya retains a law from the Muammar Gaddafi era that makes proselytising a criminal offence potentially punishable by death. The arrests underlined the sometimes difficult relationship between churches and the new authorities.

“Proselytising is forbidden in Libya. We are a 100% Muslim country and this kind of action affects our national security,” security official Hussein Bin Hmeid told Reuters.

That’s fascist bullshit.

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  1. 1
    slc1

    Just to be fair about this, such proselytizing is also illegal in Israel, although the penalty there is expulsion from the country, if the perps are foreigners.

  2. 2
    joachim

    And just to be fair about this, such poselytizing is also illegal in Public Facilities in the United States.

    Just ask the “Freedom” From Religion goons in Madison.

  3. 3
    tubi

    @1

    …if the perps are foreigners.

    What if they are Israelis?

  4. 4
    nrdo

    @slc1

    Proselytizing is not illegal in Israel, but there is a 1977 law against missionaries providing inducements (bribes, gifts, food etc.) and/or proselytizing to minors without parental consent. Overzealous officials have used the law to harass foreign missionaries, but conceptually, I’m not sure those two limitations are necessarily bad if they were applied equally to all religions in a society.

  5. 5
    slc1

    Re tubi @ #3

    Most of the native Christians in Israel are Arabs who keep a low profile. The Christians in Israel who might be inclined to proselytize are mostly foreigners residing in Jerusalem, which has a sizable number of them who minister to the numerous Christian “holy” places there, e.g. the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The infighting between the 4 Christian sects that control that church is something to behold.

  6. 6
    anubisprime

    Why did we not think of this before…absolutely brilliant!

  7. 7
    fifthdentist

    I kind of agree with a prohibition on proselytizing in public places.* The last thing I want when I’m standing in line at the DMV is some moron yapping at me about their religion, be it Christian, Muslim, Scientology, Hare Krishna or Zoroastroanism.

    * I realize, however, that said religious idiot has the right to engage me in such a discussion. As I have the right to laugh or tell them in which colorful way I would like their mythical boogeyman to go fuck himself. Public facilities should not be used as a space for organized proselytizing. Groups, such as school religious clubs, should be allowed the same access as the chess club, Spanish club, etc. for people who wish to participate.

  8. 8
    eric

    @1 – neither is fair. But I get your message: our 1st world allies sometimes pull the same fascist bull that our 3rd world opponents do.

    @2 – not true when the administrator of the public space creates an open forum. What they can’t do (and the behavior you are defending) is give a preference to Christianity over other faiths or no faith.

  9. 9
    baal

    There are many reasons why we liked to set up US aligned petty totalitarian dictators from WWII to the present. They had a self interest in keeping the populations in line regardless of other internal tensions. The current question is whether or not the new democracies will get adequate civil society* or if the loudest voices (or most organized plurality in groups) will capture the countries.

    *fucking civil society, how does that shitty idea work?

  10. 10
    auditorydamage

    Meet the new boss…

  11. 11
    coleopteron

    @joachim

    And just to be fair about this, such poselytizing is also illegal in Public Facilities in the United States.

    Just ask the “Freedom” From Religion goons in Madison.

    That would be analogous only if the four foreigners were government employees taking advantage of their positions to break the law. Also, the fact that the laws in the US and Libya are significantly different on this count anyway – the potential death penalty sentence for example but one – makes your reference not only very unfair but actually quite cruel and uncaring regarding the situation these poor people find themselves in.

    Perhaps try to score rhetorical points with something less serious, assuming you actually care about people one way or the other.

  12. 12
    Trebuchet

    The “Arab Spring” is pretty much turning out to be a disaster, it seems to me. Replacing brutal dictators with Islamists is at best a step sideways, not forward. I suspect it won’t take long for Islamists to become every bit as brutally dictatorial as Gaddafi and even more hostile to or interests.

  13. 13
    Nick Gotts

    Also, the fact that the laws in the US and Libya are significantly different on this count anyway – the potential death penalty sentence for example but one – makes your reference not only very unfair but actually quite cruel and uncaring regarding the situation these poor people find themselves in. – coelopteron

    Quite. Evidently joachim doesn’t give a shit about Christians – he just hates atheists.

  14. 14
    tacitus

    Meet the new boss…

    This was always going happen in at least some of the Arab nations when they were liberated from the yoke of dictatorship, whether it happened now or in another ten, twenty, fifty years. And, in fact, the odds always were that some of them will sink back into some form of oppressive dictatorship of some kind, and most likely with the backing of religious extremists.

    Democracy is messy — remember how long it took America to abolish slavery after winning its freedom, and that took bloody civil war to end it. Naturally the world community should be doing everything in its power to help and encourage these nations establish the firm foundations and stable institutions they need to form resilient democracies but it’s not going to happen overnight.

    The new boss may indeed be the same as the old boss in many ways, but at least they are the next boss, and realistically, that’s a necessary first step in their uncertain path toward a free society one day.

  15. 15
    joachim

    Gotts, as a Jew I recognize Jew Hating Atheists.

    You Gaws Damn Liar.

  16. 16
    tubi

    re: proselytizing in public facilities…

    It’s important to be clear about what we mean by “public,” first of all. Public as in a shared space where many people congregate, e.g., the DMV or Central Park, is one type of public space. Public as in “owned by the people,” e.g., a school, courthouse, mayor’s office, is something else entirely.

    And we also have to discriminate between who is doing the proselytizing. Citizens, as has been noted, can engage other citizens in conversation about whatever topic they wish to broach. And the other citizen is free, as has also been noted, to tell the first one to fuck off. It’s when people are acting in a role as government representative (teacher, judge, mayor, driver’s license examiner even) and not as private citizens, that they have to be restrained.

    So just farting out a drive-by comment along these lines, just for the purpose of denigrating the FFRF, is not helpful. I intended to studiously ignore the troll, but as long as the topic is being discussed by other, more rational, commenters, I figured I’d join in.

  17. 17
    dingojack

    Jokeim – “And just to be fair about this, such poselytizing is also illegal in Public Facilities in the United States.”

    Citations required.

    Dingo

  18. 18
    tacitus

    The “Arab Spring” is pretty much turning out to be a disaster, it seems to me. Replacing brutal dictators with Islamists is at best a step sideways, not forward. I suspect it won’t take long for Islamists to become every bit as brutally dictatorial as Gaddafi and even more hostile to or interests.

    Yet all the dictatorships were doing were keeping a lid on fermenting discontent that was being stoked by those religious extremists. The Arab Spring would have been no more successful had it been delayed another 10 years or another 50 years. Societies ossify under dictatorial rule, at these are nations that have had almost no experience of freedom or civil rights under real, democratic rule.

    It was always going to be messy, and as I said at the time, it’s likely that only a few nations (like Tunisia) will fully reap the benefits from the Arab Spring, and many people will suffer under the new regimes. However, what better alternative was there? Keep propping up aging dictators until they die? What good would that have done in the long run? Libya would almost certainly have collapsed into civil war upon Gaddafi’s death and there was every chance that it could have been much worse in an all-out civil war where it would have been very difficult for the West to take sides.

    The festering thorn had to be pulled out at some point, and it was always going to be bloody. Islamism has prospered under the iron fists of the oppressive Arab government (or in some cases, in league with them). It was high time something changed.

  19. 19
    slc1

    In all this discussion, a serious omission is the ongoing situation in Syria. As bad as things there are now, there is every likelihood that, in the event of the Assad kleptocracy being given the heave ho, things may get worse as elements of the Sunni majority attempt to even the score against the supporters of the current regime.

    IMHO, unless there is a multilateral force inserted at some point, the country will disintegrate into warring factions, which have every possibility of spilling over into Syria’s neighbors. Already, factions in the opposition have threatened to go to war against Hizbollah in Lebanon if it doesn’t cease and desist it’s active support of the Assad regime.

  20. 20
    janiceintoronto

    joachim

    What’s a Gaws?

    You’re babbling.

  21. 21
    Trebuchet

    @tacitus, #18: Agreed. It’s one of those situations where there seems to be no right answer.

    @slc1, #19: Also agreed, in fact I meant to mention Syria in my post but forgot. Meanwhile, we continue propping up the worst of the lot in Saudi Arabia.

  22. 22
    dingojack

    I note that SLC is not mentioning ‘Prisoner X’ – therefore his whole argument is invalid.
    @@
    Dingo

  23. 23
    slc1

    Re dingojack @ #22

    I note that dingo the bingo is not mentioning the atrocities committed against native Australians, namely Aborigines, so his entire whole argument is invalid.

  24. 24
    Ichthyic

    ah, if only people had STARTED with a death penalty for ANY proselytizing. What a different, and I guarantee, much better, place the world would be now.

  25. 25
    Nathair

    as a Jew I recognize Jew Hating Atheists.

    So, just to be clear, if someone points out (correctly and in context) a troubling Israeli law, that makes them a “Jew Hater”? Or is it only when an atheist points out (correctly and in context) a troubling Israeli law that your “As a Jew” super-power kicks in and you “recognize” them as a “Jew Hating Atheist?

    Protip: Israel is not a code word for “Jewish People”, it’s a country. (No really! Check a map, it’s right there beside Egypt.)

  26. 26
    Ichthyic

    just a point worth mentioning, because it seems obvious…

    Joachim is a demented fuckwit.

  27. 27
    eric

    slc:

    As bad as things there are now, there is every likelihood that, in the event of the Assad kleptocracy being given the heave ho, things may get worse as elements of the Sunni majority attempt to even the score against the supporters of the current regime.

    That’s because Syria, like Egypt and SA, selectively targets moderates over extremists. Its a form of heckler’s veto – if you take me down, I will make sure to leave the country in a worse state. We should not let this sort of heckler’s veto deter us. Instead, if/when we decide to intervene, we should do so with the resources needed to ensure the country’s replacement government really is freely chosen and organized rather than given to the strongest faction remaining on the block.

    Personally I think the real strategic problem with the US response to arab democracy is reelections, not the initial election. I think it would be much better in the long run for us to acculturate new democracies to the concept of peaceful, regular changes of government as “normal.” We do a very poor job of that. Rather than supporting a candidate and then supporting his/her reelection for umpteen years, support a change of government every 2-4 years. Once the population reallly internalizes that they CAN vote the bums out of office without negative consequnces, they will start doing it on their own.

  28. 28
    slc1

    Re eric @ #27

    Don’t even suggest US unilateral intervention. How’s that working out in Afghanistan and Iraq? I said a multilateral force which is solely for the purpose of maintaining order and preventing the various factions from murdering each other and spreading the conflict to the neighboring states. Even some folks in the tank for Obama, like Jeffrey Goldberg, are criticizing him for not intervening.

  29. 29
    iangould

    “The “Arab Spring” is pretty much turning out to be a disaster, it seems to me. Replacing brutal dictators with Islamists is at best a step sideways, ”

    Gaddafi WAS an Islamist and I strongly suspect that this law dates from his time. (To the extent that there were laws under Gaddafi – many people accused of crimes were tried before so-called People’s Courts that made up offences and penalties on the spot using Sharia as their principal guide.)

  30. 30
    nrdo

    Re Nathair @ 25

    The problem is that on many threads where some outrageous abuse by Islamists is discussed, there are some commenters who immediately pop-in with an “Israel does this too” statement, which is at best a Tu quoque fallacy.

    In this case, slc1′s comment was incorrect and out of context , as I explained above. Proselytizing is not illegal in Israel. Giving financial inducements, particularly to minors, is what the law actually prohibits, and nobody has ever been convicted under the statute.

    I’m the last person to give the Israeli religious-right a pass, but unfortunately, some self-professed skeptics and atheists aren’t very skeptical and will repeat anything negative they hear about Israel. What should I call them?

  31. 31
    Trebuchet

    @#29: I would say Gaddafi, like Saddam Hussein, liked to put on a public show of being an islamist but was really all about himself. He was just pandering to the public. That said, it’s entirely probably that the proselytizing law dates to his time.

  32. 32
    slc1

    Re nrdo @ #30

    I’m sure that Mr. Raging Bee, amongst others will find it amusing that I am accused of being anti-Israel. I accede to Mr. nrdo’s statement that proselytizing is not illegal in Israel, although it is strongly discouraged and it is my information that most of the action comes from Messianic Jews (e.g. Jews for Yeshua of Nazareth).

    As a matter of fact, it is my information that most of the Christian denominations in Israel have agreed to forgo proselytization, with again, the Jews for Yeshua being an exception.

  33. 33
    nrdo

    Re slc1 @ #32

    I don’t think that you are anti-semitic or anti-Israel, and don’t know why someone threw that out there. I’m just trying to point out that we should be careful when repeating stuff that appears to smear a group or government we may (legitimately) disagree with.

    There is an interesting question about what to do if evangelicals decide to make countries that have undergone “Arab spring” revolutions targets for missionary work. Is there an ethical way that we can pressure these countries into moving towards free-speech and related values without directly antagonizing the local nuts and without trampling those rights ourselves.

  34. 34
    laurentweppe

    Democracy is messy — remember how long it took America to abolish slavery after winning its freedom, and that took bloody civil war to end it.

    But but but but…. That would mean that White People are not inherently superior to Arabs: Inconceivable!

    ***

    Gaddafi WAS an Islamist and I strongly suspect that this law dates from his time

    From the quoted Guardian article:

    Libya retains a law from the Muammar Gaddafi era that makes proselytising a criminal offence potentially punishable by death.

    The Internet: People commenting texts they did not bother to read

  35. 35
    Dan J

    Ichthyic mentioned:

    Joachim is a demented fuckwit.

    I thought you were being way too generous in your assessment.

  1. 36

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