U.S. media have focused on President Barack Obama’s assigning blame to an obscure U.S. filmmaker for setting off protests and violence in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
Media, mostly preoccupied with advocating for Obama, overlooked a major cultural issue that shows how bizarre blasphemy laws can be.
Egypt’s top film star, Adel Imam, was prosecuted for “insulting Islam.” The controversy has been of major interest to people in that country.
On September 12, the day after attacks on U.S. interests, Al Arabiya (UAE) announced Imam had won an appeal filed after the court upheld a three month jail sentence for Imam in April.
Ironically Egypt’s blasphemy laws led Obama to ask Google to review the privately made U.S. video. “Review” is Web-speak suggesting a takedown. Obama’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, even urged an anti-Islamist pastor in Florida to “disavow the film,” said Al Arabiya.
By their actions, Obama and Dempsey ignored the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and effectively subordinated U.S. sovereignty on behalf of blasphemy laws. No U.S. media have quibbled over the attempts at censorship.
Blasphemy accusations, often politically driven, are not unusual in Islamist-run countries. In 2011, Pakistan’s only Christian Minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated after his efforts to get the country’s blasphemy laws reformed. Bhatti was the Minster for Minorities.
Blasphemy laws threaten the sovereignty of countries where government control of speech is limited.
The United Nations supports blasphemy laws, not just in Islamist-run countries but in all countries, with resolutions like 7/19.
In Egypt, Imam told authorities he had not insulted Islam:
“All the works in which I have starred went through the censors. Had they been found to be defamatory, the censors would have banned them.”
Ironically academics on the Left and U.S. media which skews Left have not advocated for freedom of speech, with some even calling for arresting U.S. citizens who make films like the one Obama blamed.
Obama’s policy has been largely to appease the Arab world, but it’s obvious the U.S. let her guard down ahead of September 11.
It is doubly ironic that Obama's reelection theme, "Forward", is in direct conflict with capitulation to blasphemy laws. That is rather like going centuries into the past: Backward.
It is especially troubling when a top military leader and the U.S. president urge actions in conflict with human rights like free speech.
U.S. media have given ongoing unrest in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula little attention, choosing instead to focus on “gotcha” attacks against GOP nominee Mitt Romney in an attempt to safeguard chances for Obama’s reelection despite historic levels of unemployment, debt and highly questionable foreign policy.
As the unrest continued, Obama did a guest stint on the U.S. comedy-entertainment show hosted by David Letterman, a Democrat supporter and Obama fan. Otherwise, the president has been absorbed with his campaign.
Most Americans don’t realize that controversies related to blasphemy in Islamist countries are common. In countries where there is government control of speech, accusations are often purely political in nature.
Egyptians eager to reap the benefits of the “Arab Spring” are impatient for change. Egypt Daily News noted:
“There has been no real restructuring of the interior ministry, and that might be a reason that people are still angry,” retired police Brigadier-General Mahmoud Kotri told Ahram Online.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Sept. 19, 2012)
Related at The US Report