An Egyptian court has ordered a one-month ban on YouTube due to the refusal of the company to remove material insulting to Islam — the latest example of the growing battle between religious orthodoxy and free speech. Hassouna Tawfiq has also ordered other sites banned if they show the controversial “The Innocence of Muslims.”
The film portrays Islam’s prophet Muhammad in an unflattering and foolish light. As previously discussed, this is a core expression of free speech. However, countries like Egypt continue to demand international enforcement of its blasphemy standards to punish those who insult Islam or Muhammad.
Efforts to force YouTube to pull the film in the United States have failed for obvious reasons. However, the Obama Administration asked YouTube to “review” the film and has publicly prosecuted the filmmaker on other grounds in a clear effort to show the Muslim world that he is being punished.
Egypt has led the effort to create an international blasphemy standard with the controversial support of the United States. For many years, I have been writing about the threat of an international blasphemy standard and the continuing rollback on free speech in the West. For recent columns, click here and here and here.
Much of this writing has focused on the effort of the Obama Administration to reach an accommodation with allies like Egypt to develop a standard for criminalizing anti-religious speech. We have been following the rise of anti-blasphemy laws around the world, including the increase in prosecutions in the West and the support of the Obama Administration for the prosecution of some anti-religious speech under the controversial Brandenburg standard. Now that effort has come to a head with the new President of Egypt President Mohamed Mursi calling for enactment of an anti-blasphemy law at the United Nations. Mursi is also demanding legal action against the filmmaker by the United States despite the fact that the film is clearly protected by the first amendment.
The ban on YouTube is not likely to have much of an impact but does show the considerable gap between the United States and its Arab allies on free speech. To its credit, YouTube is standing firm on refusing to censor anti-religious views.
Source: Washington Post