Just when you thought that blasphemy laws could not get any worse, the Muslim Brotherhood has come up with a new idea: citizen arrests of tourists for blasphemy. The Middle East is replete with cases of mobs killing people accused of the slightest offense toward Islam. Now, according to Internet reporting, the Egyptian prosecutor general for the Muslim Brotherhood has pushed through a new law permitting ordinary Egyptians to arrest those who offend Islamic law.
With the tourism business in Egypt already in full collapse due to the rise of the Islamic party and social strife, the Egypt’s Coalition to Support Tourism has criticized the move as the final death knell for the industry. That is probably what many religious extremists want. By gutting the tourism industry, Western influence can be reduced and their own authority strengthened.
Imagine how a business deal gone bad at a store will now end with a shopkeeper accusing a tourist of an offense to God and placing him or her under arrest. Even if cleared, it would guarantee a couple days in a rotting Egyptian jail. Then there are those public displays of affection between Western men and women or drinking in public that can be punished under Sharia.
One of the greatest challenges in the Middle East has been to control mobs of irate extremists seeking to stone people to death for such offenses. Now, the top prosecutor appears to want to deputize those same individuals in policing society for blasphemous conduct.
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. This shows the natural progression of such laws to enlist the mob in its enforcement.