This is one of those stories that can put some in a difficult position. On one hand, it seems like progress that a hateful Islamic Cleric was sentenced for destroying a Bible in light of the litany of prosecutions of people for insulting Islam. However, in the end, it is simply the same denial of free exercise and free speech under blasphemy laws. Whether it is a Koran or a Bible, the act (as hateful and obnoxious that it is) remains an exercise of free speech and should be protected as a basic human right.
Ahmed Abdullah, also known as Abu Islam, was arrested after tearing up and burning a Bible during a protest against an anti-Islam film outside the U.S. embassy last year. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 3,000 Egyptian pounds, or $430. His son was sentenced to eight years in prison and a fine of 2,000 Egyptian pounds, or $286.
Egypt’s continued crackdown of anti-religious speech is part of its long-standing blasphemy abuses. 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.
The crackdowns in Saudi Arabia and Egypt show again how unwise this effort by the Obama Administration was from the start. The Administration has given credibility to these efforts to curb anti-religious speech. Whatever desire it had to “moderate” such actions by cooperating on an international standard has proven, as many of us predicted, an utter failure. There can be no compromise between free speech and blasphemy. These nations stand against the most basic right of all men and women to speak freely and worship (or not worship) as their values dictate.
We of course disclosed this week that we would be continuing to send over a billion dollars in aid to Egypt despite its imposition of Islamic controls and the denial of free speech to its citizens.