The crackdown on free speech continues among our Arab allies. This week, Dubai arrested four people for posting insults about companions of Prophet Mohammed on Instagram. Since the companions of Prophet Mohammed are revered by Sunni Muslims, the insults are particularly sensitive in the country with tensions between a majority of Shiites and a Sunni monarchy.
Much of this writing has focused on the effort of the Obama Administration to reach an accommodation with Arab allies 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 could also be a shot across the bow at Instragrams which are particularly popular in the Bahrain. Many of our Arab allies are uncomfortable with the level of free speech enjoyed on the Internet and other cyber forums. It is hard to enforce Orthodoxy when people are expressing their own thoughts and values without fear of flogging or death.
The four are charged with “texts and pictures damaging to companions of the (Muslim) Prophet.” That is enough in a nation that rejects the fundamental human rights of free exercise and free speech.