Four Teenagers and a Teacher Arrested For “insulting Islam” After Making Videotape Mocking ISIS

video_clip_253x338Egypt continues to descend toward a Sharia-based system with a new prosecution of four teenagers accused of “insulting Islam.”  The insult came in a video that the boys shot while on a trip with their teacher Gad Younan, 42 – a film that mocked ISIS.  While the boys were accused of insulting Islam, the brief video only showed them mocking ISIS beheadings.  One of the boys apparently mumbled an Islam prayer as part of the execution and that was enough to cause riots and demands for their executions.  The four teens and teacher are from the ancient Coptic community, a community targeted by Muslim extremists for harassment and killings.

The boys are aged 14 and 15 years old. They could be sent to jail for up to five years by the government. A rumor spread that they had thrown down a copy of the Koran, causing riots — a scene reminiscent of the killing of a woman in Afghanistan. It turns out to be untrue by the Egyptian government still wants to send the boys and their teacher to jail for their exercise of free speech against ISIS — thereby proving yet again that the foes of ISIS display some of the same abusive orthodoxy and intolerance.

The 32-second clip ironically mocked the strict orthodoxy of ISIS only to have their own government round them up for such religiously laden punishment. Article 98(f) of the Egyptian Penal Code criminalizes a series of faith-related comments, including “insulting a heavenly religion or a sect following it.”

While ISIS purports to adhere to Islam, it is not clear whether the prosecutors in Egypt had that part of the Penal Code in mind when they accused the youths of blasphemy. 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.

Notably, this film followed mourning in the community of these boys after a Libyan affiliate of ISIS recently announced the murder of 21 Christians. Some 20 of the murdered Christians were Copts and came from the boys’ home governorate of Al Minya.

After the false rumor spread, Muslims stoned the homes of Christians and destroyed the business of one of the boys. Frightened parents turned the boys over to the police. Public meetings were held where Christians were forced to condemn the boys and ban Younan from the village. A judge then denied bail to the boys to allow them to take their final exams.

50 thoughts on “Four Teenagers and a Teacher Arrested For “insulting Islam” After Making Videotape Mocking ISIS”

  1. Nick
    Yes, Giancarlo Esposito is like Jeffrey Wright, underrated and great through and through.
    I haven’t watched Better call Saul yet, it is on my list after this season’s Game of Thrones. I am certainly savoring the moments before I actually watch it knowign how great it has to be.
    I discovered Bob Odenkirk in his two man show on HBO, Mr Show, that was great.

    And you are right about Seymour Hoffman. He was also one of those actors who would lose himself in his characters…and carried the shadow of the inner darkness in any role,no matter how light.

    1. Giancarlo Esposito is hardly under-rated. He has 155 acting credits including Breaking Bad, Homicide: Life on the Streets, two films with Spike Lee, one with John Sayles. 8 Broadway musicals. Where is he under-rated. I first saw him in John Sayles’ Brother From Another Planet, then in Spike Lee’s School Daze where I started to follow his career. He plays Chevy Chase’s brother on Community for those who are keeping up with 6 seasons and a movie. 😉

  2. Nick:

    “Their biggest obstacle was finding countries that would allow them to emigrate.”

    Very true. The US turned away Jewish refugees on the St Louis ship, known as the “Voyage of the Damned.” They were supposed to settle in Cuba while awaiting their turn on the tight quotas for Jews, but Cuba changed its mind because of quarreling over bribes, and turned them away. FDR refused to even answer their telegram. So they were divided amongst England, Holland, Belgium, and France. Many of those who went to England survived; many of those who went to the other 3 countries were sent to concentration camps when Germany invaded, and they died.

    Speaking about FL, “Yes, yes, 50 years ago I was here,” said Gisela Lenneberg, now 91, seated on a deck chair, the buildings of the city in her sight just beyond the surf. “They didn’t let us in.”

    This was not a shining moment for either FDR, the US, or the rest of the world.

  3. Po:

    “(including their holding women as 3rd class citizens and associated evils such as the ongoing bombing of Yemen… which you must support since you failed to condemn the US for helping institutionalize it.).”

    I oppose the kicking of puppies. And yet I have not mentioned that belief in each and every post. Must it then be assumed that I support the kicking of puppies?

    Where did you learn to reason?

  4. “We have” Should be “we have an example in progress now.” We shall have to see how the courts react to this test case of religious vs secular law.

  5. Here is the actual Constitution:

    Article 2: “The principles of Islamic Sharia are the principle source of legislation.”

    Article 7: “Al-Azhar is an independent scientific Islamic institution, with exclusive competence over its own affairs. It is the main authority for religious sciences, and Islamic affairs. It is responsible for preaching Islam and disseminating the religious sciences and the Arabic language in Egypt and the world.
    The state shall provide enough financial allocations to achieve its purposes.
    Al-Azhar’s Grand Sheikh is independent and cannot be dismissed.”

    Here is an interesting excerpt from “The Place of Women”, Article 11. “The state commits to achieving equality between women and men in all civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.” What I find interesting is that this is a “commitment”, not a statement that they actually have equal rights. And the title is the woman’s “place.”

    Plus, as a final testament to where Egypt now stands on human rights, opposition to this constitution was harshly oppressed, so the final vote was near unanimous.

    I recall when the media glowingly reported on the “Arab Spring.” They seemed blissfully unaware that the most organized replacement for this power vacuum would just be yet another Islamic extremist movement.

    Egypt used to be a more secular place, and its economy depended on tourism. It help a wonderland of antiquities and ancient learning. What is it now but yet another unsafe place embroiled in extremism? So sad. They have made a few minor efforts at improvement, such as at least putting in that they have a goal for female equality, but then they put Sharia as the source of all legislation, which gives grounds for any secular laws to be deemed unconstitutional.

    When I first heard about this latest constitution, I thought we would just have to see how this played out in the courts. We have. Students were arrested for making fun of ISIS on the grounds of insulting Islam. So that answers our question on the protections of free speech in Egypt and where its secular laws lie in comparison to Islamic.

    Oh, and the latest version of the constitution made the army accountable to no one. In fact, the greatest change from the 2012 to the latest version was that the military actually gained even more power.

  6. In addition to de facto Sharia Law in the Constitution, there is a greater problem. The mobs in many regions of the Middle East enacting a mob justice interpretation of Islam.

    No one can deny that these mobs are acting in a way that they firmly believe is governed by Islam, and that these actions would be viewed as extremist by anyone with Western values on human rights.


    Egypt’s new constitution was drafted by the Muslim Brotherhood:

    “”It’s a disaster,” female Egyptian lawyer Nihad Abu El Konsam told German media. “There isn’t a single article in the draft constitution that mentions the rights of women.”

    “This constitution will set Egypt 100 years back,” added Abu El Konsam, noting that the Muslim Brotherhood had purposely left “open doors” that will result in Egyptians being placed under an extremist form of Islamic rule.”

  8. Po:

    “Hey, look, here comes Mullah Karen salivating at the bell of shariah law!
    Again, Karen, reading comprehension! Never too late to learn!
    If you missed my point the first time , here it is again. Wipe the glasses, put them on, open the eyes, read, then comprehend. Rinse and repeat!

    Shariah law is NOT in effect in Egypt. It is in effect in Saudi Arabia.”

    #1 – You are insulting my intelligence when I criticize the abuse of human rights under extremist Islam. Utter nonsense.
    #2 Egypt’s 2014 Constitution, Article 2, states that Sharia Law is the main source of legislation. It’s primacy takes precedence over any former secular laws.
    #3 This is what I said about Sharia Law, “In the Middle East, Sharia Law would be considered on the extremist scale to us here in the US, because the penalty for apostasy, insulting the Prophet, desecrating the Koran, questioning or criticizing the practice of Islam or Sharia Law, being gay, or adultery is death. Sharia Law has some differences in how it is practiced around the region, for example the number of lashes given for certain crimes, but the punishment for the above crimes is typically death. My own father witnessed the beheading of two gay men in Chop Chop Square in Saudi Arabia, an act which we would find extremist.” So clearly your insult has no basis in what I wrote.

    I have a problem with the abuse of human rights under extremist Islam. It is the law of another nation, so there’s nothing we can do about it. But we should withdraw our funding for nations whose values oppose ours. Their strategic importance, however, puts our politicians in a Machiavellian choice. I am not a politician, so I am free to voice my outrage over what goes on around the world.

    No matter how stupid you call critics, you cannot change the facts of what is happening under extremist Islam. Don’t like it? Try criticizing those who are actually perpetrating atrocities for a change.

  9. po, The most courageous actor IMO was Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He would play despicable, silly, buffoonish, belly showing over the pants, characters. And, he would give it up. He would own the character w/ not a care of what fans might think. That is the antithesis to the “movie stars” who are ALWAYS thinking of image. You pointed out my thoughts. Great actors have courage.

  10. po, Great point about Gus. He is Giancarlo Esposito and he played a somewhat nerdy son of ‘G’, the superb Yaphett Kotto in the great series, Homicide: Life on the Streets. ‘G’ was the powerful, and gentle, captain and they worked his son in as a by the book FBI agent. I first noticed Giancarlo when he played a clownish character in Do The Right Thing.

    Have you watched Better Call Saul? Vince Gilligan is a genius. He has turned Bon Odenkirk, a comedian, into a serious actor. Now, comedy is the toughest task, so comedians can make great actors. But, I never saw that in Odenkirk. Here’s what I really love. Gilligan has really developed Mike, the corrupt former Philly cop PI. In this prequel, you get to see the history of Saul and Mike. po, There is a scene in a Better Call Saul episode where Mike is telling his daughter in law about the death of her husband and his son, and his own complicity. It is breathtaking and Emmy worthy. I love movies. There are still great ones, but you have to hunt for them. TV has passed movies in the past decade or so. There is more quality on TV than in flicks.

  11. Both of you, Nick, Paul, have a case, but your stances aren’t mutually exclusive.
    I’d agree with Nick’s point (if that’s the one he is making) that some, due to character or temperament, or ability/willingness/courage to dig deep can make better bad guys than others. I am just not sure it is a knock on the others.
    I am pretty sure Redford has a mean bad guy in him, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him on day and have our socks knocked off!
    Everyone has some meanness in him, it is just a matter of channeling it out and expressing it.
    One of the best bad guys in recent history is Gus on Breaking Bad, who usually looks pretty mild mannered and almost nerdy.

    1. In Indecent Proposal, isn’t Redford the one who makes the indecent proposal? And he is the villain in some mega-hit series right now, Captain America? However, for the last many years he has been working as a director/producer, rather than acting.

      Actors do not get any role they want. There are not that many roles to go around. Most actors either have another job to keep them alive or are on welfare. Until the end of the studio system, the studio decided which picture you were going to be in, even lending you out to another studio to make a film. Since you were on a 7 year contract, they wanted to get their monies worth. When the studios broke up, the agents stepped in to be the middleman in putting talent together. They represent the writers, directors, and actors. They can offer a studio a package of a film ready to be made with their talent.

      And they still make you audition for parts. Some are cattle calls, some are selective.

  12. Paul, WHATEVER someone says about movies or acting you have a contrary opinion. I mean WHATEVER. And, Fiennes played a comedic character in the dark comedy In Bruges. Redford is a producer/director/actor. He can play whatever role he wants. Big actors can get pretty much any role they want. Yes, bad guys are much more interesting to play. But pussies like Redford just want to be good guys and shot w/ gel lens.

  13. Peck showed his chops playing the antithesis of Atticus as Mengele. Real actors play bad guys. Movie stars like Redford do not.

    1. Nick –

      Peck showed his chops playing the antithesis of Atticus as Mengele. Real actors play bad guys. Movie stars like Redford do not.

      This is not true. Actors play the parts that are offered/assigned to them for the money that is offered to them. Tyrone Power tried to play a bad guy in a movie and the audiences crucified him. I cannot remember the name of the movie, but he does a great job in it. Leslie Neilsen played leading men until he was offered the part on Airplane! Then everyone realized what a comic genius he was. Ralph Fiennes has always done drama until he did Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. The man has great comedic chops.

      As an actor, and I am speaking from experience here, it is much harder to play the good guy and play him well. There is a lot less to work with. The bad guy is a gift from the gods for an actor.

  14. “The Boys From Brazil”…a spectacular novel by Ira Levin of Rosemary’s baby fame. The film was spectacular…Greg Peck owned mengele…Herr Liiiiiieeeberman!

  15. Isaac, You are historically incorrect. Many Jews left Germany in the 1930’s after Hitler’s rise to power. Indeed, Hitler passed laws that were “encouraging” Jews to leave.Their biggest obstacle was finding countries that would allow them to emigrate. Jews also left other European countries as Hitler conquered the continent.

  16. Hey, look, here comes Mullah Karen salivating at the bell of shariah law!
    Again, Karen, reading comprehension! Never too late to learn!
    If you missed my point the first time , here it is again. Wipe the glasses, put them on, open the eyes, read, then comprehend. Rinse and repeat!

    Shariah law is NOT in effect in Egypt. It is in effect in Saudi Arabia.

    One is a democracy run by an autocratic government. The other is a theological monarchy.
    The commonality between the two?

    Egypt ‘s autocratic government was enabled by the US (the coup that brought them to power, the thousands of civilians they killed, the thousands more they hold in prison). Saudi Arabia’s theological monarchy is enabled and supported by the US (including their holding women as 3rd class citizens and associated evils such as the ongoing bombing of Yemen… which you must support since you failed to condemn the US for helping institutionalize it.).

    In conclusion, the prof’s shariah law link to Saudi Arabia was wrong, and your excitement at using it to jump into your favorite theme of shariah law was too premature.
    And blame Saudi Arabia and Egypt as much as you will, but also blame the US for aiding and abetting…otherwise you may end up looking rather hypocritical…. but am sure you are quite used to that already.

    Finally, let us all note who mentioned islamophobia here first.

  17. It’s kinda like how religious fundamentalism erodes basic concepts in America, too…
    … I mean, on one hand charlatans will scream “fear sharia law” while ushering inroads allowing sharia law in places of businesses under the guise of “religious freedom”.

  18. Justice Holmes
    I think this pretty much ends the argument that ISIS does not have anything to do with ISLAM .
    = = =
    Yet, some will still insist that Islam is to blame…
    … And in turn, blame Muslims for “their” problems.

  19. I still will mock Islam and ISIS. Why? Because Muslims can’t seem to pull themselves together and fix their problems. No sir, they have to go out and find infidels every single day and execute them!

    I am all in favor of deporting every single Muslim out of the lands they moved to, were born into, and sent back to the land of their ancestors so they could no longer make a stink in Europe or Americas.

    You know, there are Brazilians who have spoken out against Islam. Brazil HARDLY gets Muslims, why? Because Brazilians are so hard on them. They make life a living hell for every Muslim. They made sure Catholicism reigned supreme. Brazil is doing one hell of a good job.

    In the United States? We import them here, they have babies, then we can’t deport them? What? What if they started going crazy after they reach 40% of the population? France riots, anyone? Burning cars, destroying Parisian suburbs? How about 60 percent? More violence! Look to France! How about 80%? More beheadings, executions!

    If Saudi Arabia had a population of 10 million Christians living there, imagine what they’ll do: slaughter them like cattle. There is a reason why America has the 1st Amendment.

    TBH? We should really deport all the Muslims. They have no place among Western civilization.

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