Our close ally, Egypt, continues to lay waste to free speech this month with the absurd sentencing of a Facebook user to three years in jail for simply putting Mickey Mouse ears on a picture of president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Amr Nohan was charged with an “attempt to overthrow the regime” for the comical Facebook posting and tried in a military court.
Everyone has a obligation to post this picture as widely as possible in response to the latest attack on free speech. If Sisi was not a bad joke before the sentencing, he is now.
Egypt has long fought to curtail free speech not only inside the country but internationally. 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. Indeed, Egypt appears particularly keen on prosecuting satirists and comedians as a threat to the nation. What is most telling is that such prosecution reflect not just an inherent insecurity but an inherent instability. If the government is threatened by a photoshopped image of Sisi with Micky Mouse ears, the government is truly standing on clay feet.
Besides, no one would confuse Sisi with Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse is actually tolerant and leads by example in the Happiness Place on Earth.