Politics & Policy

Blasphemy and Islam

Coptic Christian blogger Alber Saber
Our fundamental rights are under attack.

In Cairo on Wednesday, a Coptic Christian blogger named Alber Saber was convicted of blasphemy and “contempt of religion.” There’s a tragic irony: As any of the country’s Christians can tell you, contempt of religion is not merely permitted but encouraged in the new, post-Mubarak Egypt. What is criminal, what has become increasingly perilous, is any criticism of Islam.

Nor is truth a defense. Another Egyptian court recently upheld the blasphemy conviction of Makarem Diab, also a Coptic Christian. Diab had gotten into a discussion with a Muslim acquaintance, Abd al-Hameed, who, in the course of mocking Diab’s faith, insisted that Jesus was a serial fornicator. Diab countered Hameed’s baseless taunt with an assertion most Islamic scholars regard as accurate: namely, that Mohammed had more than four wives. Yet, because the context of Diab’s assertion evinced an intention to cast Islam’s prophet in an unfavorable light, Diab was prosecuted for “insulting the prophet” and “provoking students.” He was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.

This is now everyday life in Egypt. It is also certain to be the future of Egypt. The overwhelmingly Islamist population, having first elected Islamic supremacists led by the Muslim Brotherhood to top leadership positions, is now poised to adopt a constitution that is founded on sharia, Islam’s totalitarian legal framework, and that expressly enshrines these blasphemy standards. But the problem is not just sharia in Egypt. Sharia is here.

#ad#About three weeks ago, another Egyptian court sentenced seven people to death after convicting them in absentia on blasphemy charges. Most of the seven are in the United States. Most of them are Coptic Christians; one is a Florida-based pastor who is a blistering critic of Islamic scripture. The charges relate to the defendants’ alleged involvement in “Innocence of Muslims,” an obscure amateur video that Islamists have frivolously cited as a pretext for their latest round of international mayhem — and that the Obama administration has fraudulently portrayed as the catalyst of a massacre in Benghazi in which jihadists killed four Americans, including our ambassador to Libya.

So how has President Obama responded to the Egyptian government’s human-rights violations, its failure to protect the Copts from persecution (indeed, its willing participation in that persecution), and its provocations against Americans — which now include ordering their killing, through a kangaroo-court process that flouts our due-process standards, over their engagement in activity that is expressly protected by our Constitution?

Well . . . the president has announced that not only will he continue funding Egypt’s Islamist government, but he intends to include in that U.S. aid the provision of 20 F-16 fighter jets. Moreover, Obama is continuing his administration’s collaboration with the 57-government Organization of Islamic Cooperation on the “Istanbul Process.” That is the OIC’s campaign to impose sharia’s repressive blasphemy standards.

The most recent aggression in this blasphemy enterprise — a years-long, carefully plotted OIC campaign to snuff out American free-speech rights under the guise of “defamation of religion” — is U.N. Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18. It calls on Western governments to outlaw “any advocacy of religious hatred against individuals that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has zealously colluded with the OIC in seeking the implementation of 16/18. Notwithstanding her contortions, it is a gross violation of the First Amendment. Our law permits the criminalization of incitement to violence only when an agitator willfully calls for violence. Our Constitution does not abide what the resolution is designed to achieve: the heckler’s veto and, worse, the suppression of speech predicated on mob intimidation — the legitimation of barbaric lawlessness.

Nor does the Constitution’s guarantee of free expression tolerate the outlawing of speech that prompts discrimination, much less hostility. And contrary to administration hairsplitting, it makes no difference that the resolution would not “criminalize” expression that prompts discrimination or hostility. To quote the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law” suppressing protected speech. It does not say “Congress shall make no criminal law.” No law means no law — no civil law, rule, regulation, guideline, etc.

As the framers understood, virtually everything we actually need a government for can be handled — more responsively and thus more responsibly — at the local and state level. There is one essential reason for having a federal government, and one principal reason for the creation of the office of President of the United States: to protect our citizens in the exercise of their fundamental rights from hostile foreign forces.

Our fundamental rights are now under attack. As far as that is concerned, it is of little moment that the Egyptian government, joined by its Islamist confederates, threatens our lives and our liberties through court orders and resolutions — through lawfare rather than violent jihad. We are every bit as much under siege.

What is of great moment is that the president has joined the hostile forces against us, against Americans whose protection is the sole reason for the federal government’s existence.

If that is to be Washington’s posture, what do we need it for? It is bad enough when Leviathan cannot tell America’s friends from America’s enemies. But what is the point of a federal government that cannot tell America’s enemies from America? Or that can tell perfectly well, but chooses to fight for the wrong side?

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and the executive director of the Philadelphia Freedom Center. He is the author, most recently, of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, which was published by Encounter Books.

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