When the Palestinian government clicks “dislike” on a Facebook page, they don’t mess around. The Associated Press reports that mystery blogger Walid Husayin, who ran an anonymous page where he claimed to be God and insulted the Prophet Mohammed, has been arrested after the staff at his favorite Internet café turned him over to intelligence officers.
The 26-year old Husayin is charged with a string of unspeakable religious crimes, including advocacy of atheism, and calling Islam “a blind faith that grows and takes over people’s minds where there is irrationality and ignorance.” He faces a life sentence if convicted, and when Islamic religious courts say “life”, they really mean “life”, except when they mean “death.”
The Palestinian government receives a great deal of money from the United States. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recent announced another $150 million is on the way. American taxpayers will be relieved to know this money helps to fund a top-notch Thought Police. They don’t just prosecute religious crimes – as the AP reminds us, the Palestinian Authority is considered one of the more religiously liberal governments, although mockery of the Prophet is no more tolerated there than in the United States. People are rotting in stir for insulting Hamas, and the president of the Authority, although the Associated Press does not mention if these offenses carry life sentences.
It’s no coincidence that basket-case governments receiving huge amounts of foreign aid tend to be hotbeds of terrorism and oppression. Massive aid payments allow ruling parties to indulge their worst instincts, with little concern for how their brutality will affect the national economy, or their personal fortunes. Money is fungible. Every free dollar from Uncle Sam releases a dollar for funding the secret police. Bags of foreign cash help kleptocrats forget about the poor economic performance of their terrified citizens. There isn’t a third-world jackboot on Earth that isn’t padded with a wad of international aid money.
It’s sobering to reflect that the American concept of free speech is still unique in the world, a decade into the twenty-first century. For example, Myanmar, which we learned this week has been buying prohibited nuclear weapons technology from North Korea, has a fine collection of political prisoners. The opposition National League of Democracy, whose name is not a cruel Orwellian joke, has been meeting in hopes that famous democracy activist Suu Kyi might be released from house arrest this weekend. The ruling military junta just won a smashing victory in staged elections that were closed to international observers, and Amnesty International thought they might let Suu Kyi go free, since she’s “no longer an electoral threat to them.” CNN reports the hopeful League of Democracy supporters were told to go home this morning, because her release probably isn’t happening. She’s been under arrest for twenty years.
Even the other Western nations have highly attenuated concepts of free speech. Popular conservative author Mark Steyn ran afoul of Canada’s speech police for expressing “contempt” of Islam, and offering an interpretation of “jihad” that a Muslim academic strenuously disagreed with. The Candian Human Rights Commission would go on to sue a web site, Blazing Cat Fur, for merely linking to Steyn’s site.
Freedom of speech is a point of enduring tension between Western values and the Islamic world. To put it bluntly, the Western notion of free speech is simply incompatible with strict Muslim religious law, which specifies a number of things that one simply cannot say without facing imprisonment, or death. Walid Husayin unwisely said some of them in a Palestinian internet café, whose employees snapped photos of his computer screen, and now he is likely to spend the rest of his life in jail.