On Tuesday, September 18, 2012, Egyptian authorities issued warrants for the arrest of Egyptian Coptic Christians and a United States pastor, due to their alleged involvement regarding the production of an anti-Islamic video. The video has sparked retaliation from Islamic groups, including the recent attack at the United States Consulate in Libya last week. The accused are being charged with “insulting the Islamic Religion, insulting the prophet and inciting sectarian strife.”
The film that has brought about this controversy is entitled “Innocence of Muslims,” where Muhammad is portrayed as a womanizer, child molester, and a thug among other things. The possible result of a conviction includes the death penalty according to the public prosecutor. The prosecutor further requested that the Copts and the Pastor be handed over to Egypt. The United States government has condemned the film, but obviously could not take any action against these individuals for freely expressing their beliefs, regardless of how insulting they may be to those of the Islamic faith.
Morris Sadek, among those named responsible for the film, said that he has promoted the film to “highlight discrimination toward Copts in Egypt.” Christians in Egypt have “long complained about discrimination in the workplace and laws such as those that make it harder to build a church than a mosque.” (Cited to NBC source below) In the past, Egypt has treated those who speak up or insult Islam very aggressively.
Granted, the video is completely disrespectful to those of Islamic faith, but the fact that these individuals could possibly face the death penalty for creating such a film is completely extreme and ridiculous. Growing up in this country, we are obviously very privileged to have certain freedoms such as freedom of expression and religion, so it is hard to fathom, or even understand, what it would be like to have these freedoms taken away from us. However, throughout the world and as illustrated in this case with Egypt, expressing one’s own views and opinions can have grave consequences. This recent issue, is not the only time Egypt has been involved in this freedom of expression discussion, as Egypt has also in the past shut down “internet and phone services to stop protesters from expressing their political opinions.” (http://www.waccglobal.org/component/content/article/2523:egypt-crisis-respect-freedom-of-expression-says-wacc.html). Clearly, this demonstrates the ongoing problem within Egypt, as this is not just an isolated instance of restriction of expression. Regardless of one’s opinion regarding any particular issue, they should have the ability to express these views without facing the possibility of death as a result of their expression. Because this is such a large problem, groups such as Amnesty International have worked to help citizens of Egypt to enjoy some of these freedoms. (See http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/egypt)
This issue regarding freedom of expression has come to forefront in Egypt since news of the issuance of arrest warrants for these filmmakers broke, and I ask you to consider the questions presented below.
Questions to Consider:
(1) What do you believe is the appropriate punishment, if any, for these 7 Coptic Christians for creating this anti-Islamic film?
(2) What can be done from a global perspective to ensure freedom of expression to citizens of those countries who lack such freedom?