In the wake of widespread violent protests in the Arab world, Google determined that the video did not violate its “hate speech” rules or any law and has kept the video on the Internet but conceded to the opposition in Egypt and Libya by taking the video down in those countries.
If you want to get an idea of what results from criminalizing so-called blasphemy – which includes all manner of insults and other real or imagined offenses – check out the prosecutions in the Arab world. Just last week an Egyptian court upheld a six-year prison term for a Christian school teacher convicted of insulting Islam – and the country’s Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, showing that even a mere mortal can be “blasphemed.” The Christian was found guilty for posting Facebook pictures considered to be offensive to Islam and Morsi, the Associated Press reported.
Case after case of prosecution for blasphemy is documented by Human Rights First. Most of these are in the Middle East, notably Pakistan, but include India and European countries. In Austria in 2011, a woman who gave a series of lectures in Vienna was convicted of “denigrating the teachings of a legally recognized religion” and fined 480 Euros. She initially was charged with incitement to hatred as a result of lectures criticizing Islam.
Human Rights First says: “Accusations of blasphemy have resulted in arrests and arbitrary detentions and have sparked assaults, murders and mob attacks….Journalists, bloggers, teachers, students, poets, religious converts, Internet users and others have been targeted, charged and sentenced to prison or received other punishments for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
So far, First Amendment protection has been afforded the video and its producer Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. But he has been arrested and jailed in Los Angeles on suspicion of violating probation on a 2011 bank fraud conviction. So chances are he will get a three-year sentence, providing the proverbial pound of flesh for angry Muslims.
Yet President Obama tried to get Google to dump the video, asking the company to reconsider its decision to keep the video up. Google refused. The attempt to squelch the offending video fits into Obama’s policy of trying to defend Islam, in the view of Lyombe Eko, professor of journalism, University of Iowa. He cites Obama’s trip to Egypt in 2009 when he made a statement that raised false expectations, to wit: “I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”
That statement, Eko writes, “gave the world the false impression that (Obama) could control media content in America” and led to false expectations that he could squelch the video to appease offended Muslims. But he couldn’t. Free speech still lives.