A dust-up broke out earlier this week between the U.S. State Department and the Muslim Brotherhood over the arrest of Egyptian television satirist Bassem Youssef on charges of insulting Islam and insulting Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that Youssef’s arrest, “coupled with recent arrest warrants issued for other political activists, is evidence of a disturbing trend of growing restrictions on the freedom of expression.”
It’s about time that the Obama administration opened its mouth about the spiraling authoritarianism of Morsi’s Islamist regime, to which the United States is giving over a billion dollars of financial aid as well as F-16 fighters and tanks. But even the State Department’s mild rebuke was too much for Morsi’s friends in the Muslim Brotherhood. It unleashed a barrage of tweets denouncing the United States for condoning the insult of Islam and interfering in the domestic concerns of the Egyptian nation.
Here is a sampling endorsed by the Ikhwanweb, the Muslim Brotherhood’s official English website, which states that “Our tweets represent official Muslim Brotherhood’s opinions”:
“#FJP: We strongly condemn @StateDept statements, which means USG is welcoming & condoning defamation of religion by some in Egyptian media”
“#FJP: Defaming religion allegation is a serious offense, a violation of Egyptian law, culture & values, and a threat to societal peace”
“#FJP criticizes USG statements on @DrBassemYoussef onging investigations, calling it flagrant meddling in #Egypt’ domestic affairs”
The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political wing of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, denounced Victoria Nuland on its facebook page, accusing her of “unreserved audacity” and “blatant interference in the internal affairs of Egypt on an issue that is still under investigation.”
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo ducked for cover by shutting down its own Twitter feed temporarily after the Egyptian government criticized the embassy feed for linking to satiric commentary by the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, Bassem Youssef’s idol and role model, critiquing Yousseef’s arrest. When the Cairo embassy’s Twitter feed went back up, the tweet with the link to the Daily Show commentary was deleted. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Nuland, while standing by her own remarks, supported the embassy’s decision to remove the tweet that had angered the Egyptian government and its Muslim Brotherhood supporters.
The Obama administration needs to push back against Egyptian President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood cohorts more aggressively. It can start by telling Morsi publicly to mind his own business with regard to the incarceration of Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, the blind convicted terrorist who was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and plotting to bomb other New York sites.
Morsi has demanded the terrorist’s release to Egyptian custody. “What I want is to intervene for humanitarian reasons,” he said. He shouldn’t be “intervening” in the U.S. justice system for any reason, least of all “humanitarian” concern for a terrorist with innocents’ blood on his hands.
The Muslim Brotherhood also wants to tell us how to interpret and apply our Constitution’s First Amendment protections for freedom of expression. Reacting to the video last year that depicted Islam and its Prophet Mohammed in an unfavorable light, the Muslim Brotherhood said on its website:
The repeated abuse of the Messenger of God indicate the presence of hatred and bigotry in those who stand behind it, with ignorance, connivance and indulgence in those who permit such persistent abuse.
Thus hurting the feelings of one and a half billion Muslims cannot be tolerated, and the people’s anger and fury for their Faith is invariably predictable, often unstoppable.
We denounce abuse of all Messengers of God, Prophets and Apostles, and condemn this heinous crime. We further call for criminalization of assaults on the sanctities of all heavenly religions.
Otherwise, such acts will continue to cause devout Muslims across the world to suspect and even loathe the West, especially the USA, for allowing their citizens to violate the sanctity of what they hold dear and holy. Hence, we demand that all those involved in such crimes be urgently brought to trial.
Certainly, such attacks against sanctities do not fall under the freedom of opinion or thought. They are crimes and assaults against Muslim sanctities, and must not be tolerated by the countries where they are produced or launched, since they are also detrimental to the interests of those countries in dealings with the peoples of the Muslim world.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood cronies have no problem telling us that we must criminalize free expression if it offends their sensibilities, even though such criminalization would be contrary to our most deeply held values of liberty and freedom of thought. But shame on the U.S. State Department for even mildly suggesting that the Egyptian regime’s arrest and punishment of satirists or journalists for speaking their mind are evidence of a “disturbing trend.” If that is the way that Morsi and his friends want to play, then perhaps our money could find better uses than propping up his Islamist regime – starting with opening up the White House again to public tours.
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