The US President and the media have portrayed “radical extremists” as angry about cartoons of the Muslim prophet by western media. Such a view focuses very narrowly on the recent attacks in Paris and Copenhagen. This is because democracies consider freedom of speech a fundamental right in their societies and object strongly to such rights coming under fire. Should the media and democracies look more broadly, they would note the broader attacks on basic human rights that Islam imposes where it is in control.
The “hateful ideology” (as US President Obama calls it) is not simply an “ideology” by a few “extremists”. The basic laws of several Islamic countries trample on many fundamental human rights. Islamic laws do not only challenge what you can say, but often attack the essence of who you are, and enforce double standards regarding what you can do. To aggravate the Islamic illiberal attitudes further, the laws impose severe punishments to the offenses, often the death sentence.
What you said
Blasphemy is clearly part of the objection of the Muslim killers. Whether Charlie Hebdo (2015), Copenhagen (2005; 2015) or Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands (2004), the drawings of the Islamic prophet Mohammed were considered offenses deserving of murder. Those attacks made news and drew world attention because they happened in Western Europe. In the Islamic world, blasphemy is considered a crime in over a dozen countries. Pakistan recently sentenced a blasphemer to death, but the laws and actions do not often attract the world’s attention.
Who you are
Islamic countries impose the death sentence on people for simply being who they are. Innocent civilians are viewed as criminals even though they harm no one.
- Apostasy is the act of changing religion. In several Islamic countries, the act of converting from Islam to another religion is punishable by death. Those countries include: Afghanistan; Brunei; Mauritania; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Sudan; United Arab Emirates; and Yemen. Many other countries also consider it a crime, punishable by a year or more in prison.
- Being Gay is considered a crime in 76 countries in 2015. There are several Islamic countries that sentence gays to death including: Iran; Iraq; Mauritania; Nigeria; Qatar; Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
- Islamic terrorists targeted Jews in recent attacks in Jerusalem; Paris and Copenhagen. Many Muslims feel that non-believers are doomed and should be killed according to Islamic teachings. While many Islamic countries do not sentence non-Muslims to death, they subject the non-Muslims to secondary “dhimmi” status and make them pay special taxes. There are “radical” Islamic groups like Boko Haram and ISIS that are actively killing non-Muslims throughout Nigeria, Iraq, and Libya.
What you do
Some Islamic countries have laws that prevent persecuted segments of society from doing what other members of society (Muslims, men) can do freely. The double standards and misogyny are simply part of the culture that the world ignores.
- In Saudi Arabia, there are laws that prevent women from driving cars; only men can drive.
- In Pakistan, girls are prevented from going to school to get an education; only boys can go to school.
- In many Southeast Asian countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, a girl who reject a boy’s marriage proposal may be disfigured either by having her nose and ears cut off, or acid poured on her face. Boys do not deal with such issues.
- In Israel, the Jordanian Muslim Waqf prevents Jews from praying on the Jewish Temple Mount; only Muslims are allowed to pray on the entire 35 acre site.
- In Gaza and Islamic countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, people kill female family members in “honor killings” if they dress inappropriately or date unapproved men. Men do not face honor killings.
How they Respond
The punishment for many of these basic activities that people in the western world take for granted, is death. The death sentence is often brutal and public.
- Infidels are beheaded
- Gays are hanged from cranes in the middle of the city, or thrown off of buildings
- People who speak against the government are caned in Saudia Arabia and killed in Syria
- Saudi Arabia considers witchcraft a capital offense
“Minor” infractions also can yield a death sentence:
- Adulterers are stoned to death in Iran; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Somalia; Sudan; UAE; Yemen
- Drug traffickers are killed in: Egypt; Indonesia; Iran; Iraq; Kuwait; Oman; Saudi Arabia; South Sudan; Syria and UAE
- Prostitutes are killed in Sudan
The view that a few “extremists” have hijacked Islam and are attacking the freedom of press is both myopic in terms of history and geography, and hazy in terms of numbers and scope. In reviewing the laws and actions of several Islamic countries, one can better understand the gross intolerance and extremism in their societies. Many Muslims are offended by a great many things, and will kill the offender.
If the West limits its review to freedom of speech in the world of social media, the conversation becomes limited as well. Hate speech versus freedom of speech, and attitudes towards censorship of social media (such as in Turkey) are worthwhile discussions, but far too narrow. The value of jobs and economic development for a handful of radicals is brought up by the Obama administration because he misses the larger point. Obama argues for “reasonableness and restraint” from countries because he views the attacks on them as limited to a handful of radicals.
That flawed worldview led Obama to abandon Iraq without helping secure the vacuum. It will lead an Obama administration to enable Iran to get a nuclear weapon.
Perhaps it is time for Obama to visit Cairo again as he did on his first international trip in 2009. This time he will meet a new leader in al-Sisi who has called for a “revamping” in Islam. Maybe al-Sisi should be on Obama’s Iran negotiating team.
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