My name is Fred and I am a gay conservative living in Ottawa. This blog supports limited government, the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security, and tries to expose the threat to us all from cultural relativism, post-modernism, and radical Islam. I am also the founder of the Free Thinking Film Society in Ottawa (

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Freedom in the muslim countries: Absent

And, yet the left always seems to march with these haters of freedom...
U.S. policy toward supposedly "allied" authoritarian Muslim governments in the Middle East is backward. This month Reporters Without Borders, an international organization supporting press freedom, issued its 2009 "Internet Enemies" report surveying government generated obstacles to the free flow of information online. Dominating the list are Muslim-majority countries, all but one of which are "friends" of the U.S. Internet freedom is an essential tool of civil society and pro-democracy Muslim reformers. We are feeding the hand that bites us by supporting regimes which block online and other media freedoms for these Muslim reformers.

Approximately 20% of the world's population is Muslim, yet according to Reporters Without Borders, 58% of the "Internet Enemies" are Muslim-majority countries. These are Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan (alongside Burma, China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam). As if this were not enough, 45% of the eleven countries listed as secondary level offenders, "Under Surveillance," are either Muslim-majority--Bahrain, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen--or, in the case of Eritrea, about half Muslim.

As for "friends" of the U.S. on this list, the 2009 "Internet Enemies" report identifies Egyptian bloggers as "among the most hounded in the world" and "since the beginning of 2007, the government of Egypt has stepped up its surveillance of the web." Tunisia "is one of the most draconian on the Internet." In Turkmenistan, "the Internet remains one of the areas that the new government keeps under tightest control." Uzbekistan maintains "very tight control over the Internet" and has a media law which makes way for "extensive and abusive censorship." Also the state of Internet freedom in U.A.E., Bahrain, Yemen, Malaysia, and Eritrea is nothing to cheer about.

Meanwhile, in the most recent (2008) annual Department of State Report on International Religious Freedom 62% of the "Countries of Particular Concern" (the most egregious offenders) are Muslim-majority--Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Uzbekistan--with, again, Eritrea being about half Muslim (alongside Burma, China, North Korea).

Egypt's starring role among the world's "Internet Enemies" goes along with a religious freedom record that, while not one of the absolute worst, is still deeply problematic. These facts are particularly disconcerting because Egypt used to be a major intellectual and artistic hub in the Muslim world and now is supposedly a close U.S. ally. One would hope that a country in such a position would be a center for peaceful, reformist Islam.

There are two key misperceptions about anti-freedom measures in these Muslim majority countries, and both apply to Egypt. The first is that we Americans need to allow these countries great leeway in anti-freedom-of-speech and anti-religious-freedom policies because they use such policies only to fight against violent extremists. The second is that the only significant violations of religious freedom these countries perpetrate are against relatively small minorities such as Christians and Bahai.

In reality, "allies" of the U.S. such as Egypt use suppression of freedom of speech (on the Internet and in other media) and deny freedom of religion in order to block efforts by moderate and progressive Muslim reformers.


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