Category Archives: Free Speech

Imagine If You Can: a Bloody Middle East Science Day…….

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Today is Science March Day. All over the world people are meeting in solidarity with science. You’d think there is no need for a “day of solidarity” with science now. But we’ve come a long way backward, back to Ante Ante-Bellum, Ante-Galileo, Ante-Newton’s Laws, Ante Kennedy’s pledge to go to the Moon.

Science is being celebrated everywhere in the world, almost. Except for the Middle East. In some Arab capitals, and possibly in Turkey, imagine if you can that a bunch of enthusiastic young men and women gathered in city squares. They gathered for Science Day, not to push for the Sharia implementation, and not to denounce Wahhabism, and not to call for elections and free speech and an end to corruption. That would have been too much. They gathered just to celebrate Science Day, just imagine that if you can.

That is what could have happened from Riyadh to Cairo to Istanbul. That is what may have happened, had the young people decided to follow the example of their colleagues in Europe, Asia, and America. Imagine that if you can.

The dictators and the absolute tribal kings and the robber princes did not understand. To them a crowd is a crowd: a threat to their golden goose. The soldiers and the security goons and the foreign mercenaries, the men who usually crash down doors at dawn, acted on orders. In broad daylight. On this Science Day, Science watered the city squares with blood. Imagine that if you can, because you should.

Why is it that only Arabs, and some Muslims, risk shedding their blood if they publicly gather to celebrate Science?

Allies, indeed……

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Trump and Media Freedom: Is He Going Arab and Muslim?………

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“We get reaction from media scholar Robert McChesney to news that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is reportedly considering suing The New York Times after it ran a major report on his past treatment of women, and has vowed to make it easier to sue news organizations. Lawsuits are not the solution, McChesney says. “Instead, it is to broaden it, enrich it, create new voices and fund new voices so we actually have the diverse marketplace of ideas.………”

Democracy Now! headlines this as: Trump Vows to Sue New York Times in Latest Show of Disregard for Freedom of Press.

What is the fuss? This happens all the time in the Middle East, and not just in the Arab states or in the Gulf states. Governments, prosecutors, even foreign embassies now sue any journalist, politician, or just plain citizen for insulting some king, prince, or dictator.
Often on the Gulf, foreign Arab embassies pressure host governments to sue and prosecute their local critics. They mostly like to sue and arrest anyone who posts on social media, since they can’t completely own and control this type of media.

Just recently, Turkey‘s dour Islamist strongman Erdogan even managed to intimidate Germany to prosecute a German cartoonist who mocked him. In Germany! Instead of Turkey adapting to European standards of freedom of expression, the Germans were forced to adopt the Turkish standards.

Donald Trump is just being Arab-ized and Islam-ized.

Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

A Dummy’s Haiku Guide to Free Speech in the Gulf Region………..

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Haiku:
About Free Speech…
Can it be free at a price?………..
Tell our leaders…….

So what is this “free speech” that many constitutions claim to allow but few actually do? We covered that partly in the previous post. Now, in the Gulf and GCC states:

  • In Saudi Arabia, evidence shows that free speech is whatever the princes and their media say. It is also anything that does not contradict what the Wahhabi clerical establishment that is allied with the rulers say.
  • The Saudi religious establishment has a short and clear definition of free speech: their interpretation of the Holy Quran and the Hadith, and whatever the ruling princes say. The same applies to the Salafist movements that ape the Saudi system. Also to Al-Qaeda and the temporary Caliphate of ISIS (but without the reference to the princes) .
  • In Qatar, free speech is whatever does not criticize the rulers and insult the Muslim Brotherhood. That includes whatever is said by the official Al-Jazeera network. and by Al-Quds Al-Arabi and other oligarchy-owned media.
  • Bahrain probably has the broadest definition of Free Speech in the whole region. In Bahrain, first of all, Free speech is mainly anything that is not critical of any Saudi prince or any Saudi policy or any Saudi weekend alcohol-guzzling tourist. In addition, free speech is anything that does not criticize the sheikh (sorry, now king), his crown prince, the prime minister of 45 years, minister of interior, foreign minister (and his girth), minister of defense, minister of justice, or any of their other relatives (note: they all carry the same last name). Free speech is also anything that does not mention the imported foreign armed killer mercenaries from Jordan, Pakistan, Syria and other places.
  • In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), free speech is anything that does not criticize the ruling brothers. Free speech is also anything that does not mention the Muslim Brotherhood and anything that does not mention the imported foreign mercenaries led by former Blackwater executives (from Colombia, Australia, South Africa, etc) now fighting in Yemen.
  • Back in Kuwait, there is relatively more free speech than in any other Gulf state. Relatively speaking. For some time, a large sectarian tribal section of the self-styled opposition has tried to define free speech and hence restrict it. The dominant Wahhabi-ized tribal-Salafi-Muslim-Brotherhood strain of the opposition has its own odd definition of free speech. In their case Free Speech is whatever they want to say. Many of these admire either Al-Qaeda or ISIS or Nusra or a combination of the Salafi cutthroats that ravage the Middle East. Some probably actively support these groups. Free Speech to that strain is also whatever the Saudi princes and their Wahhabi clerics and their controlled media opine. Apparently free speech to this group is also remaining silent while the neighboring princes throw thousands of people in prison, both Sunni and Shi’a. Apparently free speech also requires a Wahhabi Saudi-style  Salafi state which the whole opposition members voted to impose and passed in 2012. It would have turned the country into a Taliban theocracy, but it was fortunately vetoed by the executive branch.
  • In Iran, free speech is whatever does not touch the theocracy or the powerful Supreme Leader or the powerful Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) negatively . Or contradicts publicly what the ‘mainstream’ clerics opine. You can probably get away with public criticism of Hassan Rouhani or Zarif, but that is it. Now remember: if you stand in the Middle of Tehran and sing “God Bless America“, that would NOT be considered free speech. But the same applies if you do it in Riyadh.
  • Fact is (usually I hate starting a sentence with “fact is”): in the whole Persian-American Gulf region, the only true absolutely Free Speech can probably be found on board the U.S Navy ships. And on some foreign military bases.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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A Dummy’s Haiku Guide to Free Speech in the Middle East: from Islamic to Nomadic to ……..

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Haiku:
About Free Speech…
Can it be free at a price?………..
Tell our leaders…….

So what is this “free speech” that many constitutions claim to allow but few actually do? Especially in the Middle East:

  • The Arab League considers free speech, to the extent that it considers anything seriously, as whatever each existing government in power wants it to be. Especially those regimes with deep pockets.
  • In Egypt, free speech is whatever does not criticize the president and insult the armed forces (apparently there is some difference), or mentions Mohammed Morsi without adding the term “deposed” as a prefix. Or anything that does not point out that Egypt (or even Cairo) are not, as the natives and a few Arabs claim, Mother of the World.
  • Al-Azhar sheikhs in Cairo define free speech as their interpretation of the  Holy Quran, the Hadith, and more importantly whatever the current president of the country says.
  • Less stable and more violent Arab countries have a more flexible definition of free speech. In Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, free speech is more nomadic: it depends on which part of the country you are in (and on who you are). Which might be considered by some as an improvement over what it is in other Middle East countries.
  • In Somalia, Sudan, and Djibouti, also considered “Arab” countries, you ask anyone about free speech and he or she might respond: WTF is that?
  • Free Speech in the whole “Persian-American” Gulf region will be covered in the next post, right after this one.
  • Western powers consider free speech in the Middle East as whatever encourages the ruling avaricious oligarchs to spend more money on weapons of death and repression.
  • Ist das klar?

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter