Free speech? Or shouting “fire” in a crowded theater?

Today I heard the front desk clerk at my hotel in Cairo advise a young Frenchman not to disclose that he is from France if asked by someone on the street.   Earlier in the day a French satirical magazine published a blasphemous cartoon about Prophet Mohammed.  CNN reported about it here.  The French authorities have decided to close their foreign embassies as a precaution.

The same hotel clerk warned me not to tell people that I am an American.  That idiotic 14-minute video clip mocking the Prophet (“The Innocence of Muslims”) was made by an American in California and sparked worldwide protests.  I shared my two cents regarding the video here.  “You can pass as a Canadian,” the clerk told me.

Some Americans are wondering, I’m sure, “what’s the big deal?  Can’t Muslims take a joke?”   Others are thinking, “freedom of speech is a precious right that those ‘backward’ countries will just have to learn about.”   Perhaps some are questioning the wisdom of releasing those anti-Islam messages, but what can anyone do about it?

I’m not an Arab nor a Muslim, and so I can’t speak on behalf of millions of people who are outraged by these depictions of Prophet Mohammed.  But speaking as an American Christian, I can share my disgust.

This Islamophobia is breathtakingly insensitive and hurtful.  It reminds me of the speech I heard at the University of New Mexico earlier this year by Nonie Darwish.  After listening to her rant against Muslims, I went home feeling dirty. I blogged about it here.

Why are a few people trying to stir up trouble?  Just because they have a “right” to do so in their own countries?  Or are they shouting fire in a crowded theater to deliberately provoke angry protests and violence?  I suspect the latter.  And I even suspect that agents of al-Qaeda and other extremists are capitalizing on the actions of these thoughtless Islamophobes.

If I was an Arab or Muslim, I would be wondering about the obvious double-standards when French authorities send police to confiscate a magazine’s photographs of a topless Princess, but they don’t touch the publisher of the cartoons denigrating Prophet Mohammed.

What this world needs a bit more of is . . . respect.  Just common decency and respect, the values our grandparents taught us.  Treat our neighbor as we would wish to be treated.

That’s not so difficult to understand, is it?

On another subject, my first dinner in Cairo was delicious.   A bowl of lentils, macaroni, rice, meat and other good things.   It’s called Kushari.  كشري




Filed under Egypt, Islam

2 responses to “Free speech? Or shouting “fire” in a crowded theater?

  1. marie

    Hi Lora, glad you are safe, fed, and full of good words to share! hugs, Marie

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