The ‘blogosphere‘ may be be a virtual community, but the social connections it creates are very, very real. These connections cross boundries: political, cultural, linguistic, + + +… In a very real sense, the blogosphere transends these boundries and makes them irrelevant.
This threatens all those who would control their populace, forcing them to adhere to only one ideology (regardless of what the particular ideology may be), limiting them to access only those opinions approved by these rulers. Yet, like Pandora’s box, once the lid was opened and people realized the vast possibililties the blogosphere presented, closing the blogs down, or filtering them, was not enough to slam the lid back down. Those who would control now had to ‘neutralize’ those who had peeked in…
Thus, many opressors are going after bloggers themselves.
Here, in Canada, we face only minor punishments: monetary penalty, perhaps a lifelong gag order (!)against ever ‘expressiong oneself’ on or about a particular topic… This is enough of a threat to our inherrent right to freedom of speech from our own bureaucratic opressors, but it is nothing comparing to what our counterparts in other parts of the world are facing!
Here is the unpleasant bit of news from ‘Global Voices’, and another from ‘Daily Tech’ (this one includes the original cartoon), Khaleej Times Online, thought many other sources have picked up on it, too.
Earlier this year, Iranian bloggers had been asked to register each and every blog on a specific government site. Fearing this will be a tool to prosecute/persecute them, many bloggers refused to comply. Predictably, bullies feel threatened by anyone that stands up to them. This show of backbone by the bloggers could not go uncrushed by that opressive regime…
Last Wednesday, Iranian parlilament has agreed to discuss adding ‘disturbing mental security in society’ to such crimes as rape, kidnapping and armed robbery: all capital crimes.
Apparently, blogging could ‘disturb‘ this ‘mental security in society’ if it were to ‘promote prostitution, corruption or apostasy‘. In the sense used here, the term ‘apostasy’ applies to anything that is not in full agreement with the views and policies of the ruling Ayatollahs.
According to the strict interpretaions of Islam in Iran (and other Muslim countries), apostasy is punishable by death, as per Koran, chapter 4 (Al-Nisa), verse 90 (partial quote):
“If they turn away [from Islam], then sieze them and kill them wherever you find them…”
That is not such only quote in the Koran, just the one which is best known. From its past behaviour, it is also clear that the current regime in Iran is using the very strictest possible interpretation of the Islamic scriptures and imposing death sentences on people it deems to be ‘apostates’. Of course, the Iranian regime is abusing the scriptures in order to silence its political opposition and to stifle legitimate political debate among its populace.
This is how that twisted reasoning goes:
- The government is headed by the highest religious authority, the Ayatollahs.
- Questioning the government’s policy is therefore questioning the Ayatollahs.
- Questioning the Ayatollahs, the highest authority on Islam, is questioning Islam itself,
- Questioning Islam, by the Ayatollahs’ definition, is apostasy.
… and apostasy is a capital crime.
But Iran is not the first country to make such a move!
Last April, Yemen passed a similar law. Under this law, bloggers whose blogs are deemed to be ‘inciting hatred’ (does the wording sound familiar) could face death penalties. Here are some quotes from ‘Mideast Youth‘:
Walid Al-Saqaf, the administrator of YemenPortal.net which has been blocked in Yemen since January of this year, has just sent this very alarming news to his friends and colleagues:
“This week, the government’s Minister of Information threatened to file lawsuits against news websites on the justification of ‘inciting hatred’ or ‘harming national interests’ and the other usual excused they often use to prosecute journalists. The threat is even more severe for websites because the government would use the penal code instead of the press law. This means that website owners could get up to death penalties.”
Report in Arabic:
وحذر مصدر مسؤول في المركز من خطورة مثل التصريحات التي توحي بتوجه رسمي لزج الصحافيين والمخالفين بالرأي إلى السجون وتشديد الخناق عليهم بتطبيق قانون العقوبات الذي يحتوي على عقوبات قد تصل حد الإعدام
Death penalty for blogging!
I am speechles…