|Facebook use in a public internet cafe on the West Bank?|
Husayin's offenses include spoofing the Koran, facetiously declaring himself a deity and ordering others to smoke pot, and [hilariously] noting god's resemblance to some sort of "primitive Bedouin." Perhaps most notably, though, he called Islam a "blind faith that grows and takes over people's minds where there is irrationality and ignorance."
These words will surely cost Walid his life, in one way or another. A heresy charge would mean life in prison (a sentenced his mother has, regrettably, endorsed as the family struggles to restore its honor), assuming affronted locals don't get to him first.
Being a vehemently-godless Facebook user myself, I can't help but feel a mounting sense of dread watching this debacle unfold. Husayin wasn't even publicly atheistic -- only anonymously, online. His detainment, coupled with other recent incidents of arrest following objectionable online activity, seems to speak to the increasingly Orwellian nature of life on the West Bank. Even Walid's loved ones are eager to see him punished for this "thought-crime".
From the Associated Press:
The case is the second high-profile arrest connected in the West Bank connected to Facebook activity. In late September, a reporter for a news station sympathetic to Hamas was arrested and detained for more than a month after he was tagged in a Facebook image that insulted the Palestinian president.
Gaza's Hamas rulers also stalk Facebook pages of suspected dissenters, said Palestinian rights activist Mustafa Ibrahim. He said Internet cafe owners are forced to monitor customers' online activity, and alert intelligence officials if they see anything critical of the militant group or that violates Hamas' stern interpretation of Islam.
Both governments also create fake Facebook profiles to befriend and monitor known dissidents, activists said. In September, a young Gaza man was detained after publishing an article critical of Hamas on his Facebook feed.
Such "stalking" on Facebook and other social media sites has become increasingly common in the Arab world. In Lebanon, four people were arrested over the summer and accused of slandering President Michel Suleiman on Facebook. All have been released on bail.
In neighboring Syria, Facebook is blocked altogether. And in Egypt, a blogger was charged with atheism in 2007 after intelligence officials monitored his posts.
The Western-backed Palestinian Authority is among the more religiously liberal Arab governments in the region. It is dominated by secular elites and has frequently cracked down on hardline Muslims and activists connected to its conservative Islamic rival, Hamas.
Husayin's high public profile and prickly style, however, left authorities no choice but to take action.
Let this appalling news serve as a reminder of the importance of defending free speech in our daily lives. Events like Blasphemy Day may seem unnecessary given our own nation's first amendment provisions, but the struggle for freedom is far-reaching and ongoing.