Is free speech only for those you agree with?
The Christian Science Monitor is looking at an issue that’s starting to attract a lot of attention in the blogosphere — the arrest of Abdel Moneim Mahmoud, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a popular blogger in Egypt. Mahmoud is just one of a number of bloggers from across the Egyptian political spectrum arrested by the government of Hosni Mubarak.
More attention to the case came after questions about equal treatment of bloggers were raised by Marc Lynch at Abu Aardvark in mid-April, and then picked up by Ethan Zuckerman in My heart’s in Accra. In a post about “selective outrage,” Lynch questioned why he hadn’t seen Western bloggers and media pay as much attention to Islamist bloggers like Moneim who were arrested as to imprisoned liberal bloggers. “The issue,” Lynch wrote, “is the persecution of youthful bloggers for their free expression of ideas and political activism” regardless of their political beliefs.
As Zuckerman points out, Moneim was active in the past supporting the rights, and protesting the arrests of, bloggers much more liberal than he is. He writes that the Muslim Brotherhood blogger has appeared with a liberal blogger “to highlight the problems of police brutality against activists in Egypt, and the two share a deep passion for the way technology can help enable social change.” (A point also made in this minute-long YouTube video.)
Their point is that when Western bloggers only support activists whose views line up with their views, it reinforces the belief in the Arab world that democracy is only meant for the people who agree with a Western view of freedom.
Gary McGath, however, writes at The Blog of M’gath that Zuckerman misses the point. “There’s no hypocrisy in agreeing that all bloggers have rights, but being selective about which ones deserve attention,” he writes.
Here is more information on the campaign by bloggers in the Middle East, and increasingly in the West, to free Abdel Moneim Mahmoud.
Love to hear what you folks think about this one.