Be Free, But Not Too Free

By way of judy b., a piece from The New Republic on the case of Jihad Momani. He’s one of two Jordanian newspaper editors jailed earlier this month for reprinting some of the Danish cartoons of Muhammad that have prompted the recent orgy of outrage across the Muslim world. As The New Republic recounts the case, Momani’s paper, al-Shihan, “published three of the Mohammed caricatures on the grounds that people should know what they were protesting about. The cartoons were accompanied by an editorial that pleaded, ‘Muslims of the world be reasonable,’ and asked, ‘What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?’ ”

Momani and an editor from another publication that also ran some of the caricatures were thrown in jail. Coincidentally, Jordan’s “liberal” potentate, King Abdullah, visited Bush at the White House just after the arrests. As TNR’s James Forsyth points out, the White House has been the source of some pretty heavy rhetoric the last couple of years on the transformative power of liberty and its institutions. Presented with a chance to speak up about a case in which the issue of freedom was a hard-edged reality instead of a soft-focus romance, Bush said nothing.

According to one press account, Momani and the second editor have been freed on bail. But charges under Jordan’s Press and Publication Law are still pending. PEN Center USA, the national chapter of the international group set up to defend writers facing official sanctions for their work, is conducting a letter-writing campaign on the editors’ behalf.

6 Replies to “Be Free, But Not Too Free”

  1. These guys be will targets in their own country. Jihadis, Islamists, what ever you want to call them will make sure of that. They do however point out a glaring problem in the Islamic regions of the world and are gutsy to do it in Jordan. As far as I am concerned, the guys that foment violence over a few op-ed cartoons but can’t worked up at the plight of Jill Carroll or applaud those who hack the head off another person (smile for the camera) with a bayonet are little more than savages. They can have Islam.
    King Abdullah is no doubt playing to the his own lumpen. He only need look at the results of the Palestinian elections to see which way the wind is blowing. It is a safe bet to toss a couple of muckrakers in jail to mollify the mob. He also has Iraq on his doorstep and is closely associated with the west, the US especially. As for our CEO (in DC) he is, as always, pathetic. Freedom of the press is something he sneers at. But that is only my opinion.

  2. This is to me the most confusing development in recent history. Free press pitted against religious tolerance and violence thrown into the mix. You don’t know where to look, what to believe. I move first against violence. But then the intolerance of (nearly all) editorial cartoons disturbs me. I’ve avoided them most of my life because I think the format is too limiting to express any opinion clearly without resorting to stereotypes. But a free press is more important to me than I can express. How did we get here?
    I didn’t know about what was going on with this editor in Jordan at the same time Bush appeared on television with King Abdullah. Thank you for posting this information. I agree an excellent opportunity to take a stand on something of importance was missed. Where does the president stand? Does he care at all?

  3. First I would like to say I support freedom of the press and I don’t think violence is a good thing. But I find the fact that Islam is once again being generalized as being the way Muslims act is not a good thinkg either.
    Having had my own intimate experience with Islam I think I understand more than most non-Muslims the potential for over-reaction within the Muslim community. But I think that there is too much of a generalization of the religion as being the source of the problem. I think the real problem is the largest portion of the planet (with something in common to unite–sort of–over) that has not experienced free government and in general has been treated pretty unfairly for the last century is Muslim. Why should Muslims be happy about a free press when it barely exists (if at all) in Muslim majority countries and in western countries they see it being used to denegrate the one person they see as being the pinnacle of their history. Historically Islamic societies have not always been so closed minded (I would argue that the writing of The Arabian Nights, not a very Muslim document, or the writings of Moses Maimondies show that there were other influences within Muslim society). If the majority of christian cultures were poor and had not experienced free government and media and the free media in other countries were lampooning Jesus it may be the same thing. I don’t think its a good idea to leave Islam to the fanatics as jb suggests. Instead maybe we should try to understand a little about why there is so much solidarity over one thing and not ignore requests to discuss the matter, as the head of Denmark did according to another article posted on this site.

  4. Well, Jesus gets lampooned up one side and down the other here and in other cultures. Nobody kills over that. Another thing that I find thoroughly disturbing is the level of Jew-hating and baiting that goes on in the Islamic nation(s). The money-grubbing, hooked-nosed “Elders of Zion” are well known throughout the Arab media. The level anti-Semitism in Islam these days would give Eichman some measure of solice even in his present environs, somewhere south of the lake of molten brimstone. And of course, there is always Israel to blame for all the ills of the world; and the Israelis are no angels, but at some point 1.2 billion Muslims (and a whole lot of millions of Christians) need to get a grip on reality and tell themselves that the world’s 14 million Jews aren’t responsible for how screwed-up their societies are, poor or otherwise. As to the lampooning the prophet. Well, I wouldn’t do it for the reasons people mention. That said, I will admit, whether witnessing the crimes of fundamentalist Islam or listening to the piddling drawl of our leader and his craven Christian cohorts I get the distinct sense I am seeing and hearing the most compelling arguments for being an atheist.

  5. Unless I am mistaken, wasn’t Stalin an “atheist.” Humans are twisted beings. Atheism doesn’t stop that. I think there are more people that religion does good for in the world. The nuts just get all the attention. Many would call me anti-semitic but I get pretty sick of the Israeli propganda of what needs to be done to keep it a Jewish-majority country, and I notice that even Jewish friends of mine in the past have been staunch supporters of Israel for no better reason than the muslims use to stand behind their “brethren.” If they are such a democracy, as lots of people say, then they shouldn’t keep going on about one group being the majority. It’s no better than saying the US should stay a white-majority country. Unless you buy into the Jewish theory that they can’t be safe anywhere else. The whole reason for the existence of Israel is based on scripture. So if Bush can’t use scripture to make law why should the world have used scripture to establish a country. In my opinion it is a double standard used because of WWII. And talking about hating, there’s plenty of that to go around in pretty much every country and religion (I have seen it often enough in Asia), it just comes out in more violent ways in poor parts of the world. If the tutsis were out to get America maybe we would be worrying about them. But instead Muslim fundamentalists feel like the west is the source of their problems so we go after them. I find it sad that people in the world would abandon God over the way people act “representing” God. Like I said above, it doesn’t take religion to be an “animal.” I am pretty emotional about the topic so hopefully I was a little coherent.

  6. Humans are twisted beings. Atheism doesn’t stop that. I think there are more people that religion does good for in the world. The nuts just get all the attention.

    Amen to that, Eamon.
    I think that people who can’t think for themselves are dangerous, whether they are believer or nonbelievers. Blind adhearance to any ideology, religious or otherwise, does nobody any good.

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