Tag Archives: human rights

Via Kaveh Mousavi:

A blogger found guilty of insulting the Prophet Mohammad in his postings on Facebook has been sentenced to death. An informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the blogger, Soheil Arabi, will be able to appeal the decision until September 20, 2014.

Agents from the Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Sarallah Base arrested Soheil Arabi, 30, and his wife in November 2013. Arabi’s wife was released a few hours later, but he was kept in solitary confinement for two months inside IRGC’s Ward 2-A at Evin Prison, before he was transferred to Evin’s General Ward 350. Branch 76 of the Tehran Criminal Court, under Judge Khorasani, found Arabi guilty of “sabb al-nabi” (insulting the Prophet), on August 30, 2014.


“Soheil had eight Facebook pages under different names, and he was charged with insulting the Imams and the Prophet because of the contents of those pages. He has accepted his charges, but throughout the trial, he stated that he wrote the material without thinking and in poor psychological condition,” the source told the Campaign.

(Source: International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran)

Kaveh Mousavi added:

I think it’s more likely that they will not execute him. But please share this widely, if you have a blog, blog about it: let it become major news. Maybe the international pressure of public opinion will save this man.


A young man holding a piece of paper which reads: I am proud to be an atheis.

From Maryam Nazmazie:

Since 22 year old Imad Iddine Habib founded the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco (the first public atheist organisation in a country with Islam as the state religion), he has received numerous threats.

Morocco’s High Council of Ulemas (the highest government religious institution headed by the King) issued a fatwa decreeing the death penalty for Moroccans who leave Islam. Currently, under Morocco’s penal code, those who “impede or prevent worship” face imprisonment and fines.

The threats continue to escalate. Recently, Imad’s father has been interrogated by the secret service. He was told to tell Imad to stop his activities and that this would be the “last warning before they react”. Imad’s registered address has also been raided by security forces.

There is also a page in support of Imad at the website of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain where you can add your name in support. There will be a day of solidarity with Imad on May 15th.

When tackling a thorny issue in which well-meaning people with whom I tend to agree broadly are in disagreement with one another and I find myself being pulled in opposing directions by compelling arguments, I often begin by trying to establish some sort of very basic background or component ideas. Before tackling some of the thornier specific ideas related to freedom of speech as it relates to the internet, I wish to review some notion related to freedom of speech more generally.

A stained glass window featuring the image of a young woman.Freedom of speech is broadly assumed to be a good thing these days, as is demonstrated in its inclusion in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 reads, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” This document was adopted in the wake of the atrocities of the Second World War.

However, freedom of expression, as a positive good, is of relatively recent vintage. Its existence as a “universal” right was spread by the “Declaration of the Rights of Man” and its appearance in that document can be credited to the philosophers of the Enlightenment.

Our current notions of human rights can be traced through the Enlightenment back to the Protestant Reformation.

The first entry in The Guardian’s “Timeline: A History of Freedom of Speech” in which freedom of speech seems to be broadly advocated for the public is a quotation from Erasmus, the sixteenth century “Prince of the Humanists”. In Education of a Christian Prince he wrote, “In a free state, tongues too should be free.”

Erasmus’ close contemporary Machiavelli famously also wrote a book of advice for a young ruler. Importantly, unlike Erasmus, Machiavelli decoupled the proper exercise of political power from traditional morality and virtue.

In 1517, a year after Erasmus wrote Education of a Christian Prince, Martin Luther famously posted his ninety-five thesis, leading to a break with the Roman Catholic Church. At first, the rights of the new Lutheran Church were asserted against those of the Roman Catholic Chuch, but eventually it became clear that even those individuals that had rejected the authority of Rome disagreed among themselves. The differing interpretations of scripture would lead to competing groups that Brad S. Gregory calls “moral communities.”

Radical Protestants, such as John Milton, insisted that religious belief should be left to the conscience of the individual. In the Areopagitica, he traces out the arguments which will recur in discussions of freedom of speech and expression.

According to Gregory,

Because individuals disagreed about the meaning of God’s word, individuals and not politically favored churches were and had to be the bearers of rights, beginning with the right to religious liberty

Gregory goes so far as to say that the medieval ethics based on virtue was “replaced” by ethics based on rights. The destruction caused by the wars that accompanied religious conflict, and the consequent political instability, needed a solution. Repression of religious minorities was not sustainable. Toleration was the solution and “the discourse of religious toleration was simultaneously a discourse of individual rights.”