On Sunday the New York Times reported that Egyptian protesters were demanding “freedom”—not freedom of expression, but rather freedom from insult.
It’s not as though they can’t take a joke—just not a joke about Mohammed. A protester in Syndey told The Australian: “The prophet is more beloved than my family, my wife, my mother and myself.”
Criticism—even in the form of insult or ridicule—is a vital component of change. Who are we Westerners to try to change a person’s degree of devotion to his or her god? But we do need to change the belief in the right to kill, harm, and oppress those who insult us and the countrymen of those who insult us—it’s a matter of survival.
So I asked a middle-east scholar what it would take to enlighten Muslims to the benefits of the “live and let live” philosophy. He said, “They’ve got to leave the Middle East.”
Fortunately, this no longer requires a mass exodus. It is easy to bring the mountain to Mohammed these days—through the Internet.
In a separate article on Sunday, the Times reported that Google did not pull down the film Innocence of Muslims, but restricted access to it in Libya and Egypt due to the delicacy of the situation and “out of respect for cultural norms.”
But the norms are what need to change and the best conduit of change is digital media. If Google wants to avoid this quandary in the future, it must play its part in bringing the mountain Mohammed—preserving the Internet as an open forum where beliefs are tried and challenged—and where minds can open up and grow. It’s a matter of survival.