A new report by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) shows that Arab intellectuals continue to come under fire from Islamists and repressive Arab regimes.
Muhammad Said Al-Ashmawi, an Egyptian author and judge, has been a target of Islamist threats since 1979 because of his interpretation of Quranic verses. In January 1980, Egyptian authorities assigned him police protection, only to cancel it in 2004 after Ashmawi delivered a speech in the United States about topics that included reform in Egypt.
After he sued, Egypt's Interior Ministry partially restored Ashmawi's police protection by putting him under what amounts to house arrest. Officials justified restrictions on his freedom of movement on grounds that if Ashmawi went out in public, he could be attacked, putting innocent bystanders in danger.
After Dr. Ahmad al-Baghdadi of Kuwait wrote that he would rather have his son study music than the Quran, he was sued by Islamists charging him with contempt for Islam. A circuit-level court dismissed the charges against Baghdadi, who teaches political science at Kuwait University. But an appeals court overturned the decision, and he was sentenced to three years on probation and fined $6,800. Al-Baghdadi announced he would stop writing in the Kuwaiti press and requested political asylum in a Western country.
Tunisian intellectual Lafif Lakhdar was accused by Islamists of writing a book that defamed the Prophet Muhammad. Demonstrations broke out against the book after the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan published one chapter. Lakhdar charged that the leader of the Tunisian Islamist movement, Sheikh Rashed Al- Ghannouchi, had posted the false accusation in an effort to incite Islamist extremists to kill him.
These intimidation campaigns reveal "the intellectual bankruptcy of the religious groups, and the cultural bankruptcy of the Arab regimes and of the Arab peoples," Baghdadi wrote. "By Allah, the West should not be condemned for thinking that every Muslim is a terrorist, when it sees all these shameful deeds and the Muslims remain as silent as the dead."