U.S. embassy in Cairo apologizes for "abuse of free speech" after protesters tear down American flag

A show of strength from Salafists on 9/11 to remind Americans who’s winning these days in the Middle East. The newsworthy part isn’t the protest — we already know what a mob can do to an embassy in Cairo — but the reaction from the embassy. When this tweet started circulating a few hours ago, I thought it might be a parody account. Afraid not. The official statement from the embassy website:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others

The money word there, of course, is “abuse.” If speech is illegitimate because it offends religious sensibilities, then we’re on the doorstep of yelling “blasphemy.” In practical effect, that’s what the embassy is pushing: There’s not a syllable wasted here on condemning the cretins who climbed the embassy walls and tore down the flag — on 9/11. The denunciation is reserved for the blasphemers, who in this case turn out to be Egyptian expats who made an amateur film about Mohammed that’s presumably being used by Islamist demagogues over there to whip up the crowd. Every now and then, the Organization of the Islamic Conference pushes a blasphemy resolution at the UN designed to carve out international exceptions to free speech laws for insults to religion, i.e. Islam. The statement from the embassy is precisely the mentality they’re trying to cultivate. All that’s missing is a call for criminal penalties, but that’s less important to the anti-blasphemy bloc than western officials groveling to their sensibilities. Mission accomplished.

Do note, this isn’t the only criticism of Islam that’s been suppressed today due to fears of violence. In the UK, a private screening of a new documentary on the subject was canceled due to threats. I wonder if The One will get so much as a single question about this, and what he’ll say in defense of the embassy’s reaction. The last time we went through the now familiar “insult to Islam inspires international incident” cycle, he begged Terry Jones publicly not to burn the Koran because doing so would endanger U.S. troops. That was clever insofar as it’s hard to resist an appeal to patriotism from the C-in-C but it has the same problem as the embassy statement — namely, placing the moral onus on the speaker not to speak rather than on the violent nut not to be nutty and violent. Is O going to phone the Egyptian expats and ask them to take up another hobby besides filmmaking? Curious to see how far this logic extends.

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David Strom 6:31 PM on October 05, 2022