Saturday, November 21, 2015

Free Speech Update: Poetic License

A Palestinian refugee and poet--an influential figure in the Middle Eastern art scene, Ashraf Fayadh, had been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia. This is a terrible disgrace. Here we have a person of great culture and learning, being sentenced with death for merely having an artistic discussion regarding the nature of his faith and the things he sees occurring. This is the nature of art--sensitive things are discussed. Art is our way, as artifact-using creatures, to reconcile our inside-lives with our external realities. Of course, this discussion is fraught--how could it not be?

The Saudi government has called this apostasy and basically, atheism. Many good character references insist he is no atheist. Of course, I would declaim--so what if he were?

But a figure like Ashraf Fayadh deserves long life, not death.

Also of interest, a software developer and open culture activist, Bassel Khartabil, has been sentenced to death in Syria by the Assad government. Of course a government that has used barrel bombs and chemical weapons on its own people shudder at transparency--they should! But they should not punish Khartabil for his honest efforts to make things clearer and more open, and let people understand the grave things that were occurring.

Also, I want to offer a meditation about Bangladesh. I've followed that story of extremist Islamist groups targeting bloggers and intellectuals. But I've not really looked at how the government responds to things: this story is a bit of a conflict. Social media sites were shut down there because the death sentences of former officials were just announced. As if news on Facebook might =violence. I don't know that it doesn't. But I still believe the censoriousness encouraged there is up to no good.

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