Muslim Hate of Fun

Egypt comedian found guilty of offending Islam

April 24, 2012

CAIRO (AP) ó An Egyptian court on Tuesday upheld a conviction against one of the Arab world's most famous comedians, sentencing him to jail for offending Islam in some of his most popular films.

The case against Adel Imam and others like it have raised concerns among some Egyptians that ultraconservative Muslims who made gains in recent elections after Hosni Mubarak's ouster last year are trying to foist their religious views on the entire country. Critics say the trend threatens to curb Egypt's vibrant film industry and freedom of speech.

Imam was sentenced to three months in jail and fined around $170 for insulting Islam in roles he played in movies such as "The Terrorist", in which he acted the role of a wanted terrorist who found refuge with a middle class, moderate family, and the film "Terrorism and Kabab. "

The actor was also found guilty for his 2007 role in "Morgan Ahmed Morgan," in which Imam played a corrupt businessman who tries to buy a university diploma. The film included a scene parodying bearded Muslim men wearing traditional Islamic clothing.

Author Alaa al-Aswany, whose best-seller "The Yacoubian Building" was turned into a film costarring Imam, said the court ruling sets Egypt back to the "darkness of the Middle Ages."

"This is an unimaginable crime of principle in developed nations," he said in remarks posted on his Twitter account Tuesday.

The case is one of many brought by conservative lawyers in recent months seeking to punish individuals they deem as having offended Islam. Earlier this year, two courts rejected blasphemy cases against Christian media mogul, Naguib Sawiris, after he relayed a cartoon online of Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnie in a face veil.

The cases highlight the newfound sense of empowerment among followers of the ultraconservative Salafi trend of Islam in Egypt after Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising. Their newly formed Al-Nour party won 25 percent of seats in parliament, emerging as the second most powerful group in Egypt after the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood.

The mere filing of such blasphemy cases by Salafi lawyers has raised concern among rights groups and liberals about attempts to curb freedom of speech.

Egyptian entertainment reporter Tarek el-Shinnawi said the case against Imam is a setback for Cairo's famed film industry, which has produced the region's most popular films.

"It will make any writer, director or actor think before considering the role of a Muslim figure," el-Shinnawi said.

Imam was initially found guilty in February in a case brought by an ultraconservative Islamist lawyer. He was given a retrial since he was first tried in absentia. He did not appear in court Tuesday but his lawyers did. Imam has the right to appeal.

Under Mubarak, government censors controlled what could be shown in theaters or filmed by major studios. The films Imam starred in were approved by the censors.

El-Shinnawi argued that a legally sound case would involve the writers and directors, and the censors who approved the movies, not just the star of the films.

Imam, 71, has acted in dozens of films in a career that spans nearly 50 years.

Long a beloved figured in Egypt, Imam lost popularity among Egyptian protesters for supporting Mubarak during last year's 18-day revolt.

In one of his most popular roles, Imam played an Arab dictator in a 1998 satirical play called el-Zaeem. The play has since been aired on satellite television across the Arab world, bypassing state censors and gaining popularity through its comedic take of a tyrannical figure.

Fear of Funning

October 12, 2005
The cheerless oppressors.

Now that the president has (finally) conceded that (most of) our enemies in the Middle East are actually fanatical Muslims, he should realize that his initial intuition about the war on terrorism ó that we are fighting tyrannical regimes and their murderous footsoldiers ó was correct. And this, in turn, should encourage him to unleash our greatest weapon: the people who live there.

The tyrannical Islamofascists obviously despise and dread their people; otherwise they wouldnít be constantly seeking new ways to make sure there is no independent thought and certainly no independent action. All those madrasas, for example, are extended experiments in what used to be called "rote learning." The children sit around and memorize the Koran and the sayings of the prophet, blessings be upon him. But, unlike the schools in the civilized world, nobody ever asks anybody else what he thinks about anything.

In a world like that, several things happen. Above all, creative activity ceases to exist, since culture depends on advancing knowledge and improving understanding. Neither of these interests the clerical fascists who rule the terror countries. They want good little Muslim androids, who will accept the preposterous belief that all knowledge was acquired several centuries ago and that manís only worthwhile intellectual activity is to imbibe that knowledge in order to recite it when called for.

The most devastating critique of such a system is laughter, which the leaders of the terror regimes can not and dare not tolerate. Laughter bespeaks fun, and fun is totally forbidden. Remember the Taliban, from whose caves Osama bin Laden and his merry band of killers emerged about ten years ago? They not only locked away all the women, they banned music. Some French film producer went all over Afghanistan, filming eerie landscapes featuring poles driven into the ground, wrapped with audio tape. The only sound was the rustling of the tape in the wind. This was the country in which Osama et al. found the perfect atmosphere for their preparations for the jihad.

In like manner, the Saudi religious police, a couple of years ago, refused to let female students escape from a burning building because they were improperly dressed. They burned to death. In like manner, the mullahs are increasing the power of the basij, their own religious police, to enforce the dress code on women and to prevent couples and groups from having fun. The tragicomic efforts of the terror masters to eliminate fun from public life tells us everything we need to know about the kind of world they will inflict on those whom they defeat in combat. If our reporters and editors had any real interest in giving their readers a full picture of the war in which we are engaged, there would be much more reporting on the relentless crackdown on fun. But they rarely give us the whole context, nor, unaccountably, does the Bush administration, which for the past several years has tiptoed delicately around the nature of most of the Islamic regimes. And so we have to rely on blogs and on such publications as MEMRI.

The October 7 MEMRI report entitled "Anti-Soccer Fatwas Led Saudi Soccer Players to Join the Jihad in Iraq" is a classic of the "you couldnít invent this sort of thing" sort. Even Charlie Chaplin couldnít have found anything at once so dreadful and so hilarious as the story told originally by the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan. It turns out that a "religious authority" by the name of Sheikh Abdallah Al-Najdi had issued a fatwa back in late August, warning the faithful that soccer was a creation of the infidel Christians and Jews, and was thus to be avoided, unless the rules were changed. It was not permissible to play for the fun of it, but only to harden the body in preparation for jihad. Al-Najdi then laid out the Islamic decalogue on soccer:

1. Eliminate the four lines defining the playing area;

2. Ban the use of language like "foul," "penalty kick," "corner kick," "goal," and "out of bounds." Anyone who says such things must be thrown out of the game and duly punished;

3. You canít stop playing just because you break your hand or foot. And no yellow or red card for anyone who does that to you. No way. You drag the opponent into a proper sharia court and testify against him;

4. Since the infidels have eleven players on a side, Muslims must have either more or less, but not that satanic number;

5. Proper dress codes must be enforced, no colorful shirts and shorts, and no numbers;

6. Remember that this is preparation for jihad, donít waste time celebrating a win;

7. Change the length of the game from the usual 45-minute halves;

8. In fact, no halves. Either play the whole game non-stop, or have three periods (remember that the infidels play two halves);

9. If the game is tied at the end of regulation, thatís it. No overtime, no penalty kicks;

10. No referee. Thatís obvious, since you canít talk about fouls, corner kicks, or any of the other things that referees decide;

11. No fans. If soccer is preparation for jihad, why would anyone watch? They should be getting ready for jihad themselves;

12. After the game, no comments about either the outcome or the merits of the players. You can talk about how your body feels (your muscles are stronger, so youíre going to do better when itís jihad time, etc.);

13. No cross bar on the net. Two poles will do just fine;

14. If anyone tries to hug a player who has scored, uh (canít say "goal"), inserted the ball between the posts, "you should spit in his face, punish him, and reprimand him, for what do joy, hugging and kissing have to do with sports?";

15. No substitutions.

You might think that this is so ridiculous that it was laughed out of civil society, but you would be wrong (and the society isnít civil, anyway). At least three members of the "Al Rashid" team set off for jihad after hearing the learned advice, and one of them, Majid Al Sawat, was only saved at the last minute in Baghdad when explosives failed to detonate in the truck he was driving. A well-known Tunisian who had played in the German first division, Nizar Trabelsi, was arrested before he could blow himself up. These were all men who had excelled at soccer, but were grimly convinced that it was sinful to enjoy themselves in athletics.

Itís an odd thing to believe, even for an Islamofascist. After all, Osama himself is said to have rooted for Arsenal when he lived in England, and Khomeini himself, than which nobody grimmer can be conceived, actually played the game. But times have changed, as the power of the clerical fascists has expanded over a new generation of believers.

Instead of poking fun at fools like Sheikh Al-Najdi, leading lights of Islam, like the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, piously reviewed the literature to argue that soccer ó as defined by the governing body, FIFA ó could indeed be played (and watched) by good Muslims. And of course the mufti called on the Saudi religious police to track down "those involved in the publishing of these fatwas" and drag them into a religious court for prosecution and punishment.

But that should not stop our leaders from calling on the people of the Middle East to rise up against their cheerless oppressors. All the while holding them up to ridicule. All in the name of fun.

ó Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.