A British-Iranian woman, Roya Saberi Negad Nobakht, has spent the last five months in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison for writing on Facebook that Iran’s government was “too Islamic.” Arrested during a visit to Iran to visit family members, she has been charged with “insulting Islamic sanctities.” British authorities are indignant about this affront to the freedom of speech – but given the prevailing eagerness to avoid insulting Islamic sanctities in the U.S. as well as Britain, it is hard to see why.
Nobakht’s husband, Daryoush Taghipoor is worried: “It’s a very bad situation. We don’t know what’s going on. Roya is not well at all. She has lost three stone and is frightened. She is scared that the government will kill her.”
According to the Independent:
“Mrs Nobakht’s situation came to light after her husband approached his friend and former employer Nasser Homayoun-Fekri, who also lives in Stockport, who wrote a letter to his local MP Andrew Stunell.”
“I must request, on humanitarian grounds as well as for the sake of justice, that you exert all possible pressure on the British Government to do all that is feasible for the release of this innocent British citizen. Especially considering that the Islamic Republic, as acknowledged by the United Nations… is one of the most notorious human rights abusers at all the stages of arrest, custody and trial.”
The British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is “urgently” examining Nobakht’s case, but there is little that it can do, as Britain does not have diplomatic relations with Iran.
Homayoun-Fekri explained to the Independent that Nobakht has apparently been charged with “an offence against attacking the holiness of Islam, which gives substance to [internet postings] being the reason.” Bahareh Davis of Amnesty International thundered:
“If Roya Saberi Nejad Nobakht has been held solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression she must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Yet the odd thing about this story is that while Amnesty International and the British government are offended that Roya Saberi Negad Nobakht could be executed in Iran for “insulting Islamic sanctities,” in Britain (and America as well) it is a de facto crime to insult Islamic sanctities. It won’t get you prison (yet), but it will get you public abuse, insults, the savaging of your reputation, and ostracism from circles of the politically correct and self-styled right-thinking folk. Prison is just the next step.
After all, the British government banned me from entering the country for saying that Islam is “a religion and is a belief system that mandates warfare against unbelievers for the purpose for establishing a societal model that is absolutely incompatible with Western society” – a manifestly true statement that is not controversial to anyone who has studied Islam. Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, Assistant Professor on the faculty of Shari’ah and Law of the International Islamic University in Islamabad, in his 1994 book The Methodology of Ijtihad quotes the twelfth century Maliki jurist Ibn Rushd: “Muslim jurists agreed that the purpose of fighting with the People of the Book…is one of two things: it is either their conversion to Islam or the payment of jizyah.” Nyazee concludes: “This leaves no doubt that the primary goal of the Muslim community, in the eyes of its jurists, is to spread the word of Allah through jihad, and the option of poll-tax [jizya] is to be exercised only after subjugation” of non-Muslims.
Just days before Pamela Geller and I were banned, the British government admitted Saudi Sheikh Mohammed al-Arefe. Al-Arefe has said:
“Devotion to jihad for the sake of Allah, and the desire to shed blood, to smash skulls, and to sever limbs for the sake of Allah and in defense of His religion, is, undoubtedly, an honor for the believer. Allah said that if a man fights the infidels, the infidels will be unable to prepare to fight.”
Al-Arefe said essentially what I said – that Islam mandates warfare against unbelievers. The principal difference, aside from the fact that al-Arefe put it much more graphically than I did, was that al-Arefe is for jihad violence against non-Muslims, and I am against it. The British government banned me, in other words, for insulting Islamic sanctities – for daring to oppose the Islamic supremacist project of subjugating the world under Islamic world.
So why is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office “urgently” investigating this case? To be consistent, it should commend the Iranian government for acting so swiftly against Nobakht’s offense to Islam, and initiate prosecutions in Britain itself against those who insult Islamic sanctities. To stand for the freedom of expression, including the freedom to say something that Islamic authorities might considering insulting to Islamic sanctities, in Iran while denying it at home is patently absurd.
If Sharia restrictions on speech that is insulting to Islam are good enough for Britain, then they’re good enough for Iran. Mark Stephenson, a man who ripped pages from a copy of the Qur’an and threw them onto the ground at a soccer match, was arrested and recently fined £235 for doing so. If Britons must therefore pay proper Sharia-dictated respect for the Qur’an or face monetary penalties, the British government has absolutely no leg to stand on in complaining about the Iranians’ prosecution of Roya Nobakht.
But if freedom of expression must be upheld in Iran, then why not in Britain as well? One hopes that the British government will soon recover its sanity and defend the freedom of expression everywhere, even at home – and even if “Islamic sanctities” are thereby offended.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, Did Muhammad Exist?, is now available.