#TwitterTheocracy: How Anti-Blasphemy Laws Are Tools of Oppression
Recently, the case of Meriam Ibrahim made international headlines. The story was that she, a pregnant Christian woman married to a Christian, was being accused of apostasy and sentenced to death for it. Some but not all of the articles about it mentioned the most troubling fact about the case: she is not even a apostate in that she was a Muslim and then defected from Islam. Instead, her absentee father was a Muslim and, by Sudanese law, this automatically makes her a Muslim, despite being raised a Christian by her Christian mother.
A case of a born and raised Christian being accused of apostasy from Islam and sentenced to death for it shows that anti-apostasy laws are a brutal tool that can be used to enforce tyranny on anyone, whether they are an apostate, a theist of another religion, or a non-apostate atheist.
The importance of the Internet in spreading the word among people of such atrocities, as well as in helping people in threatened minority groups to organize safely, cannot be overstated. After I deconverted from Islam but before I came out as an atheist, I myself found emotional support, practical advice, and intellectual solidarity online. Since then, I have found Ex-Muslims of North America through Facebook, a group I would have given anything for when I first left Islam. Recently, I joined a discussion among ex-Muslims on the Meriam Ibrahim case that was broadcast on the BBC; the reporter had found all of us participants via Twitter.
While Facebook is the primary space where EXMNA members to speak to each other with the understanding of privacy, Twitter provides a more open medium by which EXMNA as well as other ex-Muslim groups can communicate with a wider range of individuals, especially through the use of hashtags. Promoting concerns aside, ex-Muslims afraid to use Facebook due to privacy concerns can use Twitter under an alias and with an avatar more easily than on Facebook, which expects you to use a “real” name.
As per EXMNA’s press release, the importance of Twitter is currently being undermined:
Twitter has agreed to use its ‘Country Withheld Tool’ to block “blasphemous tweets” in Pakistan, thus becoming complicit in suppressing free speech, and in aiding Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Over the past month, Twitter accounts have been suspended and tweets have been blocked in Pakistan; a Twitter user has recently been jailed in Turkey for a “blasphemous” tweet. In Pakistan and other theocracy-based states, blasphemy laws are key tools used by those in power to actively persecute minorities.
Anti-blasphemy laws, like their anti-apostasy counterparts, are yet another way to suppress minority groups’ freedom of expression and punish those who express any views deviating from the mainstream. Show your support against Twitter’s complicity with persecution by signing the petition as well as tweeting using the hashtag #TwitterTheocracy today.