Et Tu Tunisia? 'Blasphemy' Punishment in Liberated Tunisia
On the heels of the three year prison sentence dispensed by an Egyptian court to a17 year-old Coptic Christian boy for allegedly publishing "blasphemous" cartoons on his Facebook page, comes this story from liberated Tunisia, home of the "Jasmine revolution" which inspired the Arab Spring.
As reported (4/5/12) by Al Arabiya, according to the Tunisian justice ministry, a Tunisian court has sentenced two young men, both in their late twenties, to seven years in prison for publishing caricatures of the Islam's prophet Muhammad. Ministry spokesman Chokri Nefti, noting that the sentence was handed down late last month, also stated
They were sentenced, one of them in absentia, to seven years in prison, for transgressing morality, defamation and disrupting public order.
One of the defendants, self-described atheist, Ghazi Beji, who wrote a book entitled, "The Illusion of Islam," released his work on the naïve assumption that the much ballyhooed Jasmine Revolution had actually established freedom of conscience in Tunisia.
After the Revolution, in March 2011, I said to myself Tunisia is a free and democratic country now and I should try to publish my book. I contacted several book publishers in Mahdia but they all refused to publish it. So I opted to upload it online.
A 27 year-old biotechnology engineer, Beji managed to flee Tunisia and is currently in Greece seeking asylum. The other defendant, Jaber Mejri, an English teacher, was less fortunate and remains in custody following his arrest by Tunisian police in early March.
Let us pray that Mr. Mejri will be spared the full draconian fury of Sharia-based "blasphemy" punishment, as applied before an mollifying influence of French colonial rule.
Below is an account of the plight of a Jewish blasphemer in late 19th century Tunis, prior to the establishment of the French Protectorate, when Islamic Sharia-based governance was applied without any Western influence, let alone hindrance. The source is Alexander A. Boddy's "To Kairwan the Holy-Scenes in Muhammedan Africa," London, 1885, p. 244. Sir Richard Wood was the British Consul-General in Tunis from 1855-1879. Kairwan (Kairouan), Tunisia (and its mosque), an early center of Islamic learning, are considered sacred to the Muslim umma.
Mr. Wood tells us of an event which happened more recently when he was Consul-General at Tunis. An unfortunate Israelite by name Samuel Sfez, being badly treated by Moslems, cursed their faith, and abused the Bey. Being dragged before the cadi, he was condemned to die by swallowing molten lead, which should be poured down his throat. On the 17th June, 1857, this was done. His head was severed from his body, and kicked through the city by the boys, and then smashed by the men with stones...