In between breathless condemnations of the Bush administration for stifling its free speech, endless court filings demanding classified and sensitive information from the military and intelligence agencies, and self-pitying media industry confabs bemoaning their hemorrhaging circulations (with the exception of the New York Post), my colleagues in the American media don't have much time to give thanks. Allow me:
Give thanks we don't live in Bangladesh, where you can be put on trial for writing columns supporting Israel and condemning Muslim violence. Just ask Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of Blitz, the largest tabloid English-language weekly in Bangladesh. He is currently facing a sedition trial for speaking out about the threats radical Islam poses in Bangladesh. He has been imprisoned, harassed, beaten and condemned. In court last week, his persecutors read these charges against him: "By praising the Jews and Christians, by attempting to travel to Israel and by predicting the so-called rise of Islamist militancy in the country and expressing such through writings inside the country and abroad, you have tried to damage the image and relations of Bangladesh with the outside world." For expressing these dissident opinions, he faces the possibility of execution.
Give thanks we don't live in Egypt, where bloggers have been detained by the government for criticizing Islam and exposing the apathy of Cairo police to sexual harassment of women. Just ask Abdel Karim Suliman Amer, 22, who was arrested earlier this month for "spreading information disruptive of public order," "incitement to hate Muslims" and "defaming the President of the Republic." Ask Rami Siyam, who blogs under the name of Ayyoub, and has been outspoken in his criticism of Egyptian brutality. He was detained this week along with three friends after leaving the house of a fellow blogger. His host, 24-year-old reformist Muslim Muhammad al-Sharqawi, had been detained by the Egyptian government this spring as he left a peaceful demonstration in Cairo where he had displayed a sign reading, "I want my rights." Sharqawi was beaten in prison over several weeks.
Give thanks we don't live in Sudan, where editors can lose their heads for not kowtowing to the government line. Ask the family of Mohammed Taha, editor in chief of the Sudanese private daily Al-Wifaq, who was found decapitated on a Khartoum street in September. He had been kidnapped by masked jihadi gunmen. What did Taha do that cost him his life? He insulted Islam, and dared to question Muslim history, the roots of Mohammed and other Muslims. Before his murder, his paper was shuttered for three months and he was hauled into court for "blasphemy."