November 2, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2619

Kuwaiti Liberal: Uncensored Internet Discourse May Lead to Assassination of Liberals

November 2, 2009
Kuwait, The Gulf | Special Dispatch No. 2619

Kuwaiti liberal columnist Ahmad Al-Saraf published an article criticizing Internet users for posting opinions on issues about which they are profoundly ignorant, and for using grossly inappropriate style and phraseology that reveal their low intellectual level. These postings, he contended, sometimes contain accusations of heresy and are dangerous because they lead to extreme actions. Al-Saraf called on website owners to monitor the postings submitted to them and to censor those that are potentially harmful.

Following are excerpts from the article: [1]

"On Friday night October 14, 1994, a young man attempted to stab Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz, who died three years ago at the age of 95. He stabbed him in the neck with a knife in an attempt to murder him. The investigation revealed that [the killer], who was very religious, did not understand [the gravity of] his action and had not read even a line [of the writings of] Naguib Mahfouz, a laureate of the Nobel Prize for literature. It transpired that [the killer] was an ignoramus, and that he had resolved to kill [Mahfouz] because he had heard that [Mahfouz] was a heretic.

"This episode came to my mind when I had requested… that some of my articles not be posted on a certain website, after learning that most of the users who post responses on it lack both knowledge and discernment… and that they derive [all] their information from hearsay. This is obvious from the number of spelling and grammar mistakes usually found in their postings, not to mention their [vulgar style]. Most of them - for reasons that I fail to understand - prefer to write under pseudonyms. Often they irresponsibly accuse [authors of the articles to which] they are responding of heresy, atheism, liberalism, and secularism. Many of them do not hesitate to offer advice or warnings against heresy [phrased] in ridiculous - albeit dangerous - ways, and [in doing so] reveal their obvious ignorance of the subject in question.

"I am not afraid of death, nor do I believe myself capable of averting [the retribution] for what I write. However, I do not wish that either I myself or any [other] free writer repeat the experience of the great author Naguib Mahfouz and of dozens other writers in our benighted world (not that I consider myself in any way close to their level).

"I say this seeing that several newspaper websites, as well as some electronic [journals] and blogs - especially in Kuwait - have become mouthpieces [for those who] spread hatred and accuse [others] of heresy, atheism, and abandoning religion. [Owners of these websites] do not realize that some of us still live according to the medieval mentality, inveigled by the prospect of earning [the favors of] black-eyed virgins [in Paradise] by [spilling] the blood of a writer or a philosopher.

"[It is not my purpose], either here or anywhere else, to call for curtailing freedom of speech or banning opinions; however, publications [must] be subject to [certain] rules and principles. I call on website owners, whose ranks I will join in near future, to undertake minimal censorship of responses [submitted to their sites] and to eliminate [those that are potentially] dangerous…"


[1] Al-Qabas (Kuwait), September 30, 2009.

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