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The Surprising Truth About Internet Censorship In the Middle East 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the just-as-bad dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Internet censorship is common in conservative majority-Muslim countries, but it may have more to do with politics and technology than with religion. I.e., Iran is not so different from Cuba and China. From the article: 'in an attempt to uncover the various reasons — and ways — that countries clamp down on Internet freedoms, the U.S.-based watchdog Freedom House investigated the issue in 47 nations and released a study of its findings this year. Employing a number of factors ranging from blogger arrests to politically motivated website blockades, the study ranked each country according to its degree of online freedom. And, as it happens, Islamic countries do not stand out for their degree of censorship.'"
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The Surprising Truth About Internet Censorship In the Middle East

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  • by wealthychef (584778) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @12:04PM (#41649785)
    This is a false dichotomy. The question is whether religion leads to oppressive politics and low technology, not whether oppressive politics are more correlated with oppression and low technology than religion.
    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @12:31PM (#41649977)

      The question is whether religion leads to oppressive politics and low technology

      I think the question is the other way around: do politicians seeking to push oppressive policies turn to religion as a way to rally supporters?

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @01:03PM (#41650171)

      This is a false dichotomy.

      Actually, there is one more dichotomy. To think that for Iran, religion is not a political issue is ludicrous, since the Supreme Leader of Iran is as much a political as a religious office. These two are very much intertwined. And even if they didn't consider the need for these measures primarily for religious reasons, given that religion is a political issue for them, they'd still suppress calls for more lenient religious regime precisely because it's a part of their political program.

      • (That should have been "one more false dichotomy", but I'm sure you got that.)
      • by fatphil (181876)
        I think the name of the country "The Islamic Republic of Iran" gives pretty strong clues that anything that is political is also religious.
    • by Jawnn (445279) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @01:17PM (#41650263)

      This is a false dichotomy. The question is whether religion leads to oppressive politics and low technology, not whether oppressive politics are more correlated with oppression and low technology than religion.

      I don't know that that's the question at all. It is folly to believe that any national body politic is driven by religion. To be sure, there's lots of posturing, but that's all about keeping the voters (Republican base) in line, or the various tribal factions (pick a Middle East country) for uniting in open revolt. Beyond that, the leaders don't give a shit about what god things when they're making policy. For all the stuff he got wrong, Karl Marx was dead on about religion being "the opiate of the people". Indeed, the much less seen quote is, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions." Clearly, Marx understood the cynicism with which powerful political people view religion. Would that more of the world's "oppressed creatures" woke the hell up and realized how much they've been manipulated through the use of religion. Without that tool, the world would be a very, very different place.

      • 'For all the stuff he got wrong, Karl Marx was dead on about religion being "the opiate of the people"'

        mabey in his day. I see it as the "crack coccaine"
    • by ilguido (1704434)
      But Iran (nor China for that matter) is not a low-technology country. At the Robocup, for example, they always had good scores, especially in the Robocup rescue contest. Embargoes harm their technology more than religion (to say the truth they're embargoed for that very purpose...). Curiously enough, none ever speaks about Saudi Arabia, that would be a much more fitting example.
    • by lilfields (961485) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @07:38PM (#41652903) Homepage
      Let me remind you that prior to the fall of Soviet Russia, religion was outlawed all together in -most- oppressive nations. I think religion is just a tool that politics uses to oppress, but it's not a necessary entity to oppression.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 14, 2012 @12:10PM (#41649827)

    That's not surprising at all. Almost nothing about the alleged "conflict" between these countries and "the West" have to do with religion and it has a lot to do with post-colonialism and the Cold War. It's just that on both "sides" many people like to spin the issues in the direction of religion. It's ridiculous enough to speak about "Islamic Countries" as if they were a homogenous force or fraction.

    Sorry for the many scare quotes but they are all appropriate in this case.

    • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @12:29PM (#41649961) Homepage
      Well, an Islamic-majority country can be called an Islamic country. Iran is more correctly known by its proper name, the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). Libya's draft constitution states in Part 1, Article 1: âoeIslam is the Religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).â In Egypt, Article 8 of the draft constitution states that only Islam, Christianity and Judaism are guaranteed freedom of worship and the right to build mosques, churches and temples.

      How about walking around in one of these countries and asking people if they live in an Islamic country? How about walking around in the souk, wearing a T-shirt with a crucifix or a Star of David on it? I bet you'd get an answer real fast, and it wouldn't have anything to do with colonialism or the Cold War.

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      The OIC [wikipedia.org] would disagree with your statements. Especially after a majority of members called for the death of a 14 year old girl.

  • by t4ng* (1092951) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @12:18PM (#41649877)
    According to report linked to in TFA, the US government has no internet surveillance and does not spread misinformation! Sounds like their report was censored!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      the US government does not criticize the US government

  • by anarkhos (209172) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @12:24PM (#41649927)

    What moron thought this was surprising? China doesn't censor internet for political reasons either, remember? It's due to porn and other moralizing.

  • I thought everyone realised that the conservative suppressive elements of a cuture are less to do with the religion itself but with the conservative suppressive people at the top.
  • its about power (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @12:38PM (#41650019)
    If a certain ideological view point holds power over the masses, usually through fear, those in power will use it to their advantage. This is true whether it is a political, moral, or ethical idea.
  • Islamic countries are asking for international censorship of the whole Internet. So let them block anything they don't like at home. But they should not be allowed to expand their censorship policies to the whole Internet.

  • Surprising? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sound+vision (884283) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @12:40PM (#41650033) Journal
    Oppressive regimes in the Middle East rank among the worst (but not particularly worse than) other oppressive regimes in other parts of the world? Is that a "surprising truth"? If anything this just confirms what we already knew - those in power there are interested singularly in that power, and Islam has just been a convenient way to justify it to their population. Not that Islam is conducive to free speech or any other advancement of the human species - but it's not the main reason these countries are censoring the internet.
  • Money, Religion, Politics, people seeking power or in position of power and enjoying it (even if they started "innocent") is the key. I would go one step further : they are only symptoms. The real reason is that some type of people seek power, and power structure (as aforementioned) self-promote such thinking. No religion, plutocraty, or political regime is exempt of it. The trick is thru law, civil protest, constitution and the various tools the common folk have, to LIMIT and keep in check those pwoers. Ev
    • by hazah (807503)
      Thank whatever god you wish that it still just takes one bullet to the head when things are bad enough. Who's head it'll be depends on the situation.
  • Where the obvious and un-newsworthy are posted with impunity. Please give me more stories with studies finding tv as a babysitter is bad, religions are oppressive or fanatical and governments only care about their own interests.

    With that out of the way, a fanatical religious leader who holds authority via his office over his people only leads to more extremes of the above mentioned.

  • [censorship] may have more to do with politics and technology than with religion

    There are only a few country where politics rule! Almost all of the world is ruled by religion!

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nomad-9 (1423689) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @03:01PM (#41651023)

      There are only a few country where politics rule! Almost all of the world is ruled by religion!

      No, most of the world is ruled by culture. The fact of the matter is that very little of religion's commandments are actually followed, whether we're considering Christians, Jews or Muslims.
      Having read all three books (Torah, Bible and Koran - what can I say, I like to read science fiction stories before going to sleep), I can tell you that they all (yes, all) condemn such things as stealing, killing etc.

      If religion was so powerful, there wouldn't be that much violation of its fundamentals, like stealing and killing. Religion is used as a means to not-so-religious ends, and that is because all three monotheist religions,are easy to misquote, misinterpret, and misuse.

      Getting rid of all religions could be A Good Thing...or not. Even if they went away, there would still be plain godless Ideology, which has been proven to be at least as effective in turning whole countries into shit for supposedly noble causes.

      • by aglider (2435074)
        Well, mine was (meant to be) irony.
        The real point is the heavily intentional confusion between "religion [wikipedia.org]" and "church" in the general sense of religion community (sorry, there's no suitable Wikipedia article for it).
        While the first one is actually philosophy, the second one is mankind in practice. So, getting rid of churches is very likely a good thing, getting rid of philosophy could not.
  • When you have a government stifling free speech and expression, a government that is not for the people by the people, than you have either a dictatorship(iran mullah, north korea jim "ding dong ill", etc..) or monarchy(saudi arabia). Theocracy is a another method used by dictators and monarchs who are really capitalist to control the people. Dictators and Monarchs have wealth and live a luxury life while the people live in shit. Castro lives like a king while the people live in poverty, who is the capit

  • Internet censorship is common in conservative majority-Muslim countries, but it may have more to do with politics and technology than with religion. I.e., Iran is not so different from Cuba and China.

    Not really the most fitting use for "I.e." It translates as "that is," so would make more sense to write it as:

    Internet censorship is common in conservative majority-Muslim countries, but Iran is not so different from Cuba and China - i.e., it may have more to do with politics and technology than with religion."

    From the article: 'n an attempt to uncover the various reasons

    "n an attempt"? That mistake leaps out of the page. I'd usually joke about editors not even reading submissions, but it's getting beyond a joke.

  • by Brannoncyll (894648) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @02:39PM (#41650813)
    They shut down websites because they go against the values of their leaders, we also shut down websites because they go against the values of our leaders, only in our case those values are measured in US dollars and the driving motivation is not a (perhaps misplaced) belief in a higher power but instead pure, unadulterated greed.
  • by nbauman (624611) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @03:34PM (#41651237) Homepage Journal

    Question:

    Do we really have more freedom in the U.S., or do we just permit freedom for ideas we believe in? Are we smug, hypocritical American exceptionalists?

    Javed Iqbal was sentenced to 5 1/2 years for offering Al Manar on his cable TV system.

    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2009/04/2009423233919457969.html [aljazeera.com]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Manar#Banning_of_broadcasts [wikipedia.org]

    Occupy Wall Street wasn't allowed to express its First Amendment rights to assembly.

    I'll take support for human rights whether it comes from the left or right. Freedom House seems to be the latter. I do wish they would show more concern about attacks on freedom of people like Javed Iqbal in their own backyard, but that may be an unreasonable request when you consider the source of their funds,

    Here's what Chomsky said about Freedom House. Fair?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_house#Criticism [wikipedia.org]

    Chomsky and Herman argue that the group's history has been characterized by excessively criticizing states opposed to US interests while being unduly sympathetic to those regimes supportive of US interests. The authors suggest this can be most notably seen by the way it perceived the US ally El Salvador in the early 1980s, a government that used the army for mass slaughter of the populace to intimidate them in the run-up to an "election", but Freedom House found these elections to be "admirable". Chomsky further claimed in 1988 that Freedom House "had interlocks with AIM, the World Anticommunist League [sic], Resistance International, and U.S. government bodies such as Radio Free Europe and the CIA, and has long served as a virtual propaganda arm of the (U.S) government and international right wing."

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Freedom House's board was filled with prominent neocons under Bush Jr: "neoconservatives such as Kenneth Adelman, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Otto Reich, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Samuel Huntington, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Malcolm Forbes Jr. on the board of trustees." Former CIA director & PNAC alumni James Woolsey under Bush Jr. was also a prominent player ( http://rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/Woolsey_James / http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._James_Woolsey,_Jr. )

      Now there's more neo-liberals & the

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominant_minority [wikipedia.org] prefer you to be poor/subservient/defenseless so that they can promote/protect their hegemony in the pretext of patriotism/democracy.

  • a muslim country? the EU raison d'état a polireligious thing and the echelon project an urban legend i guess. How better we are because ... they have a saying here : in the land of the blind, one-eye is king (roughly translated), they got lots of wisdom here but no one seems to get it
  • Middle East will witness https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perestroika [wikipedia.org]

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