When not watching Lowe’s ads on the popular reality show, Muslim parents are sure to hit the pause button for a quiet word with their children about expressing strident opinions online. And they won’t mean maybe, either, because sentencing for Mehanna is set for as soon as April 12, and he may never see the light of day again–he could be sentenced to life in prison. The message is unequivocal: You’d better watch your Muslim mouth.
Mehanna made no bones about watching jihadi videos and translating them for friends; no bones about lending CDs to people in the Boston area in order, as the prosecution asserted, to create like-minded youth; no bones about discussing with friends his views of suicide bombings, the killing of civilians, and dying on the battlefield in the name of Allah. He translated texts that were freely available online and looked for information there about the nineteen 9/11 hijackers too. He even inquired into how to transfer files from one computer to another, and how to keep those files from being hacked.
However unpopular those acts may be, civil libertarians say they fall well within the margins of First Amendment protection. They are bracing themselves for repeal, but their immediate concern is the ending of posse comitatus, a far more serious matter. If the president, a Constitutional scholar, signs the Senate-passed defense bill as is, then in the stroke of a pen he’ll have re-answered the age-old joke: “Is this a free country, or what?” The answer will be a resounding “or what,” but it’s no joke. Coming on the same week that the Bill of Rights had its 220th anniversary, you have to ask what’s more depleted these days—America’s outrage or its unkeen sense of irony?