“I have my freedom to say my views about things. That’s the law of the Cayman Islands.”
— Amjed Zureigat, AKA “The Jordanian”
We, and we suspect, many others, don’t often find ourselves nodding our heads to the utterances of the eminently outspoken Mr. Zureigat (who regular talk radio listeners will recognize as “The Jordanian”).
But when anybody defends their right to express their opinions, we take notice, listen carefully and almost always support them.
North Side MLA Ezzard Miller, who penned two letters to government officials accusing Mr. Zureigat of engaging in “subversive political activity” contrary to Cayman law, seems in need of elucidation of some fundamental underpinnings of his own country.
First, “subversive political activity,” which under the Immigration Law is punishable by revocation of Cayman residence, does not have a clear legal definition. However, in 1978 U.K. Home Secretary Merlyn Rees gave the following loose description: “Subversive activities are generally regarded as those which threaten the safety or well-being of the state, and which are intended to undermine or overthrow parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means.”
Now, nothing Mr. Zureigat has said or is accused of saying, to our knowledge, has ever come close to advocating for the overthrow of Cayman’s system of government. To the contrary, he is an ardent supporter of Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush and his Cayman Islands Democratic Party — and accordingly operates well within the bounds of Cayman’s political order and social discourse.
Put another way, Mr. Zureigat has called for neither “bloodshed” nor “revolution” — two dangerous phenomena to which Mr. Miller himself has publicly alluded.
Again, it is a rare occasion indeed when we are on the same side of an argument as Mr. Zureigat, and vice versa. Indeed, last summer when the government attempted to punish the Compass financially for an anti-corruption editorial we published, Mr. Zureigat’s voice was among the most strident and loudest in condemning the newspaper and its publisher personally.
Certainly we were less than pleased with his outbursts, but we never disputed his inalienable right to utter them.
The axiom bears repeating: Constitutional safeguards for free speech exist in order to protect unpopular speech. Speech that is inoffensive, reflects the thoughts of the majority or mirrors the talking points of the powerful does not require such protections.
The way we see it, when Mr. Miller accused Mr. Zureigat of breaking the law, he was engaging in bullying behavior that is unworthy of an elected official.
The purpose of Mr. Miller’s letters appears to have been to get Mr. Zureigat “kicked out” of the country. The letters were not isolated events but two data points amid the contentious relationship between Mr. Miller and Mr. Zureigat, which has included barbs and criticisms launched on the radio, as well as a very public confrontation in a parking lot involving Mr. Miller and East End MLA Arden McLean, on the one hand, and Mr. Zureigat on the other. The police were called to calm things down. No charges were filed.
Now we may not like a lot of what Mr. Zureigat says, and how he chooses to say it, but we can, and must, tolerate it.
What we cannot do as a free democratic society is attempt to stifle it or, worse, silence it. Such intolerance cannot be tolerated.