These societies all but encourage their members to poke their noses into other individuals' business and to judge the morality of their behaviour. In most cases, it is the least educated and most backward who are most unrestrained in this respect.

Some see the reason for such people's brazen meddling in the fact that they interpret the Islamic doctrine of promoting virtue and preventing vice in the way described in the following hadith: "Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart – and that is the weakest of faith." Sadly, most meddlers do not ask themselves what qualifies them in particular to define vice.

A society's identity is not set in stone

Finally, members of conservative societies are constantly using the word "identity". They take it for granted that a society's identity is fixed and unalterable. As far as they are concerned, changing it in any way is tantamount to the ship going down, the implosion of the social structure, a decline in values.

Egyptian novelist Khaled al-Khamissi (photo: YouTube screenshot/France24)
Khaled al-Khamissi is a well-known Egyptian writer, author of several novels, university lecturer and cultural activist. In his novels "In the Taxi. On the Road in Cairo", "Noah's Ark" (both published in German translation) and "Shamandar", Khamissi dissects Egyptian society in the second half of the 20th century. His works have been translated into numerous languages. His first non-fictional work "2011" (title of the English translation) was published in 2014. His essays, published in Egypt and abroad, provide a comprehensive insight into his work as a political analyst and novelist

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With the rising strength of Islamist movements from the late 1970s onwards, meddling was no longer restricted to the prying of the omnipresent doorman into the changing lifestyle of Mr So-and-So in apartment X. It was at this stage that entire armies of lawyers with close ties to such movements began bringing charges against anyone who wrote anything that brushed them and their ilk up the wrong way.

In the 1990s, this mantle was increasingly assumed by squadrons of cyber soldiers who used the Internet to train users in repressive attitudes against any form of new ideas and to sound the attack on a love of liberty and creativity. It was around about this time that print media began introducing below-the-line comment functions on their websites.

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