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Criticizing Islam Becomes “Incitement to Imminent Violence”

998_largeYou could say it is a new form of Islamic honor crime: the silencing of those who dare besmirch the honor of Islam or its prophet, except the suppression now doesn’t come from Muslims only. These days, it’s the work of secular groups and governments: theaters in Germany, prominent publishers in England and the USA, of public prosecutors in the Netherlands, and most recently, of the Spanish Supreme court.

On May 30, that court ruled that Pakistani refugee Imran Firasat be stripped of his refugee status and deported. A Pakistani Muslim apostate, Firasat for years received death threats for marrying a non-Muslim, and for his outspoken criticism of Islam. In 2006, he received amnesty in Spain, a country where he was guaranteed the glorious freedoms unavailable to him in his homeland – freedoms enshrined in the foundations of any Western democracy: of religion, of opinion, and of speech.

But evidently he was not.

In 2012, Firasat produced a film critical of Islam in which he included footage of the attacks of 9/11, along with subsequent Islamic terrorist attacks in London and Madrid. According to a report from Gatestone Institute, “Shortly after Firasat’s film was released, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo and Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz initiated a process to review his refugee status.”

The reason? Garcia-Margallo had determined that Firasat’s film created a security risk from Muslims who might be angered by its content. (That those Muslims themselves posed a risk seems not to have entered the discussion.)

The Supreme Court’s decision, which affirms the ruling of a lower court, reflects the growing influence of an anti-blasphemy measure introduced to the United Nations in 2011 by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), comprised of the 56 Islamic states. That measure, Resolution 16/18, aims to limit – even criminalize – speech that can be understood as “discriminatory – which, as I wrote at the time, “involves the ‘defamation of religion’ – specifically that which can be viewed as ‘incitement to imminent violence.’”

But nearly anything can be called “incitement to imminent violence,” just as a woman walking the street without covering herself ankle to brow in a niqab could be called an “incitement to imminent rape.” Who decides what “incitement” and “imminent” are? Should we now arrest all non-veiled women in the West? Has Spain become another Sharia state? Has UN Resolution 16/18 marked the end of freedom as we know it in the West?

mouth-tape-manIn fact, as the Heritage Foundation recently reported, “throughout Europe, in Canada, and even in the United States, judicial systems in countries with large Muslim minorities are under pressure to adopt Sharia free speech restrictions. As a result, in many places, including Denmark, it is now a crime to say anything negative about Islam or the prophet Mohammed, regardless of whether such statements are factually true or not. The concept that even offensive speech is protected—so fundamental to the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment—is collapsing.”

Such attacks on democratic values – and their success in destroying them – are what have many experts, human rights groups, and politicians concerned about multiculturalism in the West. The idealized model – in which multiple cultures coexist peacefully within the same society – simply doesn’t work; the conflicts of values are too extreme.

True, it would be easy enough to wave off such incidents of censorship if they were limited to a mere one or two: but they aren’t. In 2010, for instance, Comedy Central pulled a “South Park” episode satirizing the violent reactions to depictions of the prophet Mohammad after a New York-based Islamic group, Revolution Muslim, threatened the show’s writers with death.

Four years prior, the Berlin-based Deutsche Oper cancelled its run of Mozart’s “Idomeneo,” in which the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammed are placed on chairs onstage. Explaining their decision, the organizers of the opera, which was first performed in 1781, cited warnings from the police that “the publicity surrounding the play would severely heighten the security risk.” (Neither Buddhist nor Christian groups, it should be noted, expressed any discomfort with the production.)

And there are others: the extended criminal case against Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders for his statements against Islam and his film “Fitna,” which, like Firasat’s, focused on a recent history of Islamic terrorism and various calls for violence written in the Quran; or (also in the Netherlands) the arrest, at the demand of a radical imam, of pseudonymous cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot for sketches deemed “insulting” to Muslims.

America has hardly been immune: in 2008, Random House publishers cancelled publication of The Jewel of Medina, described as “a fictional account of the life of Mohammed’s wife, Aisha.” A year later, Yale University Press deleted images from a book about the so-called “Danish Cartoons” – a series of cartoons that ran in Denmark’s Jyllands Post in 2005, citing fears of “insulting Muslims” and – there it is again – a risk to national security.

taped-mouthAnd earlier this month, the New York Times demanded that the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) revise an ad slated to run on the Gray Lady’s web site, claiming that there had been numerous complaints about a previously approved, full-page version of the ad in the print edition of the paper. Explained the IPT at the time, “The NYT ordered us to insert the word ‘radical’ before the term ‘Islamist groups,’ so that it read, ‘Stop the radical Islamist groups from undermining America’s security, liberty, and free speech.’”

That change was not as minor as it might at first seem, argued IPT Executive Director Steven Emerson in an editorial for the IPT website. It suggested that Islamist groups who are not radicalized – like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) – are not dangerous. And yet it is precisely these organizations worldwide which often exert the kind of pressure that results in censorship of speech, in the subjugation of the arts, in the compromise of truth.

Fortunately, America’s capitulation to pressure on this issue has been limited to the private sector. But Firasat’s story should be taken as a warning, as much for the U.S. as for Europe, of the damage Resolution 16/18 and similar efforts are having on our culture – and on our future.

One week after the Spanish court robbed Firasat of his democratic rights in a democratic country, President Barack Obama stood on the beaches of Normandy and spoke to those gathered to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day. On that day, he said, the world marked the moment of “commitment” to liberty and freedom; and since then, “From Western Europe to East; from South America to Southeast Asia; seventy years of democratic movements spread. Nations that once knew only the blinders of fear began to taste the blessings of freedom.

That would not have happened without the men who were willing to lay down their lives for people they’d never met, and ideals they couldn’t live without.”

Those ideals still remain our ideals. We still cannot live without them. We cannot give up the fight.



By: Abigail R. Esman

Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.


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1 Comment

  • I’m becoming very concerned about political correctness, particularly with regard to Islam and homosexuality, eroding freedom of speech. I used to write articles for Helium.com but I got thrown off, allegedly because I wrote two offensive articles. They didn’t say what was offensive about these articles (although I asked) and I’d posted the second one before they deleted the first one so I couldn’t act on the warning. I suspect the real reason was either that I wrote an article expressing my own Messianic (believing in Jesus, or rather Yeshuah, as the Messiah, son of God and incarnation of God but following Old Testament teachings that Christians normally ignore) religious views or wrote articles telling the truth about Islam. Last time I checked, all the articles on Helium.com about the Messianic movement were negative about it (so criticizing a religion isn’t wrong, according to them). Helium seems to have no way to appeal this. For all I know, this could have been a decision made by a fairly low ranking person who lied to their superiors about what happened. The Canadian Human rights agency only helps you with Canadian organizations (a serious weakness – particularly with organizations like Helium.com that operate internationally and so can adversely affect Canadian residents) and I’ve been unable to find out how to file human rights complaints against US organizations.

    I’ve also heard that Facebook is developing a disturbing tendency to censor anti-Islamic material. Zuckerberg himself is Jewish but apparently there are a number of Muslims in the organization. It could be that Muslims are getting into media organizations and then pressurizing the other employees to censor anti-Islamic material. This would seem to be a very disturbing strategy that needs to be countered.

    It seems to me that there are various problems resulting in freedom of speech (and freedom of religion) been eroded.

    Many people seem to roll over and agree to demands made by Muslims and homosexuals even if they violate normal principals (e.g. the martial arts instructor who made his class sexually segregated on the demand of a Muslim). It’s possible that at least some of these people were pressurized in ways that weren’t obvious.

    People who’s rights are infringed in this way, seldom seem to fight it. Donald Sterling would seem to have a good case of his freedom of speech being infringed (what he said disgusted me) and plenty of money for a legal fight but he doesn’t seem to be bothering. When they do fight it, as in the case of a girl who complained about her martial arts class being sexually segregated, the powers that be seem to act as if Muslims and homosexuals are more equal than everybody else. On the Calgary CFCN news concerning Maurice Price, a lawyer was quoted as saying that gay rights trumps religion but he didn’t say why. In this martial arts case, it seems that religion, or at least Islam, trumps women’s rights. In fact judges often seem to act as if many laws have some “except Muslims” or “except Islam” clause in them (e.g. the principal of ignorance not being a defense doesn’t seem to apply to Muslims who didn’t know that rape was illegal).

    It’s probably often difficult to discover why things were done, as with my problem with Helium.com, particularly if the reasons were illegal.

    There seems to be a stubborn refusal of people in power to recognize that questionable behavior by Muslims often stem from Islamic doctrine (i.e. the Koran, ahadith and biographies of Mohammad) while this isn’t usually the case when followers of other religions do questionable things. (Also a Christian organization expelling somebody for living a gay lifestyle isn’t nearly as bad as a Muslim country executing people for being gay but the former gets more media coverage and angers most people more.) In fact the Koran is basically hate literature, which tells Muslims to persecute and kill “unbelievers” as well as being very sexist and homophobic.

    A lot of the time, one person or small organization will find themselves pitted against a large Muslim organization with lawyers experienced in “lawfair”. In some cases the Muslims get their lawyers paid for by the state while the infidel has to pay their own legal fees.

    I really think that it’s necessary to have an organization to protect freedom of speech, with a lot of financial support, people, political supporters and lawyers experienced in fighting “lawfair”. I believe a pro-freedom of speech organization would be much harder to oppose than an anti-Islamic one. I’m guessing if such an organization exists, it isn’t that large yet, as I haven’t heard of it. I can’t start such an organization myself as I have little money and no leadership skills.

    Does anybody know of such an organization or people who might be interested in forming one?

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