IN EUROPE, FREE SPEECH ENDS WHERE ISLAM BEGINS

IN EUROPE, FREE SPEECH ENDS WHERE ISLAM BEGINS

Now here’s the least funny and most Orwellian part: Few Europeans — few journalists, politicians, members of the self-proclaimed Human Rights community, Muslim organizations claiming to be moderate — have expressed outrage over this boot-stomping suppression of free speech in a city, country and continent that claim to value freedom and tolerance. Clifford D. May – sfluxe 

Freedom of Speech
So what’s going on in the world today?  It’s funny in an Orwellian way that in Europe there are now militant groups with such cutesy names as Sharia4Belgium and Sharia4Holland. Less funny, but perhaps more Orwellian: Last month, the European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) held an event in Amsterdam featuring two speakers who favor liberalizing Islam. More than 20 members of the pro-Sharia groups pushed their way in shouting “Allahu Akhbar!” They demanded the event be stopped, called the speakers apostates, spat on them, threw eggs at them and threatened to kill them. Now here’s the least funny and most Orwellian part: Few Europeans — few journalists, politicians, members of the self-proclaimed Human Rights community, Muslim organizations claiming to be moderate — have expressed outrage over this boot-stomping suppression of free speech in a city, country and continent that claim to value freedom and tolerance. Roberta Bonazzi, EFD’s executive director, vowed not to be silenced. “We are united and will continue to support inspirational Muslim reformers across Europe,” she said. Her speakers also kept a stiff upper lip. Canadian author Irshad Manji said that she and Dutch Parliamentarian Tofik Dibi had “refused to leave, even when police asked. We wouldn’t play on jihadi terms.” Dibi, of the Green-Left party, said “the disruption shows that even in the Netherlands it is necessary to continue the debate on reforming Islam.” Necessary, yes; safe, no. In Europe, increasingly, free speech ends where Islam, Islamism and even Islamic terrorism begin. Two months ago, the Paris offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo were firebombed and its staff targeted with death threats after publication of an issue “edited” by the Prophet Mohammad. In 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten published a dozen cartoons satirizing terrorism in the name of Islam. That led to protests, riots, death threats, an assassination plot and the bombing of the Danish embassy in Pakistan. All this continues a trend begun in 1989, when Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordered any Muslim willing and able to murder British author Salman Rushdie whose novel, “The Satanic Verses,” Khomeini deemed blasphemous. Rushdie has required bodyguards ever since. In any of the more than 50 states that hold membership in the Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC — formerly the Organization of the Islamic Conference) that probably would not have saved him. Last year, Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, defended a Christian woman sentenced to death for having said something some Muslims found offensive. One of Taseer’s bodyguards shot him 27 times. There is not a single OIC member state that seriously guarantees freedom of speech. Nevertheless, in association with the OIC, the U.S. State Department last month hosted, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended, a three-day, closed-door international conference in Washington on combating religious “intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization.” The conference reinforced the OIC tenet that all religions are equal — though one is more equal than others. OIC members are concerned only about the “defamation” of Islam and, evidently, they do not view militant Muslims attacking reformist Muslims as defaming their faith. Nina Shea, who serves on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, attended part of the conference and reported that it “immediately reignited OIC demands for the West to punish anti-Islamic speech.” The audience was reassured that “the Obama administration is working diligently to prosecute American Islamophobes and is transforming the U.S. Justice Department into the conscience of the nation, though it could no doubt learn a thing or two from the assembled delegates …” From which delegates exactly? The Saudis whose school textbooks describe Jews as apes and Christians as swine? Or those of the European Union which, in response to the violence incited over the Danish cartoons, has mandated religious hate-speech codes that shield Islamic militants but, as the attack against EFD’s speakers illustrates, do little to protect the rights of liberal Muslims, much less of non-Muslims? Will the day come when Europeans and Americans again stand up on their hind legs and defend their freedoms, values and traditions? Or have we effectively given up the fight in an attempt to appease such groups as the OIC and Sharia4Belgium? If only Orwell were still with us: I bet he’d have some pungent answers to these questions. (Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism. E-mail him at cliff(at)defenddemocracy.org)

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