Monday, June 20, 2016

The Impact of Islamic Fundamentalism on Free Speech

By Denis MacEoin

  • The 57-member-state Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have been working hard for years to render Islam the only religion, political system and ideology in the world that may not be questioned with impunity. They have tried -- and are in many respects succeeding -- to ring-fence Islam as a creed beyond criticism, while reserving for themselves the right to condemn Christians, Jews, Hindus, democrats, liberals, women and gays in often vile, even violent language. Should anyone say anything that seems to them disrespectful of their faith, he or she will at once be declared an "Islamophobe."
  • Like almost every world leader, Obama declares, with gross inaccuracy, that "Islam is a religion of peace". It is politically expedient to deny the very real connection to jihad violence in the Qur'an, the Traditions (ahadith), shari'a law, and the entire course of Islamic history. They do this partly for political reasons, but probably more out of fear of offending Muslims. We know only too well how angry many Muslims can become at even the lightest offence.
  • "If PEN as a free speech organization can't defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name. ... I hope nobody ever comes after them." – Salman Rushdie, on the PEN members who objected to giving its award to Charlie Hebdo, after 12 of its staff were murdered by jihadists.
  • The OIC succeeded in winning a UN Human Rights Council resolution that makes "defamation of religion" a crime. But the OIC knows full well that only Muslims are likely to use Western laws to deny free speech about their own faith. Last year, the US Congress introduced House Resolution 569, also purportedly intended to combat hate speech. It contains an oddity: it singles out Muslims for protection three times. It does not mention any other faith community.
Iran's then Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini put a cash bounty on the head of British novelist Salman Rushdie 27 years ago, because he deemed Rushdie's novel, The Satanic Verses, to be offensive. In February 2016, a group of Iranian media outlets added $600,000 to the cash reward.
One of the greatest achievements of the Enlightenment in Europe and the United States is the principle of free speech and reasoned criticism. Democracy is underpinned by it. Our courts and parliaments are built on it. Without it, scholars, journalists, and advocates would be trapped, as their ancestors had been, in a verbal prison. It is enshrined in the First Amendment to the US Constitution, in the words
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

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