Robert Spencer: The UN’s Jihad Against Free Speech
Originally posted at Frontpage Magazine:
By Robert Spencer
In a crushing blow to the freedom of speech worldwide, the United Nations Human Rights Council last Thursday approved a resolution calling upon member states to provide legal “protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general.”
While the resolution speaks of religion in general, the proposal came from Pakistan and had the backing of the powerful 57-government Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the UN’s largest voting bloc – so it was clear that Islam was the only religion the drafters of the resolution had in mind. This is underscored by the fact that Muslim states have worked energetically to make “Islamophobia” the focus of Durban II — the UN’s upcoming second World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. A draft declaration declares that “defamation of Islam” should be a criminal offense, even when it takes place under the “pretext” of “freedom of expression, counter terrorism or national security.”
In other words, if the OIC and the drafters of the Durban declaration get their way, any honest examination of how jihadists use Islamic texts and teachings to make recruits will be illegal. So not only does this herald the death of free speech, but it also leaves us mute and defenseless before the advancing global jihad.
This has been a long time coming. The UNHRC resolution and the Durban II draft are part of an international agenda agreed upon at the March 2008 meeting in Senegal convened by the OIC. At that convocation the OIC developed what the Associated Press called “a battle plan” to defend Islam – but not from the terrorists who, as we hear all the time, have “hijacked” their religion. Rather, the OIC declared its intention to craft a “legal instrument” to fight against the threat to Islam they perceived “from political cartoonists and bigots.”
The OIC was referring, of course, to the “notorious” Danish cartoons of Muhammad that appeared in 2005, touching off riots and murders all over the Islamic world. “Muslims are being targeted by a campaign of defamation, denigration, stereotyping, intolerance and discrimination,” explained Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the OIC’s secretary general. The AP reported that OIC “delegates were given a voluminous report by the OIC that recorded anti-Islamic speech and actions from around the world. The report concludes that Islam is under attack and that a defense must be mounted.”
The offensive would take the form of a “legal instrument” that would criminalize what the OIC and other Islamic entities perceive as criticism of Islam. “Islamophobia,” Ihsanoglu declared, “cannot be dealt with only through cultural activities but (through) a robust political engagement.” This is a careful euphemism calling for restrictions on freedom of speech. Abdoulaye Wade, the President of Senegal and chairman of the OIC, made this point explicit: “I don’t think freedom of expression should mean freedom from blasphemy. There can be no freedom without limits.”
The OIC’s campaign against free speech met with its first big success at the UN Human Rights Council. In June 2008, Council President Doru-Romulus Costea explained that religious issues can be “very complex, very sensitive and very intense. . . . This council is not prepared to discuss religious matters in depth, consequently we should not do it.” Henceforth only religious scholars would be permitted to broach such sensitive issues.
“While Costea’s ban applies to all religions,” the AP explained, “it was prompted by Muslim countries complaining about references to Islam.” The ban came after a heated session in which David G. Littman, speaking for several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), denounced the practices of female genital mutilation (FGM), execution by stoning, and child marriage as sanctioned by Islamic law. Egypt, Pakistan, and Iran angrily protested, interrupting Littman over a dozen times and eventually forcing the proceedings to be suspended.
With council president Costea ultimately prohibiting all discussion of “religious issues” from council meetings, the Islamic delegates can rest assured that there will be no more discussion of the fact that Islamic theology provides the basis for human rights outrages ranging from female genital mutilation to stonings. Thus, an international body ostensibly dedicated to promoting human rights voluntarily renounced any study of one of the leading sources of international human rights violations.
Shortly after this incident, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of Organization of the Islamic Conference, declared victory in clearly supremacist terms: Muslims had dictated to the West the “red lines that should not be crossed,” and the West was complying. He said that OIC initiatives against “Islamophobia” had resulted in “convincing progress at all these levels mainly the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, and the UN General Assembly. The United Nations General Assembly adopted similar resolutions against the defamation of Islam.” He added: “In confronting the Danish cartoons and the Dutch film ‘Fitna’, we sent a clear message to the West regarding the red lines that should not be crossed. As we speak, the official West and its public opinion are all now well-aware of the sensitivities of these issues. They have also started to look seriously into the question of freedom of expression from the perspective of its inherent responsibility, which should not be overlooked.”
The attempt to compel Western states to ban insults to Islam is quickly picking up speed, and bodes ill for the ability of those states to defend themselves against the global jihad in all its forms – since Islamic supremacists and their allies routinely characterize all investigation of the Islamic roots of the jihadist agenda as “hate speech.”
This campaign represents the international dimension of the stealth jihad. It does not consist of attacking western countries with guns or bombs, or even threatening to do so. Instead, we’re pressured to accommodate Islam by placing the religion off-limits to critical discussion. It’s presented as an act of “tolerance,” but the deliberate result is the erosion of core Western concepts of free expression. Think about the extent to which that single value defines western civilization: for one thing, it is an indispensable foundation of the American Revolution and the American system of republican government. And we are surrendering it, gradually and voluntarily, to those who seek to impose on us a value system that elevates the sanctity of Islam over freedom.
In order to Islamicize the West, stealth jihadists need to convince us to relinquish our attachment to our traditional freedoms. One would have never thought that westerners would give up free speech of their own accord, but we are now in the process of carving out a major exception for Islam. Yet the freedom to criticize religion, of course, is the very cornerstone of the right to free expression. Once we surrender that right, can surrender of the freedom of religion be far behind?
Islam is a religion of peace, we are told. And anyone who argues otherwise better watch out – if the UN, with which Obama wants to work so closely, gets its way, he may soon face legal action.
The only victors can be the jihadists themselves: Western authorities, already mired in politically correct myopia, will grow even more afraid to speak openly about what they’re trying to do and what we can do to stop it. The losers can only be those who value freedom of speech and understand why it is so important in a genuinely pluralistic society. The UN measure moves the West one step closer to submitting to the hegemony of Islamic norms.
Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of eight books, eleven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs, is available now from Regnery Publishing.