Archive for free speech

Barth’s Notes: Hypocrisy from Thomas More Law Center on Kamal Saleem and Free Speech

Posted in Loon People with tags , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2012 by loonwatch

Kamal Saleem has his scared face on

Good piece by Richard Bartholomew on the manipulative tactics of the Thomas More Law Center and Kamal Saleem:

Hypocrisy from Thomas More Law Center on Kamal Saleem and Free Speech

by Richard Bartholomew

From Wood TV, 27 January:

ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) – Rep. Dave Agema told 24 Hour News 8 he thinks Allegan’s police chief overreacted when he shut down an event the representative and a self-proclaimed former terrorist were both speaking at.

Allegan City Police Chief Rick Hoyer told 24 Hour News 8, he didn’t find out there was a bounty on the head of Kamal Saleem, until his speech at Allegan High School was already underway.

…Hoyer said Commissioner [Willis] Sage actually walked up to one of his officers during the event and told him that Saleem had a $25 million dollar bounty. That officer, a sergeant on the force, checked out the information with Saleem’s body guard. When the armed body guard confirmed it, telling police that Islamic terrorists who follow the teaching of the Quran that have been directed to behead Saleem, that’s when Hoyer said they took action.

Hoyer perhaps did misjudge the situation – but he found himself himself having to make a immediate decision on a matter of public safety based on information given to him at the last moment. It appears that Saleem was a victim of his own self-publicity;  the obvious question is why, if the “$25 million” bounty really exists, Saleem is not under round-the-clock police guard, in the same way that Salman Rushdie was for many years.

The Thomas More Law Center has now put its own spin on the event in Allegan, as it announces a lawsuit:

Amid shouts of “What about free speech?” from the audience, the Allegan Police Department ordered the event shut-down.   School officials notified police that they had received a letter complaining about the event from Dawud Walid, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI).   The letter asked the school to disallow the event despite an existing contract.  CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism funding trial in U. S. history, U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation.

…TMLC’s federal lawsuit was brought on behalf of State Representative David Agema; a chapter leader of ACT! for America, Elizabeth Griffin; Allegan County Commissioner, Willis Sage; and Mark Gurley, one of the event sponsors.

In fact, the TMLC’s lawsuit stinks of bad faith – and here’s why:

193. Defendants’ pretextual claim that the free speech event needed to be shut down subverts the true cause for the closing of the free speech event: complying with the demands of  hecklers, evidenced by the letter of Defendants CAIR, People For the American Way, Walid, and Keegan, and valuing the heckler’s veto over Constitutional freedoms of Plaintiffs.

…225. Defendants CAIR, [Dawud] Walid, People For the American Way, and[Michael] Keegan intentionally interfered with the Contract by sending a letter to Defendant [Kevin] Harness requesting  that the School District breach its Contract with Plaintiffs.

226. Defendants CAIR, Walid, People For the American Way, and Keegan improperly interfered with the Contract.

First, there is no evidence that Hoyer acted on any “letter” that was sent to the School District – why would he? And if so, why would he have allowed the event to get underway in the first place? But more substantively, the TMLC is seeking to punish groups and individuals for daring to contact the School District with their concerns about Saleem. Neither CAIR nor PFAW had any decision-making power over whether the event went ahead – the only reason they are included in the lawsuit is because TMLC wishes to suppress free speech while pretending to uphold it. It’s a SLAPP, and utter humbug.

In fact, there are very good public interest reasons for interested parties and concerned individuals to have contacted the School District – and PFAW’s liberal political perspective or troubling allegations about some of CAIR’s associations are irrelevant. Saleem presents himself as an ex-terrorist turned Christian whistleblower, when in fact his back-story is extremely dubious, and his claim to be an expert on Islam cannot be taken seriously. A couple of weeks ago, for instance, he spoke a Christian Right/conservative conflab called The Awakening 2012; as Right Wing Watch has documented, he used the occasion (standing alongside Frank Gaffney) to allege that when Obama appears to pledge allegiance to the flag, he holds his hand in a special way which shows that in reality he is praying to Allah. Saleem also statedthat Roe vs Wade was part of a plot to establish shariah, and that plans to reform immigration law involves “sending money to Hamas” in order to import Muslims, with the result “this world will become past tense and one day we’ll be wearing ragheads”. Such extravagances speak for themselves – and demonstrate that Saleem’s presence degrades the dignity any educational setting.

In 2010, Saleem was debunked in a piece published in Books & Culture, a sister publication of the evangelical Christianity Today. According to the article’s author, Doug Howard:

I first encountered Kamal Saleem when he appeared at Calvin College in November 2007. A look at his website told me immediately that he was not who he said he was. The signature of his deception was his statement that “in my family was the Grand Wazir of Islam.” The term is ridiculous, a spurious title meant to mislead the innocent with an aura of authority.

…In The Blood of Lambs, Kamal Saleem writes, “I wanted to be like Bond.” In these pages he is Bond, James Bond, in size 6X. He gets those emphatic rivals, the PLO and the Muslim Brotherhood, both to recruit him. He recalls the intricate details of raids he carried out at age seven. Abu Jihad himself teaches him how to use an AK-47. He is shown off by Yasser Arafat as a model warrior. In Libya at age 14 he has Muammar Qaddafi gushing in gratitude. In Iraq, he waves to Saddam Hussein… Even if one were disposed to give these entertaining claims the benefit of the doubt, the book’s frequent mistakes give the reader pause. The Islamic umma does not mean one world government, and it is not “coming.” The PLO was a secular organization even though Yasser Arafat prayed and quoted the Qur’an.

Further details appear in a recent article in Mother Jones:

Saleem claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has put a $25 million bounty on his head, and that there have been attempts to earn it: After a 2007 event in Chino Hills, California, he writes in his book, he returned to his Holiday Inn to find his room ransacked and a band of dangerous Middle Easterners on his trail. Saleem describes calling the police to alert them to an assassination attempt. Local law enforcement, however, has no record of any such incident.

The same article contains a quote from someone who knew Saleem in the USA before he was famous:

…[Wally] Winter recalls his former roommate as a devout Muslim whose yarns often lapsed into wild exaggeration. “He could sell swampland in Louisiana,” Winter says. “I really do not believe the story about the terrorism. I totally believe that he would make up something like that to either make money or become well known.”

The City of Allegan, meanwhile, has issued a statement, as reported by MLive:

Attorney Scott Smith, representing Allegan, said in a statement that the city has not been served with the lawsuit, but he reviewed it this morning. It names the city, police chief, police officers, school officials and two advocacy groups as defendants.

…”This lawsuit is disappointing in many ways,” Smith wrote. “It is based on conjecture, logical fallacies, and, more disappointingly, factual inaccuracies. The plaintiffs did not even spell one of the defendants’ names correctly. It is disappointing that the lawsuit wrongly imputes motives to the police officers.”

He said he was disappointed that the lawsuit was filed. He said the city cooperated with Thomas More as it sought information about the Jan. 26 event.

“The City quickly provided the requested information and offered to address any other questions or concerns the Thomas More Law Center or its client might have. But, without any further inquiries or any attempts to address the plaintiffs’ concerns, a lawsuit was filed. If, as seems to be alleged by the complaint, its sole purpose is to ensure the defendants respect First Amendment rights, a lawsuit was unnecessary.”

UPDATE: I note that one of the the plaintiffs, Mark Gurley, is a pastor (at the Healing Rooms of Grand Rapids), and he is a member Rick Joyner’s Christian Right group theOak Initiative. He’s also a birther.

‘The Jews have stopped the billboard’ – American Atheists’ Leader Complains that ‘God is a myth’ ad near Hasidic Neighbourhood has Been Blocked

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by loonwatch

Bob Pitt of Islamophobia-Watch rightly questions whether Islamophobes who allied themselves with American Atheists over the Zombie Muhammad issue will now cry that Jews are attacking freedom of speech and expression, as they surely would if Muslims had stopped the billboard:

(via. Islamophobia-Watch)

‘The Jews have stopped the billboard’ – American Atheists’ Leader Complains that ‘God is a myth’ ad near Hasidic Neighbourhood has Been Blocked

by Bob Pitt

This time atheists found themselves answering to a higher power – a picky landlord. A Southside loft owner refused to allow a billboard questioning Judaism to be installed atop his S. Fifth Street building on Tuesday amid outrage in Williamsburg’s Hasidic community.

National atheist leaders tried to take out a month-long ad adjacent to Williamsburg’s Orthodox Jewish stronghold with text in English and Hebrew reading: “You know it’s a myth … and you have a choice.” But at the last minute, landlord Kenny Stier refused to allow workers from the advertising company Clear Channel into his building, according to American Atheists president David Silverman.

Silverman claims powerful neighborhood rabbis convinced Stier to block the non-believing billboard and called the religious leaders and the landlord “anti-atheist bigots”. “The Jews have stopped the billboard,” said Silverman. “It’s really ugly bigotry. As a former Jew, it’s repugnant to see Jews act like this.”

Several Hasidic leaders said they had nothing to do with the landlord’s decision to block the billboard, and Stier declined to comment. “I don’t want to get involved in this,” he said.

Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg) said the billboard showed a “severe lack of sensitivity” at a time when Brooklyn should be striving to have open conversations about religion.

“Even if we were to ignore the antagonistic placement of this billboard near the Williamsburg Bridge, the content of the message is conveyed in a disrespectful manner,” said Levin. “This does not appear to be a genuine attempt to engage in a dialogue, but is here merely to insult the beliefs of this community.”

The Brooklyn Paper, 6 March 2012

We look forward to Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who have been enthusiastically supporting American Atheists over the “Zombie Muhammad” controversy, joining Silverman in condemning this development as an outrageous attack on freedom of expression – as they undoubtedly would if it had occurred in a Muslim neighbourhood. But don’t hold your breath.

The Politics of Provocation: What the Firebombing of Charlie Hebdo Magazine Means

Posted in Feature, Loon Violence, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2011 by loonwatch

We refrained from commenting on the controversy surrounding the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for several reasons. First, before the firebombing it was quite clear that the piece and the accompanying front cover cartoon of Prophet Muhammad saying “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing” while distasteful and stupid to many, was protected and legitimate under free speech.

The cartoon itself however did have elements of Islamophobia, just take a look at it:

You have the cartoonish hook-nosed-goofy-smirking-Ayrab-Mooslim with some weird looking turban on his head.

Charlie Hebdo knew what it was doing, they wished to provoke, they created a buzz and got world-wide media attention for their magazine which had little following outside of France.

A proper response by those offended or upset would have been to peacefully protest, or to satirize the Charlie Hebdo publication, or to do as most have done and simply ignore it.

Alas, some idiot firebombed the Charlie Hebdo offices. Who did it, we don’t know yet, but in the media the presumption is it’s a Muslim. According to reports,

A police official cited a witness saying that someone was seen throwing two firebombs at the building.

Muslims under the spotlight again because of some lone-wolf’s actions have universally condemned the firebombing.

No one has claimed responsibility but let’s assume this “someone” is a pissed off French Muslim for now, that would make it 1 guy out of 5 million French Muslims responding to the magazine with violence. Not really the expected conflagration of riots, embassy burnings, deadly protests, etc. that the Islamophobesphere hoped for.

Let’s be real, the Islamophobes want another Danish Cartoon controversy so they can gloat and further their ideology of excluding Muslims from Western society. That’s what they wished for after Geert Wilders released the movie Fitna, and they failed. It’s what they wished for during the tempest-in-a-teapot South Park controversy, and they failed.

It is also important to once again note the double standards involved. It isn’t as if Islam or Muslims have a monopoly over violence against perceived offenses to sacred subjects. The website What If They Were Muslim makes that much clear! It wasn’t hard to find this story, from France itself about Christians destroying a piece of artwork they found offensive:

April 20, 2011

ANDRES Serrano’s Piss Christ has been destroyed by Christians who broke into a French gallery and slashed the photograph after weeks of protests.

The New York photographer’s controversial work shows a small crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist’s urine.

It outraged the US religious right in 1987, when it was first shown. It was vandalised in Melbourne in 1997, and neo-Nazis ransacked a Swedish show by the artist in 2007.

Why wasn’t the above, as serious a story as the firebombing of Charlie Hebdo, treated the same way in the media? Why do we not hear about the incompatibility of Christianity and modernity? Why do we not hear cries for limiting the practice of Christianity in the West? Why do we not hear pundits and intellectuals pontificating about the unique inability of Christianity to take satire and ridicule? Because Christianity is not the “other.”

Lastly, the untold context in which this French saga must be viewed is the souring relations between the French establishment and their Muslim minority. Islam has been “otherized” in France and across Europe, just as it has in the States, but in France it is taken to the next level.

In the past few years, anti-Muslim bigotry has risen to epidemic proportions. The hijab was banned from public schools, the face veil has been banned altogether, and after a surge in popular support for Marine Le Pen’s anti-Muslim nationalist party, Sarkozy and co. instituted an unprecedented “national dialgoue” on Islam.

According to a recent report Islamophobia is rapidly on the increase in France as it is elsewhere in Europe, and just today we have news of another arson attack on a French Mosque by an anti-Muslim group called Lucky Escapes:

Paris – A mosque in eastern France was damaged after unknown attackers set fire to the building using a burning rubbish bin early Thursday, France 3 television reported.

The head of the mosque in Montbeliard, located about 170 kilometres south of Strasbourg, near the German border, discovered the fire when he arrived to open the building for morning prayers, the report said.

One wall was badly damaged. The attack on the mosque is the second in a month, according to France 3.

A group calling itself Les Echappees Belles (The Lucky Escapes) claimed responsibility for the incident in tracts left near the mosque. The group – believed to be a group of women loosely influenced by right-wing extremists, according to France 3 – had claimed responsibility for setting fire to the mosque’s van in October.

All this of course in no way justifies the bombing of Charlie Hebdo. However, it provides much needed perspective on the politics of provocation as well as to the deep double standards not only inherent in the biased Islamophobesphere but also in the uncritical media.

Muslim Students Convicted of Being Mean to Israeli Ambassador

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2011 by loonwatch

Muslim Students Convicted of Being Mean to Israeli Ambassador

(Gawker)

Last year, when Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren announced his intention to speak at the University of California at Irvine, some members of the school’s Muslim Students Union plotted to inform Oren of their feelings about some of Israel’s policies. They used their voices to do so. This is illegal!

Today 10 members of the so-called “Irvine 11″ (charges against one of the original eleven students were dropped) were convicted on misdemeanor charges of disrupting a meeting and conspiracy to disrupt a meeting in a Santa Ana, Calif., court. Here’s what they did, which is a crime:

In February 2010, as Oren began to speak about the U.S.-Israeli relationship at a campus speech, the students rose one-by-one to object to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. One shouted, “Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech!” As the offender was removed from the audience, a designated compatriot shouted, “You, sir, are an accomplice to genocide!” And so on. According to an attorney for one of the students, the longest of the interruptions lasted roughly 8 seconds, and the total amount of time taken up by their outbursts—combined—was roughly one minute.

That’s one minute too long when you’re talking about Muslim students interrupting the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. to inform him that some people think his country’s policies are unjust, which is illegal, so don’t do it.

The DOJ’s escalating criminalization of speech

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2011 by loonwatch

BY GLENN GREENWALD

Over the past several years, the Justice Department has increasingly attempted to criminalize what is clearly protected political speech by prosecuting numerous individuals (Muslims, needless to say) for disseminating political views the government dislikes or considers threatening.  The latest episode emerged on Friday, when the FBI announced the arrest and indictment of Jubair Ahmad, a 24-year-old Pakistani legal resident living in Virginia, charged with “providing material support” to a designated Terrorist organization (Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT)).

What is the “material support” he allegedly gave?  He produced and uploaded a 5-minute video to YouTube featuring photographs of U.S. abuses in Abu Ghraib, video of armored trucks exploding after being hit by IEDs, prayer messages about “jihad” from LeT’s leader, and — according to the FBI’s Affidavit – “a number of terrorist logos.”  That, in turn, led the FBI agent who signed the affidavit to assert that ”based on [his] training and experience, it is evident that the video . . . is designed as propaganda to develop support for LeT and to recruit jihadists to LeT.”  The FBI also claims Ahmad spoke with the son of an LeT leader about the contents of the video and had attended an LeT camp when he was a teenager in Pakistan.  For the act of uploading that single YouTube video (and for denying that he did so when asked by the FBI agents who came to his home to interrogate him), he faces 23 years in prison.

Let’s be very clear about the key point: the Constitution — specifically the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment — prohibits the U.S. Government from punishing someone for the political views they express, even if those views include the advocacy of violence against the U.S. and its leaders.  One can dislike this legal fact.  One can wish it were different.  But it is the clear and unambiguous law, and has been since the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1969 decision inBrandenburg v. Ohio, which overturned the criminal conviction of a Ku Klux Klan leader who had publicly threatened violence against political officials in a speech.

In doing so, the Brandenberg Court struck down as unconstitutional an Ohio statute (under which the KKK leader was prosecuted) that made it a crime to “advocate . . . the duty, necessity, or propriety of crime, sabotage, violence, or unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform.”  Such advocacy — please read the part in bold — cannot be a crime because it is protected by the First Amendment.  The crux of the Court’s holding: ”the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force“ (emphasis added; for more on the First Amendment law protecting this right to advocate violence, see my discussion here).

To put this less abstractly, and as I’ve noted before, a person has — and should and must have — the absolute free speech right to advocate ideas such as this:

For decades, the U.S. Government has been engaging in violence and otherwise interfering in the Muslim world. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslim men, women and children have died as a result. There is no end in sight to this American assault on the Muslim world and those of its client states. Therefore, it is not only the right, but the duty, of Muslims to engage in violence against Americans as a means of self-defense and to deter further violence against Muslims. That is the only available means for fighting back against the world’s greatest military superpower. The only alternative is continuing passive submission to this onslaught of violence aimed at Muslims.

One may find that idea objectionable or even repellent, but does anyone believe that someone should be prosecuted for writing that paragraph?  Anyone who would favor prosecution for that doesn’t understand or believe in the Constitution, as those ideas are pure political speech protected by the First Amendment, every bit as much as: the climate crisis now justifies violent attacks on polluting corporations; or capitalism is so destructive that the use of force in service of a Communist Revolution is compelled; or “if our President, our Congress, our Supreme Court, continues to suppress the white, Caucasian race, it’s possible that there might have to be some revengeance taken” (Brandenberg); or such is the tyranny of the Crown that taking up arms against it is not merely a right but the duty of all American patriots (The American Revolution).  The Jerusalem Post justfired one of its columnists, a Jewish leftist who wrote that Palestinian violence against Israel is ”justified” because they have the “right to resist” the occupation; is he guilty of a crime of materially supporting Terrorism?  Should Ward Churchill, widely accused of having justified the 9/11 attack (or Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who did the same) have been indicted?

Judging from the description of Ahmad’s video in the FBI Affidavit (Ahmad’s YouTube account has been removed), the video in question does not go nearly as far as the clearly protected views referenced in the prior paragraph, as it does not explicitly advocate violence at all; indeed, it appears not to advocate that anyone do anything.  Rather, the FBI believes it is evocative of such advocacy (“designed as propaganda to develop support for LeT”), which makes this prosecution even more troubling.  Apparently, if you string together video and photographs (or words) in a certain way as to make the DOJ think that you’re implicitly trying to “develop support” for a Terrorist group — based on the political ideas you’re expressing — you risk decades of imprisonment.  Is it possible to render the ostensible right of “free speech” more illusory than this?

This case is not an aberration; as indicated, prosecuting Muslims for pure political speech is an increasing weapon of the DOJ.  In July, former Obama OLC official Marty Lederman analyzed the indictment of a 22-year-old former Penn State student for — in the FBI’s words – “repeatedly using the Internet to promote violent jihad against Americans” by posting comments on a “jihadist” Internet forum including “a comment online that praised the [October, 2010] shootings” at the Pentagon and Marine Corps Museum and ”a number of postings encouraging attacks within the United States.”  He also posted links to a bomb-making manual.

Regarding the part of the indictment based on “encouraging violent attacks,” Lederman — who, remember, was an Obama DOJ lawyer until very recently — wrote: it “does not at first glance appear to be different from the sort of advocacy of unlawful conduct that is entitled to substantial First Amendment protection under the Brandenburg line of cases.”  As for linking to bomb-making materials, Lederman wrote: ”the First Amendment generally protects the publication of publicly available information, even where there is a chance or a likelihood that one or more readers may put such information to dangerous, unlawful use.”  Lederman’s discussion of the law and its applicability to that prosecution contains some caveats (and also raises some other barriers to these kinds of prosecutions), but he is clear that the aspect of the indictment based on the alleged advocacy and encouragement of violence in the name of jihad “would appear to be very vulnerable to a First Amendment challenge.”  That’s government-lawyer-ese for: this prosecution is attempting to criminalize free political speech.

Perhaps the most extreme example of this trend is the fact that a Pakistani man in New York was prosecuted and then sentenced to almost six years in prison for doing nothing more than including a Hezbollah news channel in the package of cable channels he offered for sale to consumers in Brooklyn.  On some perverse level, though, all of these individuals are lucky that they are being merely prosecuted rather than targeted with due-process-free assassination.  As I documented last month, that is what is being done to U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki due — overwhelmingly if not exclusively — to the U.S. Government’s fear of his purely political views.

If the First Amendment was designed to do anything, it was designed to prevent the government from imprisoning people — or killing them — because of the political ideas they promote.  Yet that is clearly what the Obama administration is doing with increasing frequency and aggression.

There is one last point that bears emphasis here.  Numerous prominent politicians from both political parties — Michael Mukasey, Howard Dean, Wes Clark, Tom Ridge, Ed Rendell, Fran Townsend, Rudy Giuliani, and many others — have not only been enthusiasticaly promoting andadvocating on behalf of a designated terrorist organization (MEK of Iran), but they have been receiving substantial amounts of cash from that Terrorist group as they do so.  There is only one list of “designated Terrorist organizations” under the law, and MEK is every bit as much on that list as LeT or Al Qaeda are.  Yet you will never, ever see those individuals being indicted by the Obama DOJ for their far more extensive — and paid – involvement with MEK than, for instance, Ahmad has with LeT.  That’s because: (1) the criminal law does not apply to politically powerful elites, only to ordinary citizens and residents (indeed, many of those MEK-shilling politicians cheer on broad and harsh application of the “material support” statute when applied to others), and (2) MEK is now devoted to fighting against a government disliked by the U.S. (Iran), so they’ve become (like Saddam Hussein when fighting Iran and bin Laden when fighting the Soviet Union) the Good Terrorists whom the U.S. likes and supports.

Nonetheless, MEK remains on the list of the designated Terrorist groups, and lending them material support — which certainly includes paid shilling for them — is every bit as criminal (at least) as the behavior in the above-discussed indictments.  As usual, though, “Terrorism” means nothing other than what the U.S. Government wants it to mean at any given moment.  The evisceration of the rule of law evidenced by this disparate treatment is as odious as the First Amendment assault itself.

(source: Salon)

Wilders Acquittal Strains Netherlands

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2011 by loonwatch
Geert Wilders

This article is not about the validity of the Dutch law regarding hate speech, but about the consistency of the rule of law as well as its implications for Dutch society.

Wilders Acquittal Strains Netherlands

By Cas Mudde for openDemocracy

The acquittal of Dutch politician Geert Wilders on 22 June 2011 on charges of “inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims” is a political victory for Wilders, a legal travesty, and a missed opportunity for Dutch democracy. Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV) are known around the world for their Islamophobic propaganda. A random selection of his Islamophobia includes statements such as “Islam is a fascist ideology”; “Mohammed was a paedophile”; and “Islam and freedom, Islam and democracy are not compatible”. He has also warned of a “tsunami” of Muslim immigrants and compared the Qur’an to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

A glance at the declarations of Wilders and his party leaves no reasonable doubt that Islamophobia is at the core of his program. Wilders may have changed his opinion on various issues, most notably non-Muslim immigrants and the welfare state, but on one point he has never wavered: his struggle against the alleged “Islamisication” of the Netherlands, Europe, and even the world. For example, at a speech on 12 May 2011 at the Cornerstone Church in Tennessee, he said:

“My friends, I am sorry. I am here today with an unpleasant message. I am here with a warning. I am here with a battle-cry: ‘Wake up, Christians of Tennessee. Islam is at your gate.’ Do not make the mistake which Europe made. Do not allow Islam to gain a foothold here.”

While I am not a lawyer, I cannot see how the Amsterdam court can come to theconclusion that Wilders did not – according to Dutch law and precedence – “incite hatred and discrimination” against Muslims. The emphasis is important: for the Netherlands has – since the case of the Centrumpartij(Centre Party / CP) of Hans Janmaat (1934-2002) in the early 1980s – long experience of charging political parties and politicians under anti-discrimination legislation.

Since that time, several parties and politicians whose public statements have been far less consistent and far-reaching than those of Wilders have been convicted of incitement to racial hatred. For example, Janmaat was given a suspended sentence of two months’ imprisonment and a fine of 7,500 guilders (c 3,400 euro) in 1997 for declaring at a demonstration that “as soon as we have the opportunity and power, we will abolish the multicultural society” – a statement that Wilders regularly makes. In fact, a Dutch court even found that the slogan “Full is Full” – used in the 1990s by the CP, and its successor the Centrumdemocraten (Centre Democrats / CD) – constituted incitement to racial hatred. Today, that statement would be almost uncontroversial.

The contrast between Janmaat’s conviction and Wilders’s acquittal reflects an important development in Dutch politics and society. While Wilders’s Islamophobic comments are objectively harsher than Janmaat’s xenophobic equivalents of the 1990s, they are also much more accepted in contemporary Dutch society. This is not necessarily to say that the Dutch population has become more xenophobic over the past generation. What has happened, rather, is that the taboo on expressing xenophobia in public has been broken, particularly regarding Islam and Muslims (see “The intolerance of the tolerant”, 20 October 2010). It was, incidentally, the earlier flamboyant populist Pim Fortuyn (1948-2002) rather than Janmaat or Wilders who was the agent of that change.

In consequence, politicians such as Wilders can gain much more electoral support than Janmaat ever could, which gives them real political power. And there is no doubt that Wilders’s political power has played a major role in the court’s decision. After all, it is much easier to convict the leader of a marginal and ostracized party like the CD than a figure like Wilders, the leader of the third-largest party in the parliament and a “support-party” of the current government (see “ The Geert Wilders enigma“, 23 June 2010).

A political failure

But a political victory is not automatically a democratic victory. In fact, I would argue that the acquittal of Geert Wilders is both a defeat of and a lost opportunity for Dutch democracy. Don’t misunderstand: I am a long-term opponent of the Netherlands’ anti-discrimination laws, I support absolute freedom of speech; and I believe that a democratic state should not limit or regulate speech, particularly in politics.

That said, a liberal democracy cannot function without the rule of law; and an essential aspect of this is equality before the law. Clearly, however, this is not the case in the Netherlands, where for decades people have been treated differently with regard to anti-discrimination laws (for example, in the 1990s the powerful conservative politicianFrits Bolkestein was not even indicted, far less convicted, for statements very similar to those of Janmaat).

To be fair, in acquitting Wilders the Amsterdam court has undoubtedly taken the changed public discourse on immigrants into account. But this does not get to the heart of the problem, which is notjudicial but political. The Amsterdam court found itself trapped by history; it was asked to enforce a law inherited from the past for which there no longer exists majority political and public support. Its acquittal has taken the lint out of the powder-keg of anti-discrimination legislation. It is now up to the politicians – not judges – to bring social values and laws back into harmony.

If Wilders had been convicted, a political crisis was inevitable: how then, after all, could the Dutch government rely on the support of a party of a convicted “anti-democratic” politician? A combination of the ensuing public outcry and sheer political necessity would have forced parliament to amend the legislation by bringing it more into accord with the public view. Now, Wilders might continue at times to raise the issue, even if mainly to portray himself as a near-martyr in order to generate political support; but the political elite will resume ignoring the topic while trying to regulate who is indicted or not (and, in the few cases that this fails, to try and influence who is convicted or not).

This outcome continues a policy of legal insecurity that undermines the rule of law in the Netherlands. It is therefore high time that Dutch politicians update the anti-discrimination laws in accordance with their own and contemporary Dutch society’s preferences

$5 million lawsuit targets Jimmy Carter for ‘attacking Israel’

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2011 by loonwatch

Is this Freedom of Speech? What if Muslims were suing for “misleading” statements about Islam, you can be sure that the Islamophobes would be in a tail-spin.

$5 million lawsuit targets Jimmy Carter for ‘attacking Israel’

WASHINGTON – Former President Jimmy Carter has become the target of a class action lawsuit over ostensibly mean things he said about Israel in his best-selling 2006 book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

The lawsuit, filed in New York by an Israeli firm, alleges that the book “contained numerous false and knowingly misleading statements intended to promote the author’s agenda of anti-Israel propaganda and to deceive the reading public instead of presenting accurate information as advertised.”

The five American plaintiffs, two of whom are dual citizens of the US and Israel, seek $5 million in damages over the book (which is being sold for less than $10 on Amazon) on the basis that its criticisms of Israel violated consumer protection safeguards.

The plaintiffs alleged in a press release that the 39th US president and Nobel Peace Prize winner “violated the law and, thus, harmed those who purchased the book” by unfairly “attacking Israel.”

Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said her clients’ lawsuit “will expose all the falsehoods and misrepresentations in Carter’s book and prove that his hatred of Israel has led him to commit this fraud on the public.”

Publishing company Simon & Schuster, which is also targeted in the lawsuit, dismissed it as a frivolous act and a “chilling attack on free speech that we intend to defend vigorously.”

“This lawsuit is frivolous, without merit, and is a transparent attempt by the plaintiffs, despite their contentions, to punish the author, a Nobel Peace prize winner and world-renowned statesmen, and his publisher, for writing and publishing a book with which the plaintiffs simply disagree,” Simon & Schuster spokesman Adam Rothberg told the Washington Post.

A copy of the complaint can be viewed here.

[h/t Matt Yglesias]