Archive for Freedom of Speech

How the Government Smeared Tarek Mehanna

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on April 14, 2012 by loonwatch

 

(updated below)

Tarek Mehanna, a twenty-nine year old American Muslim pharmacist, was sentenced a few days ago to 17.5 years of incarceration.  Much has been said in the mainstream media about this young man, but few people have taken the time to go through Mehanna’s statements over the years to understand his world view and ideology.

Fortunately, Mehanna has a digital footprint that goes back several years.  Long before he was arrested, Tarek Mehanna operated under the user name Abu Sabaya, posting on internet discussion forums and his own blog.  These postings are of critical (but overlooked) importance, because the government’s case rests on them.  After all, Mehanna was accused of “conspiring to support Al Qaeda” by “taking to the Internet to try to spread the terror group’s message.”

I have browsed Tarek Mehanna’s blog and internet postings, and my conclusion is that the government has smeared this young man in what can only be called defamation of the worst sort.  The three central lies levied against him include:

1) the claim that he justified (and called for) the killing of American civilians;

2) the claim that he plotted to “shoot[] people at a shopping mall.”

3) and the claim that he expressed support for Al-Qaeda, wanted to join Al-Qaeda, and/or was an Al-Qaeda operative.

Going through Mehanna’s statements over the years, which are preserved by the world wide web, I am highly skeptical of the government’s claims against him.  Not only did I not find any postings justifying or calling for the killing of American civilians, I found the exact opposite.  In 2008, long before he was arrested, Mehanna translated and published a fatwa (religious verdict) that categorically forbids the targeting and killing of civilians.

The ruling starts off by noting that Islam forbids punishing a person for the sins of another, and argues that the Prophet Muhammad forbade the targeting and killing of women and children.  It also specifically rejects the argument, raised by none other than Al-Qaeda and her supporters, that it is permitted to kill enemy civilians in retaliation when the enemy (i.e. America and Israel) kills Muslim civilians.  Mehanna’s translation then states that such “extremist” beliefs can neither be rationalized from a religious standpoint nor a military one.  It concludes by claiming that there is a unanimous consensus (ijma) among religious scholars with regard to this prohibition, which all Muslims must consider religiously binding.

Here are key parts of the translation, which Mehanna translated in full on his blog:

A Discussion Regarding the Targeting of Women and Children

“1 – The principles of the Shar’i texts indicate that a man is not to be taken to account for the sins of others, as in the Saying of Allah: {“…and none shall carry the burdens of another…”} [al-An’am; 16]

2 – The Shar’i texts have stringently forbidden targeting the children and women of the polytheists with any type of killing or fighting, no matter what the reasons and causes for doing so, as in the hadith reported by al-Bukhari and others, and narrated by Ibn ‘Umar, that a killed woman was found by the Prophet in one of the battles, and the Prophet forbade the killing of women and children.

And Handhalah said: “We went out for battle with the Messenger of Allah, and we came by a killed woman, and the people had gathered around her. They made way for the Prophet, who said: “This woman was not fighting amongst those who were fighting.” He then said to a man: “Go to Khalid bin al-Walid, and say to him that the Messenger of Allah orders you to say: ‘Do not kill a child, and do not kill the weak.’”“

So, his saying: ‘orders you’ confirms the clearcut prohibition of killing children, and his saying: ‘This woman was not fighting amongst those who were fighting’ is the understanding of opposites, meaning: if she had been fighting, and was amongst those who were fighting, it would be allowed to fight and kill her.

3 – Despite the numerous wars and battles that were fought by the Prophet, his Companions, the Tabi’in who followed them in good from the first three generations – whose virtue was borne witness to by the Prophet – and despite the many wrongdoings and oppressions that the Muslims of these blessed early generations faced, it is not known that either the Prophet, his Companions, or the Tabi’in ever intentionally killed the children or women of the polytheists!

4 – Children are not to be killed, because according to the Shari’ah, they are pure souls…

5 – The noble verse that was used as proof: {“…So, whoever transgresses against you, transgress in a similar manner against him…”} [al-Baqarah; 194] does not contain evidence for what it was being used for [by extremists]

…[I]t is not allowed to steal from someone simply because they stole from you, and it is not allowed to insult the father of someone simply because he insulted yours. And it is not allowed to respond to the one who violates your honor with false accusations and insults by doing the same to him, etc. If you were to do this, you would have exceeded your bounds, and would be considered a wrongdoer, and would have punished someone with the sins of someone else.

Likewise, it is not allowed to respond to one who has killed your child by killing his child. Rather, you are to kill the killer, because if you were to kill his child, you would have killed an innocent life based on the mistake of a completely different person, and this has nothing to do with the legislated form of revenge and retaliation. Rather, it is nothing but excessiveness and oppression! With this, you would have exceeded the limits in revenge and retaliation, and would end up punishing with more than you were punished with!

And there is not a single scholar who permits the killing of the children of a killer in retaliation for his own oppression and killing of the children of others. Rather, there is consensus that only the killer is to be killed.

6 – Regarding this statement that has been put forth [i.e. the extremist ruling permitting the killing of civilians] despite its strangeness and weakness: it is not from proper wisdom or the politics of the Shari’ah to act upon it in our times, or to circulate it. And this is for two reasons:

First: even if it had the Shar’i factors in place that would justify it, if this door were to be opened, the enemy – with its massive military equipment that the Muslims lack – is the one more capable of aggression, and is more capable of bringing down harm upon the Muslims, their children, and their women!

Second: the enemy possesses massive media influence that the Muslims lack…How would [the Muslim] reputation and image be in front of the public [if they killed women and children]? How would the people look at them and their religion? …

In the comments section, someone (let’s call him e-jihadi #1) protested the ruling by reproducing a hadith (Prophetic tradition) in which Muhammad supposedly permitted the killing of civilians.  Tarek Mehanna himself rebutted this argument, saying:

These ahadith are in regards to accidental deaths (i.e. collateral damage). This is quite different from deliberately targeting them, which is expressly forbidden in Islam.

When e-jihadi #2 expressed support for killing civilians, Mehanna not only rebuffed him but expressed frustration:

My friend, no matter how you try to justify it, the Prophet expressed in crystal clear terms that it is strictly forbidden to target women and children in war. This is not Abu Basir’s “unrestricted application,” and is not his opinion. This is a divinely revealed rule that originated from Allah and was relayed by His Messenger, and nobody’s opinion – Mujahid or no Mujahid – overrides that.

I don’t know why that is so difficult to understand…

Then, e-jihadi #1 came back to give another piece of evidence in support of his view, which Mehanna then negated.  Interestingly enough, e-jihadi #1 found himself properly refuted, and conceded the debate.

E-jihadi #3 stepped up to the plate by claiming that the translated fatwa “is just one opinion”, to which Mehanna concluded by saying: “Yes, it also happens to be the opinion of the Prophet.”

Reading Tarek Mehanna’s blog and internet posts, it becomes apparent that he considers these e-jihadis to be misguided hotheads.  Although in several posts he criticizes American foreign policy, he also spends considerable amount of ink refuting the hotheads he feels have gone “too far”.

The major sticking point between Tarek Mehanna and the hotheads is the principle of distinction, i.e. the targeting and killing of civilians.  Mehanna posts multiple translations from religious figures considered highly regarded in the “jihadi community” in order to bolster his viewpoint and also to undermine the hotheads.

For example, Mehanna translated an Arabic tract by a senior religious figure, who says the hotheads are “the ones whom I fear for the Jihad and the Mujahidin” because they are a “group that harms the Jihad and the Mujahidin, and severely damages the Jihadi manhaj [methodology].”  Their failing is that they support “every [religious] opinion–even if it is wrong–that leads to extremism, harshness, and the spilling of blood–even if that blood was forbidden [i.e. innocent civilians]!”  They end up “distort[ing] the manhaj [methodology] of Jihad, as well as the image that the Jihad must remain upon”, and “give others a very bad and inaccurate picture of Jihad and the Mujahidin!”

Mehanna’s frustration with the hotheads becomes apparent in another translation that impugns the “mistaken attitude held by some of the youth who carry zeal and enthusiasm for the affairs of Jihad…[and] out of emotion, fanaticism, and ignorance” they reject the clear statement of Islam forbidding those actions committed by “the people of the frontlines” (i.e. Al-Qaeda).

*  *  *  *  *

Based on his steadfast rejection of targeting civilians, it seems improbable to me that Tarek Mehanna ever considered shooting American civilians in a shopping mall.  Another translation Mehanna provided on his website gives one more reason to be doubtful of this dubious government claim; the fatwa reads:

If you are given a visa to any country in the world, it is not allowed for you to partake in any action that breaks its laws. This is not allowed, unless this would contradict something from Islam, such as the prayer, fasting, etc. It is not allowed for you to cheat them [non-Muslims] or take from their wealth. It is not allowed, for example, for you to take one of their daughters, and marry her without the permission of her father. It is not allowed for you to rip up a telephone bill. It is not allowed for you to harm the state, and it is not allowed for you to place a magnet on the electric meter of your home [to steal electricity]… As for coming to kill him [non-Muslim] while he is secure and under a pact of security [visa], this is not allowed.

What’s interesting is that the prosecution not only failed to convict Tarek Mehanna for planning a shopping mall shooting spree, but never even charged him with this.  This is something that Mehanna himself noted, saying in an interview:

You asked me to summarize my court experience, and I wish to conclude it by mentioning that it has been nearly a year since I was last arrested, two years since I was first arrested. I have read through countless court documents handed over by the government during the year that I’ve been sitting here in prison. And to this day—after all this time—I have yet to come across even a single shred of evidence whatsoever that even remotely relates to the supposed “shopping mall” plot that I was initially accused of (but until now have not even been charged with). Nothing at all—there’s simply no trace of it, as if the accusation itself never existed in the first place. I think that in and of itself summarizes my court experience.

Why did the government not pursue this charge?  Certainly, this would be Mehanna’s most egregious misdeed if it were true.  Yet, the accusation simply disappeared from existence.

One can only conclude that this was a baseless accusation, one that was so weak that there was not even enough evidence to charge him with it, let alone convict him of it.  Yet, very early on it was thrown into the mix of accusations against Tarek Mehanna in order to smear him, as well as to instill fear into a post-Columbine American public.

Shouldn’t the government be held to account for such dishonest tactics?

*  *  *  *  *

As for the third smear, i.e. his connection to Al-Qaeda, I can find no evidence from Tarek Mehanna’s digital record for this claim.  He has dozens upon dozens of blog posts and internet comments, but not a single time do I see an endorsement, either direct or indirect, of Al-Qaeda.  In fact, he does not seem to mention the group at all.  If he was lobbying on their behalf, I think Al-Qaeda should ask for its money back.

Bloomberg Business Weekly ran the blaring headline “Terror Defendant Mehanna Backed Bin Laden Online, Jury Told.”  Yet, I have not been able to locate any such statement by Mehanna.  If “Mehanna backed Bin Laden online”, then surely we should be able to retrieve such a statement, since, as you may well know, the internet never forgets.

Yes, it’s true that Tarek Mehanna supports jihad, but his own blog clarifies what he thinks the word means: “The Purpose of Jihad…is to repel the aggression of the aggressors against Islam and the Muslims”; “the goal of the Jihad in this religion is not simply to control people or bring them under the submission of others, nor is the goal death and destruction, nor is it oppression under the guise of justice”, but rather it is “the spreading of justice and mercy…”

During his trial, Tarek Mehanna rejected the claim that he supports Al-Qaeda or that he condones their terrorist tactics of targeting civilians.  The evidence, i.e. his internet postings from years prior, is consistent with this.  Mehanna does support the mujahideen (holy warriors), but by this, he does not seem to be referring to Al-Qaeda or terrorists.  Instead, he is using this epithet for (what he, and I would argue many people, consider to be) legitimate “freedom fighters” who are fighting American soldiers in the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan.  But, the government has purposefully made “anyone who resists the U.S. occupation” to be synonymous with “Al-Qaeda” and “terrorist”.

The translations (above) are mostly from a religious cleric named Abu Basir al-Tartusi, who resides in London.  Abu Basir has been a vocal critic of Western military occupations of Muslim lands, but he strongly condemned acts of terrorism like the 7/7 bombing in London.  Mehanna’s views seem in line with Abu Basir’s, not Bin Laden’s.

*  *  *  *  *

Something else that Tarek Mahanna’s internet postings reveal is a certain fascination with Muslim prisoners.  He had numerous posts about prominent figures in Islamic history who were unjustly jailed, such as Ibn Taymiyyah and Ahmed Ibn Hanbal.  Closer to home, Mehanna had written passionately and repeatedly about Aafia Siddiqui, a Muslim woman who is being held in an American prison.  Tarek Mehanna had organized a letter writing campaign to boost her spirits in prison, but now it seems that he himself has joined her behind bars.  In doing so, the United States government has not only fulfilled his desire to become a martyr, but proved that he was right: the U.S. does jail Muslims unjustly.

It is true that Tarek Mehanna’s views, as expressed on the internet over the years, reveal that he was a religious extremist in many ways (and certainly a hothead in his own right).  But, there does not seem to be any evidence from his internet record (which is on what basis he stands convicted) to prove that he supported terrorism.  Instead, he rejected terrorism.  His other views may well be offensive, but they are not illegal to hold, and are Constitutionally protected.

One of Mehanna’s most disturbing beliefs is his adherence to a “clash of civilizations” worldview, or at least its Muslim equivalent.  In this paradigm, the Muslim community will forever be under attack by the disbelievers, specifically the West.  Thus, there will exist a permanent state of animosity between the two sides.  In the end, it is the United States that has reinforced this belief in Tarek Mehanna (and countless other Muslims) more than any radical preacher could ever hope to do.

*  *  *  *  *

I strongly encourage readers to check out Glenn Greenwald’s piece on the topic, which includes a transcript of Tarek Mehanna’s sentencing statement.

Also read Carol Rose’s excellent article, It’s Official. There is a Muslim Exception to the First Amendment.

Update I:

A reader quipped:

So you folks know everything about Tarek Mehanna? Everything. How? “Because we read his blog.Yeah!!”

I did not claim to know everything about Tarek Mehanna. I simply went through his blog posts and internet comments, which are on what basis he was convicted for, i.e. online advocacy of terrorism.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

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)

Combating Religious Intolerance When Freedom of Speech Enables Hate Speech

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , on July 7, 2011 by loonwatch

We have been discussing this topic for a while now. We also addressed, Pamela Geller’s hate rallycancellation.

What must be affirmed is that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are compatible, and neither will be sacrificed to the bigots.

Combating Religious Intolerance When Freedom of Speech Enables Hate Speech

(Huffington Post) by John L. Esposito and Sheila B. Lalwani

Religious pluralism, versus the defamation of religion and freedom of speech have become an increasing source of conflict in international politics and interreligious relations. Preachers of hate and activists in America, Europe, and many Muslim countries are engaged in a culture war. Far right anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political leaders and parties warn of the Islamization of America and Europe to garner votes. The acquittal on June 22, 2011 of Dutch politician Geert Wilders on charges of “inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims,” is a political victory for Wilders but also a sign of the times, growing normalization of anti-Islam bashing in the West.

The OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference which represents some 57 countries) lobbied the United Nations for more than a decade to address this issue. Initially targeting Islamophobia, it broadened its request to a resolution on “defamation of religions” that would criminalize words and actions perceived as attacks against religion.

Opponents, in particular the U.S. and E.U., maintained that the resolution could also be used to restrict religious freedom and free speech, and foster religious intolerance and violence against religious minorities. Indeed, in recent years attacks against Christians and other religious minorities have risen in Egypt, Malaysia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan. These conflicts have varied from acts of discrimination to the bombing and burning of churches and murder.

Pakistan’s blasphemy law exemplifies the issue. In 2009 Asia Bibi, a Christian and 45-year-old mother of four was sentenced to death on charges of insulting Islam, a charge she strongly denied. The case sparked international outrage that was heightened in 2011 by the brutal assassination of Salman Taseer — the governor of Punjab and an outspoken critic of the blasphemy law, and the assassination of Pakistani Chief Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian and outspoken opponent of Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

The United Nations Human Rights Council recently ostensibly resolved the conflict over “Defamation of Religions.” After close discussions with the U.S. and E.U., Pakistan introduced a compromise resolution on behalf of the OIC, which addressed the concerns of both the OIC and those of member states and human rights organizations, including the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The “Combating Discrimination and Violence” compromise resolution affirms individual rights, including the freedoms of expression and religion that are part-and-parcel of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At the same time, the 47-member state body also called for strengthened international efforts to foster a global dialogue and the promotion of a culture of human rights, tolerance and mutual respect.

But will this U.N. resolution prove to be an effective tool in combating the rise of Islamophobia? A clear sign of the limits of the resolution can be seen in the stunning verdict in Geert Wilder’s acquittal. Wilders’ track record includes the charges that “Islam is a fascist ideology,” “Mohammed was a pedophile,” and “Islam and freedom, Islam and democracy are not compatible” and warnings of a “tsunami” of Muslim immigrants. Wilders’ “missionary” efforts have extended other parts of Europe to the US where his admirers refer to him as a “freedom fighter.” Plaintiffs had charged that Mr Wilders’ comments had incited hatred and led to a rise in discrimination and violence against Muslims. But Judge van Oosten ruled that although he found Wilders remarks “gross and denigrating”, they had not given rise to hatred. Spiegel Online’s headline of the acquittal read “Wilder’s Acquittal a ‘Slap in the Face for Muslims.’”

The exploitation of freedom of speech to promote religious intolerance emerged only days after the Wilders’ decision. Stop Islamisation of Europe (SIOE) and Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), a coalition of far right anti-Muslim European and American groups billing themselves as human rights organizations, had scheduled “United We Stand: First Transatlantic Anti-Islamization” in Strasbourg, France on July 2. On June 28, French and EU authorities’ cancelled the conference. In response, the Islamophobic cottage industry and their websites’ headlines blared: “Free in speech rally cancelled in Strasbourg over Muslim violence threats” and “Democracy Collapses in Europe: EU Cancels SIOA/SIOE Free Speech Rally.”

Freedom of speech is a precious right that must be guarded carefully. But what happens when that right is used to incite hatred and to feed religious intolerance, such as Islamophobia, that is spreading like a cancer across the United States and Europe? While some statements may not immediately be the direct cause of a specific act of violence, they spread seeds of intolerance and anger that lead to legitimizing and accepting acts of bigotry and hate, like the “Burn a Quran day” that took place in Florida, the desecration of mosques, physical attacks against Muslims including women and children. As a result, the public slowly becomes inured to Islamophobic actions and statements. At the same time, this ideology of hatred has a very real effect on the everyday life of Muslims and Arabs: issuing in verbal attacks from their community members, Islamophobic statements by political candidates, or law-enforcement policies that target Muslims and Arabs.

The issue of freedom of speech and the rights of hate groups is not new in American history. Even today, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic organizations are allowed to express their disdain for certain ethnic and religious groups, regardless of how distasteful their ideologies may be. However, their power to attack has greatly diminished and their words have become a social taboo in the public square because our country has created a social environment where racism and anti-Semitism are loudly condemned and discredited in public life and in media. Muslim Americans and Europeans are entitled to the same treatment, rights and protections.

Islamophobia and its impact, like racism and anti-Semitism, must be countered by creating a climate in which hate speech and discrimination in the public square are not tolerated even when bigots exploit freedom of speech. Today, one can engage in anti-Islam and anti-Muslim hate speech and threats in print, media, and protest rallies that promote a popular culture that paints the religion of Islam, not just terrorists, as a threat to America. These preachers of hate and Islamophobia must be rejected and marginalized. Their mission to polarize our society must not be allowed to threaten our belief that religious tolerance and free speech are indeed compatible.

Geert Wilders Opposes Cartoon About His Party

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2011 by loonwatch

I thought only the evil Mooslims were offended at cartoons?

Geert Wilders is upset that his party the (anti)Freedom party was accurately compared to the Nazis. He wants it to be removed. Hypocrisy-much?

While this is not a clear legal attempt by wily Wilders to ban a cartoon, he obviously wanted it censored and he is still an advocate of banning the Quran.

Disillusioned Citizen informs us that the cartoon has been removed from the offending site:

I went to the site and this is what I saw in Dutch: “De cartoon ‘Wordt vervolgd’ die hier te zien was sinds 11 februari 2011 is op 24 februari verwijderd na ernstige bedreigingen aan het adres van VARA-medewerkers.”

I popped that on to Google translate and this is what it says (sorry I don’t speak Dutch):

“The cartoon “Continued” was shown here since February 11, 2011 to February 24 after removal due to serious threats against VARA staff.”

I guess Geert Wilders has learned a thing or two from the Jihadis: threat of death gets things done.

Wilders angry about cartoon

Freedom party leader Geert Wilders is angry at Dutch public broadcaster VARA for publishing a cartoon on its website Joop.nl which compares a Freedom Party (PVV) plan to Nazi practices. The party recently proposed building so-called ‘scum villages’ for anti-social people. In the cartoon, the residents of such a village are being led to a shower, the same way the prisoners of Nazi destruction camps were led to ‘showers’ where they were gassed.

Mr Wilders said on Saturday it was “a disgusting cartoon. It must be removed from that website immediately, or the PVV will not attend the VARA provincial elections debate scheduled for next Wednesday.” Mr Wilders spoke of “sick minds” at the VARA.

The Joop.nl website is funded by VARA, but has full editorial independence. Francisco van Jole, the website’s editor-in-chief, said Mr Wilders remarks were tantamount to blackmail and that the programme which the Freedom Party was scheduled to attend had nothing to do with Joop.nl. He said he would not remove the cartoon: “This is the opinion of an opinion maker who we are offering a platform. This does not mean we necessarily always share his opinion. It is simply intended to spark debate.”

Mr van Jole said he found it odd that a politician would seek to ban this cartoon. “I understand he is upset … but it forms part of the social debate.” He said Mr Wilders was trying to smother the debate. A VARA spokesperson said the organisation did not necessarily share the opinions presented on Joop.nl and would very much like the Freedom Party to attend Wednesday’s provincial elections debate, but had no intention of ordering Joop.nl to remove the cartoon.

(gsh)

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Jewish Voice for Peace Chief Threatened for Being “Pro-Palestinian”

Posted in Loon Violence, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2011 by loonwatch

No word from Spencer on this yet. Imagine if a Muslim had done this, there would be cries about the intolerance of Muslims and how inherently Islam cannot deal with dissension.

Jewish Voice for Peace chief threatened over pro-Palestinian campaign

(Haaretz)

The head of the pro-Palestinian organization Jewish Voice for Peace received a threatening poster at her Los Angeles area home this weekend for her involvement in the organization.

Estee Chandler, the organization leader on the West coast, said she found a poster on her front porch last week reading “WANTED for treason and incitement against Jews.”

According to Chandler, the poster displayed her picture, her workplace, other personal details and names of her relatives.

The poster charged her with using “her own presumed Jewishness as a weapon against the Jewish People and the Jewish State of Israel while conspiring with other well-known anti-Israel groups to assist in Israel’s destruction and to otherwise engender hatred and incite further violence against the Jewish People and the Jewish State of Israel.”

In a statement responding to the threat published on the organization’s website, Chandler said  “I was forewarned about extremists when I first decided to start a Jewish Voice for Peace chapter here in my hometown of Los Angeles. I went into it with my eyes open. While I didn’t think anything would happen this soon, i cant say it wasn’t something I didn’t anticipate. Ultimately I think these people really are cowards, and not really to be feared.”

“We are the silent majority of American Jews and its time for us to stop being silent. if we raise our voices a fraction of the level of these people- we will become the message, too many people who are with us are afraid. ultimately nonviolence is the only thing that has ever won out,” she added.

In October last year, the Anti-Defamation League named the Jewish Voice for Peace — which champions the rights of Palestinians and is considered an anti-Israel organization by many Americans, especially after calling to boycott companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza – among the top 10 anti-Israel groups in America.

The organization, however, maintains the stand that they are not fighting against Israel or challenging its right to exist, but rather questioning the Israeli government’s policies and actions in the Palestinian territories.

The distributors of the threatening poster have yet to be found, according to the JVP.

 

Al Jazeera English Blacked Out Across Most Of U.S.

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on January 31, 2011 by loonwatch

Al Jazeera English Blacked Out Across Most Of U.S.

WASHINGTON – Canadian television viewers looking for the most thorough and in-depth coverage of the uprising in Egypt have the option of tuning into Al Jazeera English, whose on-the-ground coverage of the turmoil is unmatched by any other outlet. American viewers, meanwhile, have little choice but to wait until one of the U.S. cable-company-approved networks broadcasts footage from AJE, which the company makes publicly available. What they can’t do is watch the network directly.

Other than in a handful of pockets across the U.S. – including Ohio, Vermont and Washington, D.C. – cable carriers do not give viewers the choice of watching Al Jazeera. That corporate censorship comes as American diplomats harshly criticize the Egyptian government for blocking Internet communication inside the country and as Egypt attempts to block Al Jazeera from broadcasting.

The result of the Al Jazeera English blackout in the United States has been a surge in traffic to the media outlet’s website, where footage can be seen streaming live. The last 24 hours have seen a two-and-a-half thousand percent increase in web traffic, Tony Burman, head of North American strategies for Al Jazeera English, told HuffPost. Sixty percent of that traffic, he said, has come from the United States.

Al Jazeera English launched in the fall of 2006, opening a large bureau on K Street in downtown Washington, but has made little progress in persuading cable companies to offer the channel to its customers.

The objections from the cable companies have come for both political and commercial reasons, said Burman, the former editor-in-chief of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “In 2006, pre-Obama, the experience was a challenging one. Essentially this was a period when a lot of negative stereotypes were associated with Al Jazeera. The effort was a difficult one,” he said, citing the Bush administration’s public hostility to the network.

“There was reluctance from these companies to embark in a direction that would perhaps be opposed by the Bush administration. I think that’s changed. I think if anything the Obama administration has indicated to Al Jazeera that it sees us as part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Burman said.

Cable companies are also worried, said Burman, that they will lose more subscribers than they will gain by granting access to Al Jazeera. The Canadian experience, he said, should put those fears to rest. In Canada, national regulators can require cable companies to provide certain channels and Al Jazeera ran a successful campaign to encourage Canadians to push the government to intervene. There has been extremely little negative reaction over the past year as Canadians have been able to view the channel and decide for themselves. “We had a completely different process and result here in Canada — a grassroots campaign that was overwhelmingly successful,” said Avi Lewis, the former host of Al Jazeera’s Frontline USA. (He now freelances for Al Jazeera while working on a documentary project with his wife, Naomi Klein.)

Media critics have begun to push for Al Jazeera’s inclusion. “It is downright un-American to still refuse to carry it,” wrote Jeff Jarvis on Sunday. “Vital, world-changing news is occurring in the Middle East and no one-not the xenophobic or celebrity-obsessed or cut-to-the-bone American media-can bring the perspective, insight, and on-the-scene reporting Al Jazeera English can.”

Al Jazeera follows a public broadcasting model similar to the BBC, CBC and NPR and is largely funded by the government of Qatar, which Burman said takes a completely hands-off approach to content. Al Jazeera is the scourge of authoritarian governments around the Middle East, which attempt to block it. The network, however, covers much more than the Middle East, and now has more bureaus in Latin America than CNN and the BBC, said Burman. “As proud as we are of our Middle Eastern coverage, we are in other places in the world that are never, never seen on television in American homes,” he said.

Burman said that he will use the experience with the Tunisia and Egyptian uprisings in upcoming meetings with cable providers as the network continues its push. Comcast did not respond to requests for comment.

“Why in the most vibrant democracy in the world, where engagement and knowledge of the world is probably the most important, why it’s not available is one of these things that would take a PhD scholar to understand,” Burman said.

UPDATE I: A reader emails to say that Al Jazeera programming is also being carried by the satellite channel LinkTV, which can be found on channel 9410 on Dish Network and 375 on DirecTV.

UPDATE II: Another reader emails to say that Al Jazeera broadcasts over some of the Pacifica stations, including WBAI (New York, 5-6 AM, 99.5 FM), KPFA (Berkeley, 6-7 AM, 94.1 FM) and KPFT (Houston, 5-6 AM, 90.1 FM).

 

Fake enlightened liberal democrats making excuses for anti-Muslim bigotry

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2011 by loonwatch

We have detailed a lot of anti-Muslim bigotry on the religious right-wing, but lest anyone think the religious right has a monopoly on Islamophobia, rest assured that some people on the left-wing have their own reasons for stereotyping and scapegoating Muslims. This is what we find in the latest hit piece by Pascal Bruckner, one of the nouveaux (“new”) French philosophers who defendsloons like Ayan Hirsi Ali.

A common talking-point ceaselessly echoed in the Islamophobic blogosphere is that the term “Islamophobia” is part of a draconian conspiracy to silence anti-Muslim whistle-blowing. For example, the vitriolic hate site BareNakedIslam has a catch phrase, “It isn’t Islamophobia when they really ARE trying to kill you!” by which they imply that Islam and every Muslim wants to kill you. In this fashion, Bruckner begins with an incredibly sweeping claim:

Islamophobia was invented to silence those Muslims who question the Koran and who demand equality of the sexes.

At the end of the 1970s, Iranian fundamentalists invented the term “Islamophobia” formed in analogy to “xenophobia”. The aim of this word was to declare Islam inviolate. Whoever crosses this border is deemed a racist. This term, which is worthy of totalitarian propaganda, is deliberately unspecific about whether it refers to a religion, a belief system or its faithful adherents around the world.

We imagine a dim room full of bearded Iranian clerics sinisterly plotting to introduce Islamophobia into the Western lexicon to advance their insidious totalitarian agenda. In reality, far from being “deliberately unspecific,” Islamophobia has been defined by Runnymede Trust as ”an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in practices of exclusion and discrimination.” It has been accepted by the United Nations and numerous government officials. Countless manifestations of Islamophobia are documented and recognized. But Bruckner dismisses all the stereotypes, prejudice, and hostility being thrown at Muslims as figments of our imagination. That is certainly shocking news to Columbia University Press and victims of the Bosnian Genocide.

Islamophobia was an important driving force behind the latest legally recognized genocide in Europe. According to Dr. Norman Cigar at the Strategic Studies Institute, the Serbians’ Islamophobic propaganda was necessary to justify the genocide:

In particular, these [Serbian] intellectuals have been instrumental in establishing and cementing an in-group/out-group dichotomy between the Muslims and the Serbs based on stereotypes, a fact which has been central to forming the environment and establishing the legitimacy for much of the violence that occurred.

[Qureshi, E., & Sells, M. A. (2003). The new crusades: Constructing the Muslim enemy. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 314]

It is precisely this “in-group/out-group” dichotomy promoted by Islamophobes, anti-Semites, racists, and other bigots that leads to so much civil strife and violence, including genocide. But despite this recent ugly European history, nowhere in his article does Bruckner acknowledge that bigotry against Muslims is a real issue. This is a classic example of Runnymede’s sixth point in their comprehensive definition of Islamophobia: criticism of the West made by Muslims is rejected out of hand.

Nevertheless, Bruckner wants us to believe that everyone who uses the term Islamophobia is simply an agent in the service of Ayatollah Khomeini. Perhaps Bruckner believes former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was secretly working for the Mullahs when he concisely summarized the issue:

When a new word enters the language, it is often the result of a scientific advance or a diverting fad. But when the world is compelled to coin a new term to take account of increasingly widespread bigotry, that is a sad and troubling development. Such is the case with Islamophobia.

In any case, Bruckner hinges his argument on the false premise that Islamophobia targets normal criticism of Islam rather than prejudice and hostility towards Islam. In fact, Muslims largely accept normal criticism of Islam as part of religious freedom. The Quran says:

There is no compulsion in religion. (2:256)

If it had been your Lord’s will, they would all have believed – all who are on earth. Will you then compel mankind, against their will, to believe? (10:99)

Certainly, people who choose not to practice Islam are not Islamophobic. Normal criticism of Islam is acceptable in a modern pluralistic society, as is normal criticism of any religion or ideology. Muslims, like Jews and Christians, have likewise debated and reformed traditional laws on apostasy. However, what is unacceptable in our pluralistic society is spreading hate, intolerance, discrimination, stereotypes, and prejudice. Ignoring this important point, Bruckner pretends the term “Islamophobia” has nothing to do with anti-Muslim hateanti-Muslim violence, or religiousdiscrimination. He sums up his beef:

The term “Islamophobia” serves a number of functions: it denies the reality of an Islamic offensive in Europe all the better to justify it; it attacks secularism by equating it with fundamentalism. Above all, however, it wants to silence all those Muslims who question the Koran, who demand equality of the sexes, who claim the right to renounce religion, and who want to practice their faith freely and without submitting to the dictates of the bearded and doctrinaire. It follows that young girls are stigmatised for not wearing the veil, as are French, German or English citizens of Maghribi, Turkish, African or Algerian origin who demand the right to religious indifference, the right not to believe in God, the right not to fast during Ramadan. Fingers are pointed at these renegades, they are delivered up to the wrath of their religions communities in order to quash all hope of change among the followers of the Prophet.

Let me get the conspiracy theory straight: Islamophobia was invented by Iranian fundamentalists to wage the Eurabia stealth jihad (“Islamic offensive”) and attack secularism, but “above all,” wants to silence any criticism of Islam and prevent any Islamic reform. As we’ve already pointed out, this is completely fabricated nonsense; long on confident presumptuous claims, short on supporting evidence.

Furthermore, Bruckner cares so much about Muslim women being stigmatized for not wearing the veil, but this so-called liberal democrat curiously has no concern for the religious rights of Muslim women who choose to veil out of modesty. It seems the right of people to reject religion is very important to Bruckner, but the right of people to practice religion, not so much. Liberal democracy for you but not for them?

Even the French President has somehow been fooled by the treacherous hidden hand of the Mullahs. He says:

Did not the French president himself, never one to miss a blunder – not compare Islamophobia with Antisemitism? A tragic error.

Of course, the comparison between Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism is perfectly valid. Yet strangely Bruckner, allegedly an enlightened freedom-loving liberal democrat and champion of reason, believes dehumanization of Jews is wrong (and it definitely is) but dehumanization of Muslims is… well, nothing to be concerned about. Rather, we are told Islamophobia is a term meant to “quash all hope of change” instead of protect innocent people from the majority’s bigotry. He concludes:

“Islamophobia” is one of the words that we urgently need to delete from our vocabulary.

Mr. Bruckner, the enlightened liberal democracy I know stands by the human and religious rights of all people with the goal of building a tolerant, pluralistic, fair, and peaceful open society. However, the “enlightenment” you peddle is a poor intellectual articulation of nativist tribalistic (us-versus-them) in-group/out-group populism which thoroughly, and ironically, mirrors the rigid fundamentalism you claim to be against.

In my estimation, you belong in the category of self-serving pseudo-liberal loons like Bill Maher.