Shea: Especially since the politically-manipulated Danish cartoon crisis, Western Europe, Canada and Australia have been adopting hate speech laws and expanding existing blasphemy laws and public order offenses that can be used to criminally prosecute virtually anything deemed insulting to Muslims because of their religion. Such laws have been used as proxies for Islamic blasphemy laws. Prosecutors in Finland, the Netherlands and Canada have trawled the websites of anti-immigration advocates looking for evidence that Islam’s Prophet may have been mocked. In France, Canada, Norway, and Italy, publishers, editors and authors have been tried for inciting religious hostility and insulting religious sensibilities with their critiques of Islam. In Austria, a woman was convicted this year for her lecture before an anti-immigration political party in which she quoted some of the more violent passages of the Koran – the judge found she “cast Islam in an extremely negative light.” In German, a man was convicted for the sacrilegious treatment of the word “Koran,” not the text itself. Despite France’s laicite system of strict separation of religion and state, national icon Brigitte Bardot, in her animal rights advocacy, has been convicted and fined five times under hate speech laws denouncing Islamic slaughter practices. In Australia, Christian pastors were convicted by a tribunal that found, among other things, that they failed to quote in their religion classes on Islam the “pro-Islamic” verses of the Koran. Religious hate speech laws are actually mandated by the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights though a provision that was inserted during the Cold War by the former Soviet bloc; though Eleanor Roosevelt, representing the U.S., and other Western delegates at the time strenuously opposed it, it was adopted and now all EU countries are required to have them.
Then, there is the violent reaction by some Muslims who feel insulted by certain Western statements about Islam. Among those threatened with death for urging reforms within Islam have been Muslim Members of Parliament in Germany, Italy, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Even an American woman journalist who had worked for the Wall Street Journal and had urged for the end of gender segregation in some American mosques was threatened with “slaughter.” Others in the West have also seen violent reactions to their speech. When Pope Benedict XVI gave a brief Christian theological critique of Islam to a private academic audience in a German university, a 65-year-old Italian nun was murdered in reprisal. This violence is having a broad chilling effect on free speech about Islam, particularly within establishment organizations such as the press, academia, publishing houses, the entertainment industry and in government. This is true even for the United States, which does not have federal or state hate speech laws. For example, the departments of State and Homeland Security have banned their employees from using certain Muslim words, such as salafi, califate and jihadi, because they are deemed insulting to Muslims when used by non-Muslims.
FP: Crystallize for us the overall case you are making.
Shea: Our political leaders must begin a robust defense of free speech and freedom of religion, and end the attempts to find common ground with and appease the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and its surrogates on these issues, as the Obama administration is trying to do this week in Washington through an international conference it calls “The Islanbul Process.”
FP: Nina Shea, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
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