Thursday, February 21, 2013

OIC Seeks Global Watchdog on Free Speech

Organization Aims to Criminalize Criticism of Islam

By Clare M. Lopez

The 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) met in Cairo, Egypt February 6-7, 2013 with a full agenda of issues to address.

The U.S. Special Envoy to the OIC, Rashad Hussain, attended. One of the key takeaways from the two-day Heads of State Summit appears to be a renewed commitment to the Istanbul Process, the OIC-initiative to criminalize criticism of Islam globally.

According to Rizwan Saeed Sheikh, director of cultural affairs at the OIC general secretariat and spokesman for the OIC secretary general, the next session of the Istanbul Process will be held sometime in the spring of 2013 and will focus anew on getting individual nation states to draft laws that would criminally sanction "denigration of religions."

U.S. former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laid the groundwork for U.S. participation in this process with her own attendance at multiple Istanbul Process meetings as well as her welcome to then-OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu for his December 2011 visit to the State Department.

Renewed International Effort

To properly oversee this renewed international effort, the OIC final communique of the Cairo meeting identified as a priority goal the establishment of an international observatory "to monitor advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence throughout the world, so as to serve as an early warning mechanism to assist States in fulfilling their obligations under International Human Rights Law."

The OIC's Mr. Sheikh has suggested such an observatory might be located in Geneva, Switzerland; it likely would be modeled after the OIC's own online "Islamophobia Observatory," which takes as its task the daily monitoring and reporting of incidents of "Islamophobia."

Lest it be mistakenly thought that the OIC reference to "International Human Rights Law" meant the United Nations (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it should be clarified that all the OIC's Islamic member states withdrew from that particular agreement with the OIC's 1990 Cairo Declaration and replaced it their own interpretation of human rights as those, and only those, granted under Islamic Law (sharia).

Foreshadowing Shariah 

Rather, the OIC reference to "International Human Rights Law" upon which its Islamic members seek to base criminalization of the criticism of Islam, is the 1966 U.N. Commission for Human Rights International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which entered into force in 1976. Firmly based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, two of its articles—Articles 19 (3) and 20—nevertheless foreshadow shariah Islam's demands for restrictions on free speech.

As I wrote in an American Thinker piece on this topic in December 2011, while this Covenant's Article 19 pledges that "Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference," and "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression: this right shall include freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of this choice," Article 20 immediately sets restrictions on such freedom of speech, saying that "Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law."

Closing existing gaps related to enactment and enforcement of speech restriction laws in both OIC member state and non-member state legal systems is clearly the next objective for the Islamic ummah (OIC).

Right on Cue

And right on cue, it is precisely Article 20 of the ICCPR that the OIC spokesman cited explicitly, saying that the OIC would "…hold the next event focusing squarely on the issue of criminalizing denigration and deciding on whatever actions need to be taken on the basis of Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)."

Not surprisingly, however, he misstates Article 20's rather broad dictum, declaring wrongly that it "clearly states that denigration of symbols or persons sacred to any religion is a criminal offense." Mr. Sheikh's words are indicative, however, of where the OIC's Istanbul Process would like to go with its new watchdog Observatory; indeed, as Mr. Sheikh rued, the only remaining problem is a "lack of enforcement" by OIC member states.

Some Islamic courts already are imposing criminal sentences, even the death penalty, on those deemed to have insulted Islam or the Muslim prophet Mohammad. Courts that do so are aware that they are upholding Islamic Law on slander/blasphemy as well as Islamic doctrine on impermissible speech from infidels (non-Muslims).

Death Sentences

On February 19, 2013, a Cairo, Egypt tribunal upheld the death sentences passed earlier in absentia against seven expatriate Egyptian Coptic Christians for their involvement in production of a YouTube film about Muhammad, "The Innocence of Muslims." Terry Jones, an American citizen who also earlier had been sentenced to death, had his sentence reduced to five years in jail. There was no mention about whether the U.S. State Department had negotiated a plea deal for Jones or lodged any sort of complaint with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood government.

Some Muslims are skipping right past the enactment of laws to criminalize and punish perceived insult to Islam and going straight to the penalty phase, as Danish free-speech champion Lars Hedegaard found out on 5 February 2013 at his home in Copenhagen.

When he went to the door to accept a package from a red-jacketed delivery man (whom Hedegaard described as a non-Danish immigrant of either Arab or Pakistani background), Hedegaard was nearly killed as the "mailman" pulled out a gun and fired a bullet that whizzed past his head, narrowly missing him.

A Swinging Right Hook

A swinging right hook from Hedegaard, a scuffle and a jammed gun sent the would-be assassin fleeing (and yet to be caught). Hedegaard, the fearless founder of both the Danish and International Free Press Societies is also co-editor of the weekly Dispatch International. He joins a growing list of European free-speech advocates including Kurt Westergaard, Lars Vilks, Elizabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff and Geert Wilders who've faced prosecution from their fellow citizens and assassination attempts from Muslim sharia enforcers merely for speaking freely their beliefs about Islam.

Silencing, by means legal or extra-legal means, free speech that criticizes Islam or any other belief system is where "hate speech" laws inexorably lead. It is exactly where the OIC and Islamic ummah want them to lead.

Special protection for Islam or any other selected social group (which somehow never seems to include Iraqi Assyrians, Egyptian Copts, Iranian Baha'is, or Jews) further results in unequal protection under the law, a cherished American Constitutional right that clearly is antithetical to sharia.

Worse yet, while identifying "Islamophobia" as racism against Islam is already absurd (as fear of violent jihad isn't irrational and Islam isn't a race), it may now also constitute a "hate crime," too, if participants at a January 2013 panel discussion sponsored by the Turkish Ministry of Youth and Sports and hosted by Maltepe University have their way.

These panelists, speaking on "Islamophobia from the Eyes of Young Journalists," asserted that it was actually hatred, not fear, that more accurately characterizes Western treatment of Islam and perceptions of Muslims.

Actually, the "hate crime" of racism may not even require speech much longer: Simply looking "white" might be enough. The University of Wisconsin Duluth-Superior is out ahead of them all with its 2012 launch of a campaign to increase public awareness about racial favoring by publishing images of Caucasian faces on which the word "unfair" is written. Although the University hasn't yet partnered with the OIC, it would seem they may have some biases of their own in common.