Pi 2012 02 imprimis

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Pi 2012 02 imprimis

  1. 1. A Publication of Hillsdale CollegeImprimis Over 2,100,000 Reader s Monthly 40 th Anniversary Februar y 2012 • Volume 41, Number 2Blasphemy and Free SpeechPaul MarshallSenior Fellow, Hudson Institute Paul Marshall is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. He has published widely in newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, First Things, The New Republic, and The Weekly Standard. He is the author or editor of more than 20 books on religion and politics, including Their Blood Cries Out, Religious Freedom in the World, and Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion. Most recently he is the co-author, with Nina Shea, of Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide.The following is adapted from a lecture delivered at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr.Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C., on February 3, 2012.A growing threat to our freedom of speech is the attempt to stifle religiousdiscussion in the name of preventing “defamation of” or “insults to” religion,especially Islam. Resulting restrictions represent, in effect, a revival of blasphemy laws. Few in the West were concerned with such laws 20 years ago. Even if still on somestatute books, they were only of historical interest. That began to change in 1989, whenthe late Ayatollah Khomeini, then Iran’s Supreme Leader, declared it the duty of everyMuslim to kill British-based writer Salman Rushdie on the grounds that his novel, TheSatanic Verses, was blasphemous. Rushdie has survived by living his life in hiding. Othersconnected with the book were not so fortunate: its Japanese translator was assassinated, itsItalian translator was stabbed, its Norwegian publisher was shot, and 35 guests at a hotelhosting its Turkish publisher were burned to death in an arson attack. More recently, we have seen eruptions of violence in reaction to Theo van Gogh’s andAyaan Hirsi Ali’s film Submission, Danish and Swedish cartoons depicting Mohammed,the speech at Regensburg by Pope Benedict XVI on the topic of faith, reason, and
  2. 2. Hillsdale College: Pursuing Truth • Defending Libert y since 1844 religious violence, Geert Wilders’ film was convened to discuss sectarian vio- Fitna, and a false Newsweek report that lence and terrorism, but seized on the the U.S. military had desecrated Korans cartoons and urged its member states to at Guantanamo. A declaration by Terry rouse opposition. It was only in February Jones—a deservedly obscure Florida pastor 2006—five months after the cartoons with a congregation of less than 50—that were published—that Muslims across he would burn a Koran on September 11, Africa, Asia, and the Mideast set out from 2010, achieved a perfect media storm, Friday prayers for often violent demon- combining American publicity-seeking, strations, killing over 200 people. Muslim outrage, and the demands of The highly controlled media in 24 hour news coverage. It even drew the Egypt and Jordan raised the cartoon attention of President Obama and senior issue so persistently that an astonishing U.S. military leaders. Dozens of people 98 percent of Egyptians and 99 percent were murdered as a result. of Jordanians—knowing little else of Such violence in response to purported Denmark—had heard of them. Saudi religious insults is not simply sponta- Arabia and Egypt urged boycotts of neous. It is also stoked and channeled Danish products. Iran and Syria manipu- by governments for political purposes. lated riots partly to deflect attention from And the objects and victims of accusa- their nuclear projects. Turkey used the tions of religious insults are not usually cartoons as bargaining chips in negotia- Westerners, but minorities and dissidents tions with the U.S. over appointments in the Muslim world. As Nina Shea and I to NATO. Editors in Algeria, Jordan, show in our recent book Silenced, accusa- India, and Yemen were arrested—and tions of blasphemy or insulting Islam are in Syria, journalist Adel Mahfouz was used systematically charged with “insulting in much of that world −´ public religious senti- Imprimis (im-pri-mis), to send individuals [Latin]: in the first place ment”—for suggesting to jail or to bring a peaceful response Editor about intimidation Douglas A. Jeffrey to the controversy. through threats, beat- Deputy Editor Lars Vilks’ later and ings, and killings. Timothy W. Caspar more offensive 2007 Copy Editors The Danish car- Emily Sarver Swedish cartoons and toons of Mohammed Monica VanDerWeide Geert Wilders’ 2008 Art Director were published in Angela Lashaway film Fitna led to com- Denmark’s largest Marketing Director paratively little outcry, newspaper, Jyllands- Fred Hadra demonstrating further Production Manager Posten, in September Lucinda Grimm that public reactions 2005. Some were Circulation Manager are government-driven. reproduced by news- Wanda Oxenger Repression based papers in Muslim Staff Assistants Robin Curtis on charges of blas- countries in order Kim Ellsworth phemy and apostasy, of Kathy Smith to criticize them. Mary Jo Von Ewegen course, goes far beyond There was no violent the stories typically response. Violence Copyright © 2012 Hillsdale College covered in our media. The opinions expressed in Imprimis are not only erupted after a necessarily the views of Hillsdale College. Currently, millions of December 2005 sum- Permission to reprint in whole or in part is Baha’is and Ahmadis— hereby granted, provided the following credit mit in Saudi Arabia line is used: “Reprinted by permission from followers of religions of the Organization Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.” or interpretations that Subscription free upon request. of the Islamic arose after Islam—are ISSN 0277-8432 Conference—now Imprimis trademark registered in U.S. condemned en masse the Organization of Patent and Trademark Office #1563325. as insulters of Islam, Islamic Cooperation and are subject to dis- (OIC). The summit criminatory laws and2
  3. 3. February 2012 • Volume 41, Number 2 hillsdale.eduattacks by mobs, vigilantes, and terrorists. Choudhury was imprisoned for hurtingThe Baha’i leadership in Iran is in prison, “religious feelings” by advocating peacefuland there is no penalty in Iran for kill- relations with Israel. In Iran, Ayatollahing a Baha’i. In Somalia, al Shebaab, an Boroujerdi was imprisoned for arguingIslamist group that controls much of that that “political leadership by clergy” wascountry, is systematically hunting down contrary to Islam, and cleric Mohsenand killing Christians. In 2009, after Kadivar was imprisoned for “publishingallegations that a Koran had been torn, untruths and disturbing public minds”a 1,000-strong mob with Taliban links after writing Theories of the State in Shiiterampaged through Christian neighbor- Jurisprudence, which questioned thehoods in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest prov- legal basis of Ayatollah Khomeini’s viewince, killing seven people, six of whom, of government. Other charges broughtincluding two children, were burned against Iranians include “fighting againstalive. Pakistani police did not intervene. God,” “dissension from religious dogma,” Throughout the Muslim world, Sunni, “insulting Islam,” “propagation of spiri-Shia, and Sufi Muslims may be persecuted tual liberalism,” “promoting pluralism,”for differing from the version of Islam and, my favorite, “creating anxiety in thepromulgated by locally hegemonic reli- minds of … Iranian officials.”gious authorities. Saudi Arabia represses Muslim reformers cannot escapeShiites, especially Ismailis. Iran represses being attacked even in the West. In 2006,Sunnis and Sufis. In Egypt, Shia leaders a group called Al-Munasirun li Rasul alhave been imprisoned and tortured. Allah emailed over 30 prominent reform- In Afghanistan, Shia scholar Ali ers in the West, threatening to kill themMohaqeq Nasab, editor of Haqooq-i-Zen unless they repented. Among its targetsmagazine, was imprisoned by the govern- was Egyptian Saad Eddin Ibrahim,ment for publishing “un-Islamic” articles perhaps the best known human rightsthat criticized stoning as a punishment activist in the Arab world. Another wasfor adultery. Saudi democracy activists Ahmad Subhy Mansour, an imam whoAli al-Demaini, Abdullah al-Hamed, and was imprisoned and had to flee Egypt, inMatruk al-Faleh were imprisoned for part for his arguments against the deathusing “un-Islamic terminology,” such as penalty for apostasy. The targets were“democracy” and “human rights,” when pronounced “guilty of apostasy, unbe-calling for a written constitution. Saudi lief, and denial of the Islamic establishedteacher Mohammed al-Harbi was sen- facts” and given three days to “announcetenced to 40 months in jail and 750 lashes their repentance.” The message includedfor “mocking religion” after discussing their addresses and the names of theirthe Bible in class and making pro-Jewish spouses and children.remarks. Egyptian Nobel prize winner Mimount Bousakla, a Belgian senatorin literature Naguib Mahfouz reluctantly and daughter of Moroccan immigrants,abandoned his lifelong resistance to cen- was forced into hiding by threats ofsorship and sought permission from the “ritual slaughter” for her criticism of theclerics of Al-Azhar University to publish treatment of women in Muslim com-his novel Children of Gebelawi, hitherto munities and of fundamentalist influ-banned for blasphemy. Mahfouz subse- ences in Belgian mosques. Turkish-bornquently lived under constant protection Ekin Deligoz, the first Muslim memberafter being stabbed by a young Islamist, of Germany’s Parliament, received deathleaving him partly paralyzed. threats and was placed under police After Mohammed Younas Shaikh, protection after she called for Muslima member of Pakistan’s Human Rights women to “take off the head scarf.”Commission, raised questions about But the story gets worse. WesternPakistan’s policies in Kashmir, he was governments have begun to give in tocharged with having blasphemed in one demands from the Saudi-based OIC andof his classes. In Bangladesh, Salahuddin others for controls on speech. 3
  4. 4. Hillsdale College: Pursuing Truth • Defending Libert y since 1844 Weekly, suggested an “Everybody Draw An audio version of Imprimis Mohammed Day.” She quickly withdrew is available online at the suggestion and implied that she hillsdale.edu/imprimis had been joking. But after several death threats, including from Al-Qaeda, the FBI advised her that she should go into In Austria, for instance, Elisabeth hiding—which she has now done under a Sabbaditsch-Wolf has been convicted new name. of “denigrating religious beliefs” for her In 2010, Zachary Chesser, a young comments about Mohammed during convert to Islam, pleaded guilty to threat- a seminar on radical Islam. Canada’s ening the creators of South Park. And on grossly misnamed “human rights com- October 3, 2011, approximately 800 news- missions” have hauled writers—including papers refused to run a “Non Sequitur” Mark Steyn, who teaches as a distin- cartoon drawn by Wiley Miller that guished fellow in journalism at Hillsdale merely contained a bucolic scene with the College—before tribunals to interrogate caption “Where’s Muhammad?” them about their writings on Islam. And Many in our media claim to be self- in Holland and Finland, respectively, censoring out of sensitivity to religious politicians Geert Wilders and Jussi Halla- feelings, but that claim is repeatedly aho have been prosecuted for their com- undercut by their willingness to mock ments on Islam in political speeches. and criticize religions other than Islam. In America, the First Amendment As British comedian Ben Elton observed: still protects against the criminalization of “The BBC will let vicar gags pass, but criticizing Islam. But we face at least two they would not let imam gags pass. They threats still. The first is extra-legal intimi- might pretend that it’s, you know, some- dation of a kind already endemic in the thing to do with their moral sensibilities, Muslim world and increasing in Europe. but it isn’t. It’s because they’re scared.” In 2009, Yale University Press, in con- The second threat we face is the spec- sultation with Yale University, removed ter of cooperation between our govern- all illustrations of Mohammed from its ment and the OIC to shape speech about book by Jytte Klausen on the Danish Islam. A first indication of this came in cartoon crisis. It also removed Gustave President Obama’s Cairo speech in 2009, Doré’s 19th-century illustration of when he declared that he has a responsibil- Mohammed in hell from Dante’s Inferno. ity to “fight against negative stereotypes of Yale’s formal press statement stressed the Islam whenever they appear.” Then in July earlier refusal by American media outlets of last year in Istanbul, Secretary of State to show the cartoons, and noted that their Clinton co-chaired—with the OIC—a “republication…has repeatedly resulted “High-Level Meeting on Combating in violence around the world.” Religious Intolerance.” There, Mrs. Another publisher, Random House, Clinton announced another conference rejected at the last minute a historical with the OIC, this one in Washington, romance novel about Mohammed’s wife, to “exchange ideas” and discuss “imple- Jewel of Medina, by American writer mentation” measures our government Sherry Jones. They did so to protect might take to combat negative stereotyp- “the safety of the author, employees of ing of Islam. This would not restrict free Random House, booksellers and anyone speech, she said. But the mere fact of U.S. else who would be involved in distribu- government partnership with the OIC is tion and sale of the novel.” troublesome. Certainly it sends a dan- The comedy show South Park refused gerous signal, as suggested by the OIC’s to show an image of Mohammed in a Secretary-General, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, bear suit, although it mocked figures when he commented in Istanbul that the from other religions. In response, Molly Obama administration stands “united” Norris, a cartoonist for the Seattle with the OIC on speech issues.4
  5. 5. February 2012 • Volume 41, Number 2 hillsdale.edu The OIC’s charter commits it “to com- In the Muslim world, such restric-bat defamation of Islam.” Its current action tions enable Islamists to crush debate.plan calls for “deterrent punishments” to After Salman Taseer, the governor ofcounter “Islamophobia.” In 2009, an offi- Punjab, was murdered early last year bycial OIC organ, the “International Islamic his bodyguards for opposing blasphemyFiqh [Jurisprudence] Academy,” issued laws, his daughter Sara observed: “This isfatwas calling for speech bans, including a message to every liberal to shut up or be“international legislation,” to protect “the shot.” Or in the words of Nasr Abu-Zayd,interests and values of [Islamic] society.” a Muslim scholar driven out of Egypt:The OIC does not define what speech “Charges of apostasy and blasphemy areshould be outlawed, but the repressive key weapons in the fundamentalists’practices of its leading member states arsenal, strategically employed to preventspeak for themselves. reform of Muslim societies, and instead The conference Secretary Clinton confine the world’s Muslim populationannounced in Istanbul was held in to a bleak, colourless prison of socio-Washington on December 12-14, 2011, cultural and political conformity.”and was closed to the public, with the President Obama should put an end“Chatham House Rule” restricting the to discussion of speech with the OIC. Heparticipants (this rule prohibits the iden- should declare clearly that in free societ-tification of who says what, although ies, all views and all religions are subjectgeneral content is not confidential). to criticism and contradiction. As the latePresentations reportedly focused on Abdurrahman Wahid, former presidentAmerica’s deficiencies in its treatment of of Indonesia, the world’s largest MuslimMuslims and stressed that the U.S. has country, and head of Nahdlatul Ulama,something to learn in this regard from the world’s largest Muslim organization,the other delegations—including Saudi wrote in his foreword to Silenced, blas-Arabia, despite its ban on Christian phemy lawschurches, its repression of its Shiitepopulation, its textbooks teaching that . . . narrow the bounds of accept-Jews should be killed, and the fact that able discourse. . . not only aboutit beheaded a woman for sorcery on the religion, but also about vast spheresopening day of the conference. of life, literature, science, and cul- ture in general. . . . Rather than *** legally stifle criticism and debate—The encroachment of de facto blasphemy which will only encourage Muslimrestrictions in the West threatens free fundamentalists in their efforts tospeech and the free exchange of ideas. impose a spiritually void, harsh,Nor will it bring social peace and har- and monolithic understanding ofmony. As comedian Rowan Atkinson Islam upon all the world—Westernwarns, such laws produce “a veneer of tol- authorities should instead firmlyerance concealing a snake pit of unaired defend freedom of expression. . . .and unchallenged views.” Norway’s far-reaching restrictions on “hate speech” did America’s Founders, who had bro-not prevent Anders Behring Breivik from ken with an old order that was rife withslaughtering over 70 religious persecutionpeople because of his and warfare, forbadeantipathy to Islam: laws impeding freeindeed, his writ- exercise of religion,ings suggest that he abridging freedom ofengaged in violence Did you know? speech, or infringing Beginning this month, Hillsdale Collegebecause he believed is offering a free ten-week online course freedom of the press.that he could not oth- entitled “Constitution 101: The Meaning We today must do and History of the Constitution.” Forerwise be heard. further information or to register for the likewise. ■ course, go to constitution.hillsdale.edu. 5

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