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Combating Religious Intolerance When Freedom of Speech Enables Hate Speech

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

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.

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  • Anticipated Serendipity

    @JD
    A veiled Muslim woman falsely accused a police officer of trying to pull her face-veil off her after she was pulled over for failing to display her P-plates and fined (said woman has a history of driving offences). The video on the police patrol car proved that she was lying and the cop didn’t do anything wrong. She was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for making a false statement then appealed her sentence arguing that there was no way anyone could tell that she was the woman behind the burqa, the judge upheld her appeal and a mob of Muslim supporters were chanting “Allahu Akbar” outside the courtroom, said mob attacked cameramen and fought with police. That’s where the controversy came from. Some were suggesting that burqa wearing women be fingerprinted rather than being made to remove their face-veils, others believe that everyone should be subjected to the same treatment and they should show their faces like everyone else. I don’t believe that women who cover their faces should receive “special treatment” and they should life their veils so their faces can be seen like everybody else, naturally some nutties on the far-left cried discrimination and racism, choosing cultural relativism over common sense and practicality.

    The Cronulla riots weren’t turned into a religious thing by the media they were always an ethnic thing with clashes between Lebanese-Australian and Anglo-Australian youths that started on Cronulla beach after some Lebanese youths attacked lifesavers.

  • sahra

    what and when will the so called West be finally cure from the prejiduces and propagandas of hatred.And how come there is always a sick need of a search for anew enemie every 10years or so in the West

  • Farlowe

    Three out of ten Americans believe that?
    Even the bible authors did not mean the entire bible to be taken literally.
    Ecclesiastes 12:3 “when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim;”
    I understand this to be the body of an old person described as compared to a house.
    Geez, and I am an atheist!

  • JD

    http://news.yahoo.com/australian-law-muslims-lift-veils-050625536.html

    New Australian law to make Muslims lift veils

    CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Muslim women would have to remove veils and show their faces to police on request or risk a prison sentence under proposed new laws in Australia’s most populous state that have drawn criticism as culturally insensitive.

    A vigorous debate that the proposal has triggered reflects the cultural clashes being ignited by the growing influx of Muslim immigrants and the unease that visible symbols of Islam are causing in predominantly white Christian Australia since 1973 when the government relaxed its immigration policy.

    Under the law proposed by the government of New South Wales, a woman who defies police by refusing to remove her face veil could be sentenced to a year in prison and fined 5,500 Australian dollars ($5,900).

    The bill — to be voted on by state parliament in August — has been condemned by civil libertarians and many Muslims as an overreaction to a traffic offense case involving a Muslim woman driver in a “niqab,” or a veil that reveals only the eyes.

    The government says the law would require motorists and criminal suspects to remove any head coverings so that police can identify them.

    Critics say the bill smacks of anti-Muslim bias given how few women in Australia wear burqas. In a population of 23 million, only about 400,000 Australians are Muslim. Community advocates estimate that fewer than 2,000 women where face veils, and it is likely that even a smaller percentage drives.

    “It does seem to be very heavy handed, and there doesn’t seem to be a need,” said Australian Council for Civil Liberties spokesman David Bernie said. “It shows some cultural insensitivity.”

    ===========================

    and Leave it to Yahoo to bring up “Muslim and non-Muslim youths rioted for days at Sydney’s Cronulla beach” (which were really Young Lebanese-Australians who were insulting each other and a fight started and media turned it into a religious thing
    see…. http://www.tasa.org.au/conferences/conferencepapers07/papers /268.pdf )

  • JD

    3 In 10 Americans Take The Bible Literally

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/08/biblical-literalism_n_893358.html

    A new Gallup poll reveals that three out of ten Americans believe the Bible to be the actual word of God, to be interpreted literally, word for word.

  • Speaking of banning you then should know (if you don’t) about how Wilders and the PVV got speech that “was not positive for the PVV” squashed and essentially banned. This includes two speeches by lecturers and historians that compare the new fascism in Holland to the old fascism in Germany.

    Also include the punk rock song called “Mussolini van de Lage Landen” (Mussolini of the Low Countries) was banned from being played at May 5 (2011) Liberation Day Festival. This song makes references to Wilders:

    Mussolini van de Lage Landen/

    Van mij mogen ze jouwe uitspraken ook verbranden/

    Als jij nou een snor en een scheiding nam/

    Dan zou ik jou ook kunnen vergelijken met Mein Kampf.

    Mussolini of the Low Countries/

    I think they should burn your sayings too/

    If you had a moustache and a parting/

    I could compare you with Mein Kampf too.

    The ban was after local PVVers and Geert Wilders placed pressure on the festival organizers to ban this “threatening song.” Wilders, like other right wingers, is a master at playing “victim” and claiming “I’m being threatened” to squash his critics. Here’s a link to the Wilders/PVV banned punk rock song – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g056da7wW0I

    Also – there was a cartoon of Wilders as a Nazi guard that was removed after there were threats against the website (Joop.nl) that posted it. You can see a copy of the cartoon at this link – http://yellow-stars.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Wilders-as-Nazi_lg-246×300.jpg

    So – the next time some crackpot Wilders’ supporter wants to argue about the Danish cartoons – tell them about threat to Joop.nl over the Wilders-Nazi cartoon!

    Geert Wilders is NO “champion of free speech” and there is NO argument that can be given to say he is in light of these revelations out of Holland. The Champion for Free Speech, Geert Wilders, is actually a Champion of Hypocrisy!

  • Why doesn’t JihadBob post here anymore? Has he been banned?

  • Mosizzle, thanks for the laugh. Yes, Rageh Omer doing the Taqiya, Karen Armstrong the dhimmiification, Robert Spencer speaking the “truth” (excuse me whilst I puke), and Tariq Ramadan promoting the Muslim Brotherhood, wow, sure this will be a bestseller 🙂

    looooool

    Bboyblue, here is a reminder for you and others, regarding Spencer’s lies:

    Quran
    (Al-Baqarah: 256)”
    “Truth stands out clear from Error; Whoever rejects Evil and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy handhold, that never breaks. And God hears and knows all things.”

    (Al-Baqarah: 256)”

    “Truth stands out clear from Error; Whoever rejects Evil and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy handhold, that never breaks. And God hears and knows all things.”

  • bboyblue

    I 100 % disagree with you. spencer should be on this programme. People will see him for the paid media whore he is. You underestimate the BBC. They did an excellent programme on Geert Wilders, and who in the USA was funding him (Zionist extremists). The same people who fund Spencer

    I think it’s good the BBC are featuring Robert Spencer.

    It will show him up for the goon he is. Don’t forget many people were objecting to them putting up the BNP leader on the programme. After they did, he was throughly discredited, as people realised what he was up for.

    Let Spencer appear. Even in the USA, his message is a failure, despite the millions being funded. One third of American Muslims are converts to Islam.

  • JD

    The Citizens for National Security also did a report avalible on there site called …….

    EXHIBIT 5 from “Islam in Florida’s K-12 Textbooks”©,
    published by Citizens for National Security

    Which they had a problem with the following …

    “Muhammad’s teachings, which are the revealed word of God…, are found in the
    holy book called the Qur’an.”16

    “While the United Nations granted the Palestinians their own homeland, the
    Israelis seized much of that land, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip, during
    its various wars.”31

    “2000 Visit by Israeli leader Ariel Sharon to holy Arab site launches second
    Intifada and years of violence.”

    “Jesus, the founder of Christianity, was born in Palestine while it was under Roman
    rule.” 43

    http://thedeland912group.intuitwebsites.com/Quotes_Combined.pdf

    NO BIAS THERE PEOPLE I BET THAT REPORT WILL BE A FAIR ONE

  • JD

    I think they should also have people do a report on the
    The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the Roswell Spaceship landing and Kennedy Assignation done by microscopic organisms report will fit perfectly.

  • Mosizzle

    @bboyblue

    Woah, BBC is getting Spencer for a documentary on the Prophet! Whaaa?

    But, as you said, they have to be balanced or people will claim the BBC are being Dhimmis and the presenter, Rageh Omar, is doing taqiyya, Anyways, despite Robert Spencer’s ugly face making an appearance, the Muslims who’ve watched it so far say it is good.

  • mindy1

    @JD ^ WTF 😯

  • JD

    FLA. GOP CONGRESSMAN TEAMS UP WITH ANTI-MUSLIM GROUP – TOP
    Justin Elliott, Salon, 7/7/2011

    Spencer Ackerman flags a press release announcing a Capitol Hill briefing sponsored by Rep. Allen West (no surprise there) for a group called Citizens for National Security (CFNS):

    “Less than two months before the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, Congressman Allen West (R-FL) will sponsor a Capitol Hill briefing this coming July 25, on Homegrown Jihad in the USA: Culmination of the Muslim Brotherhood’s 50-year History of Infiltrating America. It will be the first-ever report of its kind produced entirely by a private group of U.S. citizens, notes West in a letter about it to his congressional colleagues.

    “Volunteer members of Citizens for National Security (CFNS), a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization based in Florida conducted the 14-month research that is the basis for the briefing. Its co-founders, Drs. William A. Saxton and Peter M. Leitner will present the report.

    “‘It details exactly how the Muslim Brotherhood’s deliberate, premeditated plan is now reaching maturity in this country in the form of homegrown Jihad,’ explained Dr. Saxton, CFNS Chairman.

  • Slightly off topic, but I’ve just been reading about the much anticipated Life of Muhammad documentary series to be screened on the BBC and something caught my eye.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jul/05/life-of-muhammad-bbc-documentary-live

    It’s well filmed, has plenty of access to the relevant sites and has a diverse line-up of talking heads – Karen Armstrong, Tariq Ramadan, Robert Spencer, Michael Nazir-Ali and Tom Holland.

    *double take* Robert Spencer?! I appreciate that the BBC have to be impartial and balanced but surely this is a bad move? The commissioning editor for religion and ethics at the BBC is a Muslim, Aaqil Ahmed, the director is British-Pakistani Faris Kermani, the production company is Crescent Films and is presented by Rageh Omaar. They also consulted with a shia scholar on the project. So you’d think the homework would have been done on the contributors for such a landmark event. That being the case I find it hard to understand why a co-founder of an Islamophobic hate group is given the opportunity to give his ‘expert’ opinion. The series apparently addresses the potentially sensitive issues, so surely it’s possible to give a factual but objective account without an anti-Muslim hatemonger’s input. The reviewer states that it’s fairly pre-emptive in that it tackles controversial issues regarding Islam so as to avoid accusations of pandering to political correctness, so maybe that’s why Spencer’s involved.

    The reviewer also comments:

    “Even though we didn’t see the prophet we did see shots of praying (tick!), veiled women (tick!), jihadi references such as the planes flying into the twin towers and the decimated remains of the 30 bus from the 7/7 attacks and veiled women praying (double tick!). There were also shots of camels. My score card is full.”

    It seems that it’s impossible to separate Islam from terrorism even in a historical biography. Maybe it needed to be done to in some way give a graphic portrayal of how contrary to Islamic teachings 9/11 & 7/7 were. Anyway, I look forward to the frothing from my Islamophobic compatriots when their vision of the Prophet and his life doesn’t materialise. Cue apoplectic accusations of appeasement, liberal bias and proof that our media has become ‘sharia compliant’!

  • lOONWATCH, CAN YOU FEATURE THIS AS A NEWS ARTICLE? wHEN I TRY TO SEND A TIP, THE BLANK PAGE SHOWS, HOW DO WE SEND A NEWS TIP TO YOU?

    http://www.debbieschlussel.com/39631/pro-illegal-alien-pan-muslim-splc-targets-schlussel-how-you-can-help/
    Pro-Illegal Alien / Pan-Muslim SPLC Targets Schlussel; How You Can Help
    By Debbie Schlussel

    I am being targeted by America’s largest friend of illegal aliens and Muslim extremist, the deceptively named Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)–a bloated far-left litigation center which took in $35 million in fiscal year 2010, in addition to its $251 million in assets. And you can help me fight back. This group of lefto-fascists

  • Anticipated Serendipity

    Offensiveness is a very subjective thing hence not very wise to legislate on. Different people find different things offensive and we’d have to go to great lengths to create a utopian society where nobody is ever offended because there are laws in place to prevent every group from being offended. 

    @Nur Alia
    “For example, if a person burns a Qur’an…what exactly is the purpose of this action? What is the intention? What is the point? What exaclty is the ONLY conlcusion you can make about someone who would burn a Qur’an who has a history of incitive behavior?”

    Anyone read that article on how Saudi Arabian authorities desecrate hundreds of Bibles annually? Heard of church bombings in Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan and Iraq? Burning a Quran is vile but at the end of the day it doesn’t physically harm anyone and is indeed an expression of how someone feels. Terry Jones is expressing that he doesn’t think too highly of the Quran or Islam, which sounds nasty but that’s his right. 

    “In the same genre…is, say hate speech in a masjid covered under the seme rules as burning the Qur’an…and why or why not?”

    I’m glad that you made that point because many Muslims are completely fine with putting up with the hateful diatribe that is delivered by religious leaders at the pulpit but outraged when some redneck with a congregation of 50 or so loons burns a Quran. If you outlaw Quran burning, there’ll be calls to outlaw hate speech coming from religious leaders and groups. How do you think such laws would be implemented? Secret police to hang out undercover at your masjid? 

    “In other words…those who hide behind freedom of expression to express hate toward Islam, would want restrictions placed on those who express hate in the name of Islam. So…is it freedom of expression they want…or the right to say what they want, and restrict the right of a response?”

    Wilders is a pathetic Eurocentric hypocrite in that the Quran should be banned because it is  hateful but his anti-Muslim ranting is freedom of speech. Wilders, however, claims that like Mein Kampf  (sp?), the Quran is evil and calls for violence, and he is defending European culture, democracy, blah, blah, blah from this evil; he doesn’t call for violence and he believes calls to violence should be illegal.

    “Lets look at Malaysia…where I live. It is unfortunate that we have people who want to burn churches and restrict the right of free religious practice here. I dont agree with the violence, and understand that Muslims here have the choice not to react when those who claim persecution incite anger.

    It is against the law for ANY religon to distribute religious literature on the streets…not just Christians. However, Christians…beliving they have a mandate from God to ignore the laws, distribute literature…and it isnt simply ‘come to my church’…but it is vile anti Islamic propaganda.”

    Malaysia doesn’t work the way most Western liberal democracies do. Banning the distribution of religious literature is an outrageous thing to do and is a violation of freedom of speech, expression and religion. It’s strange that the Christians are distributing hateful literature yet it’s  militant Muslims, who – despite being part of the country’s powerful  majority group – feel the need to terrorize minority religions and defend Islam from defamation by burning churches. 

    Completely agree with HGG and all blasphemy laws are a violation of free speech. I doubt Ireland sentences people to death for insulting Catholicism or banned the Da Vinci Code and other seemingly anti-Christian films, literature, etc. I was doing some research on censorship and found out that Malaysia had banned Schindler’s List because it was “sympathetic to the Jewish cause”, I thought that was pretty funny, irrelevant I know but funny nonetheless.

  • Ireland huh? Touch Father Ted and they deal with me… always wanted to do a Muslim version of that show, think it would be good 🙂

    And yes, interesting reading, Netherlands, Greece, Finland (used it in 2008!), New Zealand, Denmark, Canada… all these nations and more have such laws.

    Where I live, Malaysia and a majority Muslim nation, we also have it but it’s far more sensible than other ‘Muslim’ nations in that it is a blanket ban on attacking *any* faith (and Muslims get charged for it too). Like Nur I have seen some of the stuff some of our wonderful Christian neighbors hand out and crossed swords with some of the missionaries that various ‘Bible Schools’ churn out… not a nice bunch of people. But of course, only we Muslims can be evil.

  • Farlowe

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy_law is interesting reading. A lot of countries have blasphemy laws. Ireland! (Father Ted is in trouble).

  • HGG

    I’m fairly uncompromising here. Burning flags, Korans, Bibles, offensive cartoons of Muhammad, Christs covered in ants, etc all fall under freedom of expression. If someone finds them offensive and incites them to anger, it’s their own fault for being unable to control their murderous impulses.

  • Nur Alia

    If the speech, or writing or other expression is ment to incite anger, and that is what happens, then how is it freedom to express?

    For example, if a person burns a Qur’an…what exactly is the purpose of this action? What is the intention? What is the point? What exaclty is the ONLY conlcusion you can make about someone who would burn a Qur’an who has a history of incitive behavior?

    In the same genre…is, say hate speech in a masjid covered under the seme rules as burning the Qur’an…and why or why not?

    In other words…those who hide behind freedom of expression to express hate toward Islam, would want restrictions placed on those who express hate in the name of Islam. So…is it freedom of expression they want…or the right to say what they want, and restrict the right of a response?

    Lets look at Malaysia…where I live. It is unfortunate that we have people who want to burn churches and restrict the right of free religious practice here. I dont agree with the violence, and understand that Muslims here have the choice not to react when those who claim persecution incite anger.

    It is against the law for ANY religon to distribute religious literature on the streets…not just Christians. However, Christians…beliving they have a mandate from God to ignore the laws, distribute literature…and it isnt simply ‘come to my church’…but it is vile anti Islamic propaganda.

    You all can imagine the kind of things that are handed out…same garbage that the loons repeat all the time.

    So, when the law acts upon them, or the people get angry and react, these Christians cry discrimination and persecution…simply because they think they are above the laws of the land.

    So…in all honesty…there is no discrimination in Malaysia against Christians…they simply want not to abide by the rules, regulations, and bypass the legal channels all of the rest of us have to abide by.

    I would imagine it the same in other countrys as well.

  • mindy1

    I think blasphemy laws are absurd-people should say what they want. It’s up to the educated to inform people. As for ignorant idiots, ignore them and hopefully they will go away.

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