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‘Islam must not be shielded from criticism or scrutiny’

TROUBLED by attacks on free expression by groups wanting to shield Islam from criticism or scrutiny, free speech advocates are today unveiling a campaign for an “international First Amendment”.

Wilders and Hedegaard

Wilders and Hedegaard

The initiative by the International Free Press Society (IFPS) is being launched in Washington, DC, with Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician in attendance.

The event incorporates a screening of Wilders’ Fitna.

According to this report, recent years have seen an escalating drive by Islamic countries, working through the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), to counter what they regard as blasphemy – anything calling into question the assertion that Islam is a peaceful and tolerant religion.

Seeking to make it more difficult for people to challenge or criticise Islam, the OIC is promoting resolutions at the UN against “religious defamation,” based in part on the argument that anti-Islamic sentiment is a “contemporary form of racism.”

In a number of Islamic countries, blasphemy laws are enforced, often targeting Muslims who convert to another faith and are considered apostates under Islamic law (sharia), but also anyone who questions Islamic teaching or practices associated with Islam.

In non-Muslim countries, especially in the West, “hate speech” regulations are sometimes used to similar effect, and Wilders himself is due to stand trial in the Netherlands soon on charges of “inciting hatred and discrimination.”

Frank Gaffney

Frank Gaffney

Centre for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney, who is taking part in the IFPS event, was scheduled to discuss the dangers to America’s national security and civil liberties imposed by global oppression of free speech.

He said in a statement:

The insinuation of sharia legal codes and practices into free world societies includes the effort to impose shari’a blasphemy, slander and libel laws in the West. According to sharia, it is impermissible to engage in speech or writings that ‘defame’ Islam or otherwise offend its followers. We must oppose all these efforts.

In its “international First Amendment” campaign, the IFPS will push for a ban on hate speech laws.

IFPS president Lars Hedegaard, a Danish historian and journalist, said these laws, common in many European countries, are vague and unequally applied, and should be repealed.

The way to deal with controversial, offensive or even hateful statements – unless they are directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action – is to expose them to public debate and criticism.

54 responses to “‘Islam must not be shielded from criticism or scrutiny’”

  1. Buffy says:

    John Owen,

    I’m quite reasonable with believers who are decent and act like rational people. My own mother and a sister are ardent Christians and we get on quite well. They don’t preach hateful anti-gay crap at me or tell me I’ll burn in hell if I don’t believe in god. They actually do that stuff Jesus preached like “love your neighbor” and “do unto others”. Other believers who, like them, use religion as a tool to guide their own lives rather than as a battering ram against others find no opposition from me.

    The Bobs of this world, who feel the need to preach incessantly and use the Bible as a weapon against specific groups (such as gay people) while ignoring everything else the book says will feel my wrath. For them I have little or no patience, as it is filth like them who have been eroding and eradicating my rights for decades. It is because of people like Bob that my marriage is currently in legal limbo. I refuse to try to “reach out” to his ilk, because they are by choice unreachable. I’d no sooner ask a black man to reach out to the KKK or a Jew to reach out to the Neo-Nazis.

    But you deal with them as you please, as is your right, and I wish you the best in your attempts to reach them.

    Buffy

  2. John Owen says:

    Dear Buffy, Alun, and Urmensch,

    Thank you for your replies. My post did not address what is involved when a religious type is actively trying to interfere with one’s freedoms and rights. It would be natural to see such ugliness met with other ugliness, even though this is not a rational response. I think that an organized response by relatively thoughtful means may have a superior long term effect. The means used to respond to the Bobs of the world makes a difference. I admire those who have rationally dismantled the rubish that has been dumped on your site by the likes of Bob without undue emotion. Since Bob is only the tip of the iceburg of bigots out there, and since those bigots are standing in the way of society progressing, perhaps it is a gift for someone like Bob to offer samples of their crap so that we can get a little group practice in the art of skillful dismantling. John Owen PS, has anyone else enjoyed reading a book called “The Bible Unearthed”?

  3. Urmensch says:

    John

    I myself, when I’ve encountered the homophobic type of Christian, have tried to argue that the Bible has to be understood in the context of the time it was written.
    Bar the one episode in Sodom (which of course never really existed) all the mention of homosexuality in the Bible refers to the practice of men sleeping with homosexual priests who served in the pagan temples all over the Middle East. When it says in the Bible that this is ‘to’evah’, what has come to be translated as abomination, it meant that it was forbidden to the Jews as being ritually unlawful.

    Easy to understand why the priests didn’t want the Jews engaging in the religious practices of competing gods.

    In fact, the first time this term was used was when Moses said to Pharaoh that the rituals of the Jews were ‘to’evah’ to the Egyptians.
    Obviously he can’t have meant the rituals were abominable. Just that they were foreign, weren’t meant for the Egyptians.
    Even the animals that were forbidden to the Jews to eat were mostly sacred to the pagans.
    So ‘to’evah’ was actually a cultural rather than an ethical injunction.

    Never once have I succeeded in getting one to budge from their own interpretation. I concluded that the reason is that they want to hate. That in fact they look to the Bible for justification for their hatred.

    These same people never picket seafood establishments because they sell shrimp, or someone remarrying a divorcée, or attack gardeners who plants two different types of plant together etc., all equally ‘to’evah’. I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.

    This is why Buffy said what she did about getting Black people or Jews to reach out to Nazis or the KKK.
    Because the source of their hatred is irrational, they are immune to reason.
    I tend to agree with her.

    If however, a Christian could admit to even a scintilla of doubt about their scriptures, in that case there might be some profit to be had in reasonable discussion.

  4. John Owen says:

    Urmensch

    Yes, it doesn’t seem that one can rationally discuss the terms of their insanity with believers. This has also been my experience on numerous occassions.

    It is a better use of time for non-believers to join together formally to be recognized as a force to be dealt with, and I commend you for being associated with other non-believers.

    But when someone like Bob comes along, there may be a way to engage without debating the terms of their belief system. Every liberated person I have met has had a waking up point, be it at 2 years or 40 years. That waking up point is not going to crack until a threshold is met if ever; we can hinder it coming along or we can help it to come along. If someone looks at a non believer as a decent sort of chap or lady, it is much more likely that the encounter will have the desired affect. No, I am not reaching out to believers on the terms of their insanity. Perhaps the following will be my first stab at dealing with Bob:

    Dear Bob,

    Your comment has been a contribution to the freethinker website in so far as it provides a clear depiction of the price a person and society pays for belief in your particular brand of Christianity. Even in the context of the deluded thinking that you have demonstrated, I do not sense a shred of original thought or technique in your post. It is a shame that as a person of European decent, whose ancestors were probably converted to Christianity at the threat of death and against their will, that you have embraced a system of Middle Eastern and Greek gnostic thought that is crippling your intellectual capacity and contributing to misery in the world. It is disturbing that you selectively use this inconsistent body of mythology in order to justify hatreds and intolerances and that you would willingly be an agent for the continuation of the disasters that your form of Christianity as brought to the planet. Your post will be moved to the section “posts by believers” after one week in order to serve as an example of what happens to someone of ill motive who has taken a plunge into the deep end of a dangerous belief system. Perhaps if you are ever healed of your mental virus, you will be able to retrieve this post and put it into the scapbook that documents your recovery and embrace of rational thinking. In the meantime, it will serves as a reminder to us of the misfortune that can befall a peson such as you who has not discovered the gift of critical thought. John