‘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”.
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.”
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 â€˜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and journalist, said these laws, common in many European countries, are vague and unequally applied, and should be repealed.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.