2009: A Year To Defend Free Speech - Or Lose It

January 2009

Wednesday, January 21, was a black day for freedom, and the beginning of an all-out assault on free speech in the Netherlands. The Amsterdam Court of Appeals ordered the prosecution of Geert Wilders (one of this article’s co-authors) for his statements about Islam. To participate in public debate is now a dangerous activity. This is the Netherlands today—and it could be the entire Western world tomorrow.

The prosecution of Wilders was unexpected, though in retrospect one can see that something like it has been in the offing for a while. The year 2008 marked 60 years since the United Nations first promulgated its Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet instead of celebrating this notable anniversary by reaffirming human rights, the world in 2008 saw certain fundamentally important human rights nearly disappear under intense pressure from Islamic countries that oppose freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the equality of all people before the law. Islamic efforts to create exceptional privileges for Muslims in the area of human rights have been advancing for quite some time, and they made great strides in 2008. Now, with the Amsterdam court’s judgment, we see the outcome of such efforts.

The Islamic bloc has been on record for two decades as opposing free speech. In 1990, foreign ministers of the 57 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), currently the largest voting bloc in the United Nations, adopted the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam. It states clearly that Islamic law—sharia—is the only true source of human rights. Few analysts in 1990 understood that this was tantamount to declaring the legitimacy of institutionalized discrimination against women and non-Muslims, and signing the death warrant of freedom of speech and freedom of conscience as well. And not just in Muslim lands: The OIC and allied organizations have been aggressively pursuing efforts to extend elements of sharia into the West, though few people realize it even today.

Due to the relentless efforts of the OIC, passage of a resolution on combating defamation of religions is now a yearly ritual in the United Nations. First introduced in the General Assembly in 2005, the resolution has been adopted with landslide votes every year since. While this resolution is non-binding, the OIC has declared its intention to seek a binding resolution—one that would require UN member states to criminalize criticism of Islam, as the OIC defines such criticism. This is a clear indication of the progressing Islamization of the United Nations.

On March 28 of last year, the UN hit rock bottom. Its Human Rights Council—whose members include such stalwart defenders of freedom as China, Cuba, Angola, and Saudi Arabia—adopted a resolution that severely modified the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression. Instead of simply reporting on cases in which the right to free expression is being violated, the special rapporteur will now also have to report on cases in which that right is being “abused”—including when individuals use their freedom of speech to criticize Islam, or the particular elements of Islam that jihadists use to justify violence and Islamic supremacism. In essence, this means that the function of the special rapporteur has changed 180 degrees—from safeguarding the rights of individuals who hold unpopular or controversial ideas, to trying to limit the freedom of individuals to express such ideas.

As the Canadian delegation noted, “instead of promoting freedom of expression the Special Rapporteur would be policing its exercise.” This is fundamentally inconsistent with the very foundation of the human-rights tradition, as are measures combating “defamation of religions.” Such measures aim to protect institutions and ideas from criticism, instead of protecting individuals from the consequences of criticizing them. The very concept of freedom of speech has thereby been turned on its head.

Now the full force of this initiative has been directed against those who are sounding the alarm about the Islamization of the West. How could this have happened? Where was the opposition from Western nations? The silence in Europe has been deafening. Only recently did the French ambassador finally speak out, on behalf of the European Union, against the UN initiative to outlaw defamation of religions. He stated that the EU would not accept integration of the notion of defamation of religions into the framework of human rights, since the primary purpose of human rights is to protect people, not religions.

Still, talk is cheap. If we want to preserve our universal human rights, we have to show determination in 2009 to defend them from the OIC’s attempts to erode them. The Amsterdam Appeals Court decision only indicates how urgently needed this action is today. But opposing the OIC would require strong, positive acts, which would be a departure from the current pattern. In the case of the resolution on the mandate of the special rapporteur, European countries did nothing but abstain from voting on the resolution. Even Canada, which spoke out strongly against the resolution, abstained rather than voting against it. The United States also abstained; in fact, no nation voted against the resolution at all.

This was an absolute disgrace. The free nations of the world should have voted with their feet instead and resigned from the Human Rights Council immediately. Civilized states have no business participating in a forum that has been hijacked by the Islamic-supremacist agenda to replace fundamental human rights with the barbaric strictures of sharia.

They should also boycott the 2009 Durban Review Conference (Durban II), because there is every indication that this “UN World Conference Against Racism” will be turned into an anti-Israeli and pro-Islamic platform under the direction of the OIC and will end up actually promoting racism and intolerance. In October 2008, the Second Preparatory Session of the 20-state Preparatory Committee for Durban II convened in Geneva, with Libya, that paragon of human rights, as chair, and Pakistan and Iran among the vice-chairs. This Preparatory Session produced a “Draft Outcome Document for the Durban Review Conference 2009,” recommending that UN member states make “defamation of Islam”—not just of “religion,” but of Islam in particular—a criminal offense on the local, national, and international levels. This “defamation,” the document declared, must no longer enjoy the protection that it has up to now under the “pretext” of “freedom of expression, counter terrorism or national security.” In other words, the Durban II Preparatory Session wants to criminalize investigations of the ideology, beliefs, motives, and goals of Islamic jihad terrorists, so that effectively the only people linking Islam with violence will be the jihadists themselves, and the Free World will be mute and defenseless before their advance.

If Geert Wilders is silenced, all those who oppose attempts to impose Islamic legal norms upon the West will be silenced also. European nations and the United States should stop appeasing Islam and start fighting together against the rapidly increasing Islamization of Europe. This is a struggle for human rights and human dignity, and for the great heritage of Western civilization that has given so many things to the world, yet whose children and heirs seem curiously embarrassed and reluctant to defend it.

Enough is enough. We must defend our freedom, or we will most certainly lose it.