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Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Istanbul Process and US Support for Islamist Censorship of Free Speech

The following by Deborah Weiss is reposted here with permission of Middle East Forum

U.S. Praises Sharia Censorship

by Deborah Weiss
May 24, 2013

The United States is silent as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) passes its most recent UN Resolution that unravels global consensus to support freedom of speech.

From 1999-2010, the OIC succeeded in passing its "defamations of religionsresolutions, which ostensibly would protect Islam from all criticism, including true statements of fact. Though the name of the resolutions indicated that it would pertain to all religions equally, in the OIC's interpretation, it applied to Islam only.

Realizing the clash that this concept holds with that of free expression, the US State Department urged the OIC to produce an alternative resolution which would address the OIC's concerns about "Islamophobia" and still protect free speech.

Accordingly, in March 2011, the OIC introduced the now infamous Resolution 16/18 to combat intolerance based on religion or belief, purportedly proposed as a replacement for the defamation of religions resolution. It garnered wide-spread support and Western states touted it as a victory for free speech. They believed that its focus marked a landmark shift from suppression of speech critical of religions to combating discrimination and violence against individuals based on their religious beliefs.

Over time it became clear that the OIC retained its long term goal to protect Islam from "defamation" and indeed to criminalize all speech that shed a negative light on Islam or Muslims. Resolution 16/18 turned out to be a tactical move by the OIC to bring the West one step closer toward realizing its goal of achieving global blasphemy laws, by using language more palatable to the West, and open to interpretation.

Against this backdrop the US held the first conference to "implement" Resolution 16/18, the process now known as the "Istanbul Process."

Unfortunately, America's concern for the protection of free speech seems to have gotten lost as its focus moved closer to the OIC's positions, and an emphasis was placed on protecting Muslims in the West from "Islamophobia."

Some circles including free speech advocates, national security experts, and those concerned about the Persecuted Church, have beaten the drum against Resolution 16/18 and the continuation of the Istanbul Process. Their efforts have been to no avail as the Istanbul Process continues.

However, while awareness of the perils of Resolution 16/18 is on the increase, news on Resolution A/HRC/22/L.40 has gone virtually unreported. It retains the same title as Resolution 16/18, but has glaringly dangerous amendments.

To focus on just one, it asserts that "terrorism…cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group." This is obviously problematic. The lumping together of these categories implies a false equation of immutable characteristics such as nationality and ethnicity with those that are subject to choice such as religion or belief.

Religions and belief systems come in all stripes. To preclude the possibility that any of them might be ideologically associated with terrorism leads to a position based on an unexplored assumption rather than a conclusion based on fact. Indeed, the assertion condemns the mere exploration of the facts a priori, a notion which is not only illogical but dangerous.

After 9/11 and the multitude of terrorist attacks committed in the name of Islam, one ought to be able to raise legitimate questions about Jihadi ideology without being labeled a bigot. Government has an obligation to determine the motivational ideology of terrorism even if even if it turns out to be an interpretation of a religion.

The government should not get into the business of ascertaining what is or is not proper theological interpretations of any religion. But a distinction has to be made between those who are truly practicing a religion as the word is understood in the West, versus those who are implementing a subversive political ideology cloaked in the language of religion.

Anyone who has conducted a good faith investigation knows that there is such a phenomenon as "Islamic terrorism." Only those in denial can claim otherwise. Truth should never constitute prohibited speech, no matter how ugly reality might be.

The condemnation of honest discussion on this important matter, along with other disturbing speech restrictive clauses in Resolution L.40, demonstrates the unraveling of the "consensus" by nation states to promote freedom of expression. Those who follow the OIC closely know that its allegiance to this concept was folly from the onset. One need only take a cursory glance at the OIC countries to determine the disingenuousness of this portention, as many OIC countries fine, jail and even execute the exercise of speech deemed blasphemous to Islam. For those less informed, nothing more than the language embodied in Resolution L.40 is needed to realize that the OIC's commitment to free speech is a sham.

Subsequent to passage of Resolution L.40, the EU representative to the UN expressed unabashed concernover the erosion of international consensus to support free speech. He insisted that the EU will continue to uphold the ideas pertaining to the protection of minorities, but will oppose any efforts to undermine the right to free expression, including discussion of Islamic terrorism.

The US representative stated no such concern. She failed to make a principled statement on America's position regarding freedom of speech. Instead, she lavished praise on the OIC for maintaining a "consensus" on Resolution 16/18 for three consecutive years.

The Obama Administration has erroneously characterized the Fort Hood attack as mere "workplace violence"; has cleansed from its national security and counterterrorism lexicon any reference to Islamic terrorism, hasblamed the Benghazi attacks on the an "anti-Islam video" and has taken a lead role in the Istanbul Process, promising to use "peer pressure and shaming" against American citizens who speak out on these issues in a way that the Administration finds disagreeable.

Therefore, it should have come as no surprise when after the Boston bombings, during a time of trial, tribulation and grief, the President's address emphasized that people should prioritize America's value of diversity. No doubt that this diversity of ideas includes the motivational ideology of Islamic terrorism, even though acknowledgment of its existence is now verboten


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