Fight War On Terrorism, Religious aggression, and superstition

October 8, 2010

Fight Back Against Death Threats by Islamic Extremists

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It’s Time to Fight Back Against Death Threats by Islamic Extremists

by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Daniel Huff
Los Angeles Times
September 27, 2010

http://www.meforum.org/2754/death-threats-islamic-extremists

Earlier this year, after Comedy Central altered an episode of “South Park” that had prompted threats because of the way it depicted Islam’s prophet Muhammad, Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris proposed an “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.” The idea was, as she put it, to stand up for the 1st Amendment and “water down the pool of targets” for extremists.

The proposal got Norris targeted for assassination by radical Yemeni American cleric Anwar Awlaki, who has been linked to the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight and also to several of the 9/11 hijackers. This month, after warnings from the FBI, Norris went into hiding. The Seattle Weekly said that Norris was “moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity.”

It’s time for free-speech advocates to take a page from the abortion rights movement’s playbook. In the 1990s, abortion providers faced the same sort of intimidation tactics and did not succumb. Instead, they lobbied for a federal law making it a crime to threaten people exercising reproductive rights and permitting victims to sue for damages. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE, passed in 1994 by solid bipartisan margins. A similar act is needed to cover threats against free-speech rights.

A federal law would do two things. First, it would deter violent tactics, by focusing national attention on the problem and invoking the formidable enforcement apparatus of the federal government. Second, its civil damages provision would empower victims of intimidation to act as private attorneys general to defend their rights.

Such an act is overdue. Across media and geographies, Islamic extremists are increasingly using intimidation to stifle free expression.

In 2004, Theo van Gogh was butchered on an Amsterdam street in broad daylight for his film criticizing Islam’s treatment of women. By 2006, it was reported that “dozens of people” across Europe were “in hiding or under police protection because of threats from Muslim extremists.”

Some targets, including the coauthor of this Op-Ed, fled to the United States, where it seemed safer — and so it is, for now. However, the stark truth is the United States was never immune and the situation is deteriorating.

In 1989, two American bookstores carrying Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” were firebombed. Spooked major chains took it off display. And there have been many more threats that received less publicity. Few have heard, for example, about Oklahoma atheist Sabri Husibi, who received death threats after writing a 2009 article critical of his former faith. His aged mother in Syria was warned she would never see him again. “Clearly shaken,” he requested the paper that published his article clarify that he is critical of all faiths.

These kinds of threats have had a formidable chilling effect. Mindful of the retaliation others faced, Yale University Press, the Met, the director of the disaster epic “2012” and countless others have decided to preemptively censor themselves.

The kind of legislation we propose is essential if we are to win the war of ideas against extremists, who use threats to drive the moderate message out of public discourse.

Existing state laws prohibiting intimidation are inadequate. On the criminal side, the heightened standard of proof deters prosecutors from investing scarce resources. Explicit grounds for a civil action do not always exist, and damages can be difficult to quantify. By contrast, the FACE Act, which provides the model for the proposed legislation, lets victims opt for preset damages.

The “South Park” incident neatly illustrates the benefits. On April 15, following the first of a two-part episode mocking Jesus, Buddha and Muhammad, RevolutionMuslim.com announced that “[w]e have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh.” The “warning” included the names, photos and work address of “South Park’s” creators, a graphic image of Van Gogh’s mutilated body and pictures of other targets of Muslim extremists. Overlaying this was audio of Awlaki preaching about assassinating anyone who defamed the prophet. Panicked, Comedy Central heavily censored the episode.

This rather obvious threat could not be prosecuted. New York Police Department officials explained it did not rise to a crime. Were the FACE Act applicable here, a civil suit would have been available, and precedent suggests it would have been successful.

In 2002, on very similar facts, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a civil award to abortion doctors who sued using the FACE Act. A fringe antiabortion group, ACLA, had in various public venues displayed “Wanted”-style posters bearing the names, photos and addresses of doctors who performed abortions. Their names were also posted on the Internet alongside a list of wounded and murdered doctors whose names were struck through. The 9th Circuit held that ACLA’s activities constituted true threats unprotected by the 1st Amendment.

If we leave our artists, activists and thinkers alone to weather the assault, they will succumb and we will all suffer the consequences.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former member of the Dutch parliament, is a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute and the author of “Nomad: From Islam to America.” Daniel Huff is director of the Middle East Forum’s Legal Project.

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“Rushdie Rules” Reach Florida

by Daniel Pipes
Washington Times
September 21, 2010

http://www.danielpipes.org/8881/rushdie-rules-florida

Pastor Terry Jones’ plan to burn copies of the Koran at his church in Gainesville, Florida, let it be emphasized, is a distasteful act that fits an ugly tradition. That said, two other points need be noted: Buying books and then burning them is an entirely legal act in the United States. Second, David Petraeus, Robert Gates, Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama pressured Jones to cancel only because they feared Muslim violence against Americans if he proceeded. Indeed, despite Mr. Jones calling off the Koran burning, 5 Afghans and 14 Kashmiris died in protests against his plans.

 

Palestinians desecrated the Tomb of Joseph in October 2000.

That violence stems from Islamic law, the Shariah, which insists that Islam, and the Koran in particular, enjoy a privileged status. Islam ferociously punishes anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, who trespasses against Islam’s sanctity. Codes in Muslim-majority states generally reflect this privilege; for example, Pakistan’s blasphemy law, 295-C, punishes derogatory remarks about Muhammad with execution.No less important, Shariah denigrates the sanctities of other religions, a tradition manifested in recent years by the destruction of the Buddhist Bamiyan statues and the desecration of the Jewish Tomb of Joseph and the Christian Church of the Nativity. A 2003 decree ruled the Bible suitable for use by Muslims when cleaning after defecation. Iranian authorities reportedly burned hundreds of Bibles in May. This imbalance, whereby Islam enjoys immunity and other religions are disparaged, has long prevailed in Muslim-majority countries.

Then, in 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini abruptly extended this double standard to the West when he decreed that British novelist Salman Rushdie be executed on account of the blasphemies in his book, The Satanic Verses. With this, Khomeini established the Rushdie Rules, which still remain in place. They hold that whoever opposes “Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran” may be put to death; that anyone connected to the blasphemer must also be executed; and that all Muslims should participate in an informal intelligence network to carry out this threat.

Self-evidently, these rules contradict a fundamental premise of Western life, freedom of speech. As summed up by the dictum, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” that freedom assures protection for the right to make mistakes, to insult, to be disagreeable, and to blaspheme.

If the Rushdie Rules initially shocked the West, they since have become the new norm. When Islam is the subject, freedom of speech is but a pre-1989 memory. Writers, artists, and editors readily acknowledge that criticizing Islam can endanger their lives.

 

British Muslims burned “The Satanic Verses” in January 1989.

Western leaders occasionally stand with those who insult Islam. British prime minister Margaret Thatcher resisted pressure from Tehran in 1989 and stated that “there are no grounds on which the government could consider banning” The Satanic Verses. Other governments reinforced this stalwart position; for example, the U.S. Senate unanimously resolved “to protect the right of any person to write, publish, sell, buy and read books without fear of violence.”Likewise, Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen stood strong in 2006 when disrespectful cartoons of Muhammad in a Copenhagen newspaper led to storms of protest: “This is a matter of principle,” he stated. “As prime minister, I have no power whatsoever to limit the press – nor do I want such a power.”

Both those incidents led to costly boycotts and violence, yet principle trumped expedience. Other Western leaders have faltered in defense of free expression. The governments of Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Great Britain, Israel, and the Netherlands have all attempted to or succeeded in jailing Rushdie-Rule offenders.

The Obama administration has now joined this ignominious list. Its pressure on Mr. Jones further eroded freedom of speech about Islam and implicitly established Islam’s privileged status in the United States, whereby Muslims may insult others but not be insulted. This moved the country toward dhimmitude, a condition whereby non-Muslims acknowledge the superiority of Islam. Finally, Mr. Obama in effect enforced Islamic law, a precedent that could lead to other forms of compulsory Shariah compliance.

Mr. Obama should have followed Mr. Rasmussen’s lead and asserted the principle of free speech. His failure to do so means Americans must recognize and resist further U.S. governmental application of the Rushdie Rules or other aspects of Shariah.

Mr. Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. His article, “Two Decades of the Rushdie Rules” will appear in the October issue of Commentary magazine.

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Further Thoughts on Koran Burning

by Daniel Pipes
September 21, 2010

http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2010/09/koran-burning

Several additional points that did not fit into my column today, “‘Rushdie Rules’ Reach Florida“:

(1) In contrast to Terry Jones and his miniscule band, British Muslims twice burned copies of The Satanic Verses in pubic during 1988-89, attended by crowds of 1,000 and 7,000. One hardly needs point out that the government did not apply pressure on the ringleaders to desist out of fear of violence resulting.

(2) In contrast to the permission to use the Bible as toilet paper, Muslims rioted, causing at least fifteen deaths, over an incorrect report in Newsweek that interrogators “flushed a Qur’an down a toilet” at the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay.

(3) The change in U.S. policy signaled in the Jones case fits a larger context of Obama administration willingness to shut down free discussion of Islam, as signaled by its endorsement of a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution proposed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

(4) By threatening Jones’ life, Islamists also benefit by potentially bankrupting him. Pretty clever. Details from the Gainesville Sun:

The cost of policing the Dove World Outreach Center for the planned Quran burning that never happened is expected to come to about $100,000 each for the Gainesville Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, officials say. And Gainesville City Manager Russ Blackburn said the city intends to present a bill for the costs to the church’s senior pastor, Terry Jones.

Sheriff Sadie Darnell said she also is considering billing the church. … Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Steve Maynard said 242 deputies were on duty Saturday, 160 of whom were working specifically because of the planned protest.

Total costs for security are actually higher when adding in the participation by other agencies including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and several sheriff’s offices that provided support such as bomb sniffing dogs and detection devices, officials said.

Blackburn said he isn’t sure how realistic it is to expect the church to pay or how much legal authority the city has to compel the church to pay. City Attorney Marion Radson said from his observations, the city was providing a “direct service” to the church.

(5) Several copycats did burn Korans on September 11, for example two pastors did so in Michigan, Tennessee, and Australia. The case of Derek Fenton got the most attention because a video of him burning pages turned up in YouTube and in consequence, his employer, the New Jersey Transit Authority, fired him.

(6) In “Is Koran Burning Protected by Free Speech?” the Legal Project’s Dan Huff looks at the legal implications of what he calls the “Petraeus defense”:

The Constitution permits the government to censor speech if necessary to achieve a compelling government interest. This is a very high standard, but the fact that the nation’s top commander made a rare public appeal for restraint will be cited as strong evidence that avoiding offense to Muslims is essential to the national interest. Once this dangerous premise is accepted, the door is open to court injunctions against speech that inflames Muslim sentiment in strategically important locations.

(7) In “Terry Jones, Asymmetrical Warrior,” David Goldman of First Things offers the most original take on this incident. “L’Affaire Jones demonstrated that a madman carrying a match and a copy of the Koran can do more damage to the Muslim world than a busload of suicide bombers.… What’s the dollar value of the damage from a used paperback edition of the Koran, available online for a couple of dollars?” Goldman goes on to speculate that non-Muslim intelligence services might be drawing conclusions from the impact Jones had and might decide to use his methods to throw the Muslim world into chaos, then he offers some thoughts on what those initiatives could look like. (September 21, 2010)

 

Istinja’ with the Torah and New Testament

by Daniel Pipes
September 21, 2010

http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2010/09/defecation-torah-new-testament

My reference in a column today, “‘Rushdie Rules’ Reach Florida,” included this sentence: “A 2003 decree ruled the Bible suitable for use by Muslims when cleaning after defecation.” That allusion deserves further explanation.

The link above goes to Fatwa #40378 of The Encyclopedia of Fatwas (Arabic: Mawsu’at al-Fatawi) on www.islamweb.net. Issued on November 23, 2003, it contains the standard question-and-answer format of a fatwa and reads thus in English translation:

Judgment: Despising the Torah or the New Testament

Question: “Does someone who insults the Torah or the New Testament engage in apostasy, given that these include some words of God?”

Answer: “It would be impermissible to disdain the Torah and New Testament if they contained the truth and the name of the exalted, such as the name of God the Most High. Whoever does this [i.e., disrespect the books] knowingly and by choice would be considered an apostate and would be despised by God. But [in fact] the Torah and New Testament do not have anything exalted in them. They are known to have been corrupted, so there is no problem disdaining them.

Ash-Shams[ad-Din] Ar-Ramli [d.1004 A.D.] said in [his book of fiqh] Nihayat al-Muhtaj: “It is impermissible to use respected books like those of hadith and fiqh for anal cleansing after defecation (al-istinja’,الأستنجاء ), but non-respected books like philosophy, Torah and the New Testament, which are known as corrupt and which do not contain exalted names, can be used for anal cleansing after defecation.”

Interestingly, Fatwa #40378 is no longer posted at the Encyclopedia of Fatwas; an announcement on its old page drably states that “There is no fatwa with this number.” The screen shot posted on my website, however, establishes that this fatwa was once posted.

Fatwa #40378 appears to have been removed in late 2009, as a result of the Dena Milany controversy. Milany, a German woman, posted the fatwa in English translation and Arabic original, then posted a call on Facebook for a “koran toilet paper roll,” complete with graphic of such an item. Muslims demanded the deletion of this page and the agitation reached to Egypt, where Sheikh Ali Abu’l-Hasan, a former president of Al-Azhar University’s Fatwa Committee, published a fatwa (reported in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Yawm as-Sabi’ on September 27, 2009) in which he ordered the “shedding of [her] blood.” Milany responded by publicizing the above fatwa on her blog, http://denamilany.blogspot.com.

Despite its removal, the fatwa remains valid. Taking it down from the website does not cancel it; that would require that the institution that issued it formally declare it illegitimate. This has not happened because the Shari’a clearly permits istinja’ with the Bible. Indeed, specialists on Shari’a have through the centuries discussed the legitimacy of istinja’ using the Torah and New Testament. (September 21, 2010)

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