Daniel Huff is director of the Middle East Forum's Legal Project, which defends the free speech rights of authors and activists commenting on radical Islam and related issues. A graduate of Columbia Law School, he previously served as counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee to then Ranking Member Arlen Specter, handling a host of national security, civil and criminal matters. On October 28, he addressed the Middle East Forum via conference call on the twin assault Islamists have launched against free speech rights.
According to Daniel Huff, the first assault is a legal attack. The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is shaping international law at the UN to prohibit criticizing Islam. Their proposed ban on "defamation of religions" would silence even the most legitimate discourse. For example, he cited a 2008 presentation in the Human Rights Council on Islam and female genital mutilation which was halted after two OIC member countries objected to the discussion.
Mr. Huff said the First Amendment provides a "false sense of security." People assume it would invalidate any international law banning speech. However, an appellate court case held the government's compelling interest in complying with international law trumped free speech. Moreover, the Administration has softened traditional US opposition to the OIC's efforts. In 2009, the US cosponsored a resolution with Egypt calling on member states to adopt measures to cease negative stereotypes about religion particularly in the media.
Next Mr. Huff turned to the Islamists' second tactic—physical intimidation of artists or speakers. As examples, he cited Comedy Central's censorship of South Park after its creators' lives were threatened by RevolutionMuslim.com and cartoonist Molly Norris' being forced into hiding following her call to hold an "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day."
In response, Mr. Huff proposed expanding existing federal law protecting abortion rights from extremist threats to cover free speech rights.
During question-and-answer, Mr. Huff addressed whether fired NPR reporter Juan Williams could sue on First Amendment grounds. He noted both the difficulty of establishing that NPR should be considered a government employer bound by the First Amendment and of Williams proving actual damages, because of his lucrative Fox contract.
Finally, Mr. Huff set the Legal Project's mission in a broader context. Protecting free speech is the first defense against the imposition of an Islamic order. Shielding Islam from critical examination confers upon it a privileged status. From there, it is a smooth segue to the Islamists' ultimate goal of Western inferiority and dhimmi status.
Summary written by Sean Alexander