Have you seen the little old lady who passes out Jehovah's Witness literature in your neighborhood? Some people stop and show interest. Others roll their eyes, and keep walking. But, would you ever expect anyone to threaten her? Call her a racist, and try to get her arrested?
Islamists would. And that is exactly what happened to two English Christian ministers who had the nerve to proselytize on a street corner in a predominantly Muslim immigrant area in the UK in 2007.
Such freedom of speech violations won't be an anomaly if the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which has a permanent delegation to the United Nations, succeeds in passing a UN resolution against "Defamation of Religion" Noboby in a western country will be able to discuss the socio-political consequences of Muslim immigration, for fear of being labeled "Islamophobic" and slapped with a fine, or even jail time.
Islamists are increasingly using lawful Islamism, or non-violent and legal strategies to spread Sharia, (Islamic law) in the West, encroaching on non-Muslim life everyday. Other examples include:
- Sharia Finance;
- Islam in public schools;
- Violations of basic hygiene policy by Muslim medical staff;
- Workplace violations in the name of religious freedom;
- Censorship of literature.
Under the banner of "religious freedom," Islamists attack the very fabric of democracy in favor of Islam in the public sphere. The above examples are not examples of pluralism, but a violation of the separation of church and state doctrine meant to keep people of all faiths, or no faith, equal under the law. Liberals have forgotten that secularism is not a free-for-all, but has boundaries in order to remain meaningful.
Freedom of speech has already been attacked repeatedly. Islamists tried to censor criticism of Islamist terrorism when the Muhammad cartoons were published in Jyllens-Posten in 2005. Strangely enough, the "cartoon intifada" arose 5 months after their original printing, but only weeks before the UNHCR was due to consider the OIC's resolution on "Combating Defamation of Religion."
Such a coincidence caused the National Secular Society to state in its Memorandum (Section E, point 2) to the UK Parliament that,
the Danish cartoon crisis was manufactured… to exploit sensitivities around racial discrimination and to promote (or even exaggerate) the notion of "Islamophobia" in order to restrict possibilities for open discussion or criticism of Islam….measures calling for legislation banning "defamation of religion" - …. aims to remove religion, especially Islam, from public scrutiny and public debate.
If any religion is to be integrated into the daily social, economic and political life of a nation, it must open the door for evaluation of its goals and application. Otherwise, OIC nations will be able to govern unilaterally without respect to international law. Consider the following precedent.
Saudi Arabia ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2000, with reservations, stating, "In case of contradiction between any term of the Convention and the norms of Islamic law, the Kingdom is not under obligation to observe the contradictory terms of the Convention."
Thus, Saudi Arabia confirms that it will only offer lip service to human rights by signing documents like the CEDAW charter. It will not actually improve the status of women, because it is a theocracy, and every move a woman makes is governed by Islamic law. CEDAW can do nothing for them. Moreover, if the Defamation of Religion resolution is passed, all human rights activists will feel even greater censorship, since protests from abroad will be construed as racism.
Consider the "Qatif girl" case. A Saudi girl was gang-raped in 2005 and blamed for it, since she was in the presence of unrelated men when it happened. Her attorney lost his license for challenging the Saudi courts. Only after generating global media pressure did the situation change in her favor. The king pardoned her and the attorney got his license reinstated. In a post- Defamation of Religion world, the attorney would have been trapped, unable to help the girl and disbarred if he dared to challenge Saudi Islamic law.
Lastly, the OIC resolution must fail because it is patently hypocritical. While professing great sensitivity toward religion, OIC members ironically regularly fail to show any respect for other faiths:
Saudi Arabia continues to use bigoted textbooks, and export them to American Islamic schools despite promises to change.
Iran sponsored a Holocaust cartoon contest in retaliation for the Danish cartoons of Muhammad in 2005. Yet, Jews had nothing to do with the Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
Pakistan's blasphemy laws attack Christians as a pretext for personal disputes.
The Defamation of Religion resolution is a free pass for Islamists to continue denigrating other religions and minorities through lawful Islamism. It ties the hands of any politician that questions the spread of Islamism in the West, and prevents critical evaluation of the treatment of women and minorities in Muslim societies.
Liberal and conservative citizens of the West must work together to prevent this resolution from passing in the UN.
Supna Zaidi is editor-in-chief of Muslim World Today and assistant director of Islamist Watch at the Middle East Forum.