February 12, 2015

A Muslim Libertarian Defends of Freedom of Expression

The murderous attack on Charlie Hebdo was an embarrassment to all Muslims and the strong condemnation of the attack by Muslims around the world is a reflection of the fact most Muslims realize this. Freedom of speech is not incompatible with Islamic values, and I am a believing Muslim who does not compromise on this point. Unfortunately, one aspect of the expressions of sympathy with the victims of that attack, the drive to pretend that sympathy for the victims of violence requires one to embrace their bigoted and hateful cause actually undermines the right of free speech. This point is extremely important, so I feel it is my duty to spell out the issues and clear up the confusion.

That we must share, or even find acceptable, the views of those whom others would silence is fallacious and actually undermines the whole point of free expression. An implacable champion of free speech H.L. Mencken correctly observed, “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” When the ACLU defended the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, a town in which many Holocaust survivors resided, they felt no need to defend the bigotry of the marchers, even as they defended their right to display their bigotry. As to those who have accused news outlets with too much good taste to reprint the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of cowardice, I would point out that a right to offend does not of necessity translate in to a duty to offend.

The irony of the misdirected commentary on this attack on freedom of speech has been the pretense that France has freedom of speech. France has no First Amendment. On the contrary, many types of speech are prohibited in France and can lead to jail time. The commitment to freedom of expression France is one-sided: against religion, but not for it. Charlie Hebdo is an opponent of all forms of organised religion, but has no interest in opposing French secular fundamentalism that prohibits women from wearing a niqab. Charlie Hebdo has a right to freely express its venom but should have the honesty to admit that it has no interest in the freedom of expression of Muslims.

Freedom of speech, as enshrined in America’s First Amendment, is not about whether or not fighting words may inspire a violent reaction from the offended party but about the fact that a legislature may pass no law abridging the freedom of speech. The U.S.  Supreme Court has ruled that the only time that may be done is when the government has “a compelling interest” and that even then it must be done in the least restrictive means possible.” I side with those who say government has no right to prior restraint. Contrary to popular understanding of metaphor used by Oliver Wendell Holmes, you can shout fire in a crowded theater, although you will suffer the consequences if your act causes a stampede. (I attended a Broadway production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in which an actor shouted “Fire!” to the audience and after a beat observed, “Not a muscle!”) In France not only can one be imprisoned for denying the Holocaust, but Roger Garaudy, a veteran of the French resistance, was sentenced to a fine and imprisonment for merely questioning the precise numbers killed in the Holocaust.

The French government is tone deaf on the issue of freedom speech, arresting 54 persons for “hate speech” shortly after delegates from all over the world demonstrated in Paris for Charlie Hebdo’s right to free speech. Among the detained was the controversial comic Dieudonné M’bala, who posted “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly” on his Facebook account. In an open letter to the Minister of the Interior Dieudonné charged, “You consider me like Amedy Coulibaly [murderer of shoppers in a Kosher supermarket] when I am not any different from Charlie.” In France the key distinction between “hate speech” and “free speech” is its target.

Except when advancing its own leftist agenda, Charlie Hebdo only knocks down icons that are unpopular in France. It’s hatred of Muslim extremists was strong enough to brave death, but its love of free expression is not so strong as to brave the imprisonment that would come from defending such scoundrels as anti-Semites. The newspaper fired a columnist who refused to apologize when accused of provoking “prejudice about Jews and social success.”

Muslim extremists are wrong to persecute those who disrespect Islam. The blasphemy laws in Islam, although rooted in some weak hadith [reports from the early Muslims], are contradicted by the Qur’an [which Muslims accept as God’s word]. Yet, most Muslims are not hypocritical, at least, and oppose mockery of any religion. I recall having to explain to a nonreligious acquaintance who proposed that Muslims should respond to the burning of Qur’ans by desecrating a Bible why no self-respecting Muslim would ever consider such a shameful act.

Those who charge that the problem is that Muslims lack the Christian and Jewish indifference to attacks on their religious symbols miss the point. Believing Christians and Jews are not indifferent, but merely resigned in the face of a society where the sacred cows are not religious but political.  Zionists do not protest attacks on Moses or Abraham, but they get very upset by attacks on Netanyahu. As Voltaire put it: “To determine the true rulers of any society, all you must do is ask yourself this question: Who is it that I am not permitted to criticize?”

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

February 9, 2015

News and Analysis (2/9/15)

“In unverified recordings supposedly of Sisi and his chief of staff, Abbas Kamel, the man said to be Sisi says Saudi Arabia, Egypt’s most generous donor, should pay $10bn (£6.5bn) directly into the army’s account, circumventing the rest of the Egyptian state”:

“Mr. Greste, Mr. Fahmy, and their Egyptian colleague Baher Mohamed were each sentenced last year to seven to 10 years in prison on terrorism-related charges in what was widely regarded as a show trial…. Greste was unexpectedly set free last week” …

… meanwhile, “Bahrain-based Al Arab Television, owned by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, was taken off the air a day after debuting with an interview with a local opposition leader. ‘Technical’ reasons were cited”:

“We achieved what we aimed for. We destroyed logistics centers, arms depots and targeted hideouts of their fighters” — General Mansour al-Jbour, head of the Jordanian airforce”:

“Some fear Yemen’s southern secessionists will see this as a good moment to break away, although splits in their own ranks have so far prevented them from taking such a step”:

“He’s a rapper, a cop, a congressman and, yes, a Muslim. Welcome to America, where such things are possible”:

“‘I am for reaching a good settlement and the Iranian nation too will certainly not oppose any deal to uphold its dignity and integrity,’ Khamenei said, an apparent warning to hardliners that they might have to accept a deal with powers including the United States”:

“Muslims arrived here before the founding of the United States — not just a few, but thousands. They have been largely overlooked because they were not free to practice their faith. They were not free themselves and so they were for the most part unable to leave records of their beliefs”:

“The attack would appear to deal a blow to the Islamic State group’s efforts to develop a local affiliate to challenge the long-dominant Taliban”:

“The death of at least 40 militant, highly politicized, and street battle-hardened Egyptian soccer fans in clashes with security forces … dashed hopes that the Al Sisi government may adopt a less brutal approach to its civil society opponents”:

February 7, 2015

News and Analysis (2/7/15)

“I came to the United States because I valued living as a free person, one who is able to advocate in a democratic society. Unfortunately, the U.S. has been turning into a less free society, a police and surveillance state, especially after 9/11″ — Sami Al-Arian

“In the week after the first attack, the CFCM reported 60 incidents. These included physical attacks on 26 mosques around the country, some of which involved firebombs. One mosque in Le Mans was attacked with grenades”:

“IS said on its website that an American female hostage, identified as Kayla Jean Mueller, was killed in a Jordanian airstrike on Friday during Muslim prayers. The Jordanian government said it was highly skeptical of the claim, and American officials said they were looking into the report”:

IS survives despite the loss of Kobane and veterans from the fighting in Syria are establishing themselves in Libya:

“The unity I felt on the airplane was just overwhelming. So many people were consoling me. People were very gentle and nice to me and my husband. This is America. That’s the American response”:

“Regulators are concerned that money is being funnelled to extremists. But the Somali government has warned that suspending legal transfer services may give rise to a new unregulated black market in cash transfers that could make it easier to channel money to militant groups … [and] jeopardise stability in Somalia and the welfare of millions of Somalis who depend on financial assistance from abroad.

“With a big Muslim population, Trappes exemplifies what Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, has provocatively called “territorial apartheid”. Yet the town also reveals the complex links between segregation, an assertive secular state and the rise of jihadism”:

Houthi insistence that it is open to political coalitions do not assuage the alarm of neighboring states after they dissolved the Yemini parliament, and the U.N threatens unspecified action:

The erroneous belief that support for the Netanyahu invitation was bipartisan underscores the hubris of Likud’s confidence  in American subservience; rather the specter of American legislators conflating Israeli interests with America’s has spawned a boycott-the-Netanyahu speech movement:

February 5, 2015

News and Analysis (2/5/15)

“[T]he U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said it has received reports of “several cases of mass executions of boys, as well as reports of beheadings, crucifixions of children and burying children alive”, …

… an association of Muslim scholars declared that IS’s barbarity “does not represent Islam in any way and its actions always harm Islam,” and even those countries who have no problems with beheading and crucifixion as punishment were shocked by the burning of a prisoner of war, …

… and even a hard-line Jordanian leader with “ties with the Islamic State and al-Qaeda” called the execution “un-Islamic in every sense” and has united “all of Jordan — Islamists and liberals, East Bank and West Bank — … against” the IS …

… but the perpetrators justified their actions with an “eye for an eye” reasoning,  “saying the immolation matched what he had done in “burning Muslims with the fire of his plane'” …

… but Jordan’s response is to rain down more fire:

“Prime Minister Habib Essid, whose cabinet has ministers from four parties including the powerful Islamists, promised “work and nothing but work” on the country’s economic and security problems”:

“An Egyptian court sentenced prominent activist Ahmed Douma to life in prison on Wednesday, judicial sources said, part of a sustained crackdown on Islamist and liberal government opponents”:

“Greste saw first-hand the flaws of the Egyptian judicial system…. [P]rosecutors inexplicably presented as evidence of his guilt a Gotye song, footage of trotting horses, photos of his parents, an interview he filmed with Kenyan politicians, and Arabic text messages, which he cannot read”:

The wife of Mohammed Baher said that “she is looking to any country that could provide Baher with a foreign nationality” after Canada’s foreign minister said that another of the three detained Al-Jazeera journalists “could be imminently released after renouncing his Egyptian nationality”:

“[R]eining in the religious, semi-governmental and military organizations accustomed to tax breaks portends a political challenge akin to “pulling fresh kill out of a lion’s mouth,” a Tehran-based political analyst said”:

George W. Bush had a roundtable with Muslim leaders in his first term, while Obama has “had roundtable discussions in the White House with African-American, Jewish-American and labor leaders, but never Muslim-American advocates” until year seven of his administration:

“Brian McKeon, principal undersecretary of defense for policy,  … said President Barack Obama and his national security team all believe the continued operation of the Guantanamo Bay detention center “is used by violent extremists to incite local populations”:

“Kenyan mediator Kenneth Marende told reporters that representatives of both the Seleka and anti-Balaka armed groups pledged to stop the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and to stop launching attacks against civilians” …

… but “extremists on the run from a massive, three-nation offensive took revenge Thursday on civilians in neighboring Cameroon, shooting and burning scores to death and razing mosques and churches”:

February 3, 2015

News and Analysis (2/3/15)

“Today’s death sentences are yet another example of the bias of the Egyptian criminal justice system. These verdicts and sentences must be quashed and all of those convicted should be given a trial that meets international standards of fairness” — Hassiba Sahraoui, Amnesty International:

“From religious efforts at tackling Ebola in West Africa, to the interfaith solidarity that has so far helped prevent the horrors of France being imported to these shores, religion remains a force for change at home and abroad. Religious literacy is essential to the diversity we treasure in Britain”:

So where are the Muslim satirists? Bassem “often described as the Jon Stewart of Egypt” is going to Harvard:

“Rodeo announcer Bob Tallman, known for giving the event a Christian tone, said Bakhach ‘did a wonderful job….’ But since then, online anger directed at the rodeo for inviting a Muslim to deliver the prayer prompted Bakhach to cancel the blessing scheduled for Feb. 2″ …

… “Muslim extremists and the anti-Muslim protesters share a … mindset that says you’re the enemy if you don’t believe exactly as they do. Neither side can accept the pluralism that has been a hallmark of both American and Muslim traditional values…. Both sides are motivated by … fear”:

“The Reform temple, which was built in the late 19th century, had fallen into disrepair by 2013 and only with the help of the city’s Council for Mosques did the Jewish community raise enough money to get it back in working order”:

“The law was adopted under pressure from armed groups who surrounded public buildings until it was approved by officials. Libya has been torn by conflict since the fall of Col Gaddafi, with rival militias battling for control of cities and resources”:

“Schabas said a legal opinion he wrote for the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 2012, for which he was paid $1,300, was not different from advice he had given to many other governments and organisations.” Now, will any consultants to, or advocates for, Israel also resign?

February 1, 2015

News and Analysis (2/1/15)

Rep. Molly White (R-Belton) has the nerve to demand that her American constituents who happen to Muslim pledge allegiance when they have the better right to question her loyalty for placing the flag of a foreign nation (you guessed it: Israel) on her office desk at the Texas state capital:

“Director Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper, who plays real-life sniper Chris Kyle, have yet to comment, though over the weekend Eastwood called Sniper an anti-war film”:

Hamas, “an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which the authorities have also declared a terrorist group and repressed” since the military coup against Egypt’s elected President Mohamed Mursi, calls the decision “a political, dangerous decision that serves only the Zionist occupation” …

… “Sisi leveled the accusation despite the fact that a Sinai-based militant group with links to the Islamic State terrorist organization claimed responsibility for the attacks and released photographs as proof. The Brotherhood routinely denounces the Islamic State”:

“In what may have been a unique moment in America, more than 100 women gathered Friday at the interfaith Pico-Union Project. While many mosques continue to follow a tradition of separating women from male congregants, the downtown Los Angeles mosque forbids men from attending”:

“[L]ongtime rodeo announcer Bob Tallman … said Bakhach ‘did a wonderful job’ when giving Sunday’s prayer” and that “there was ‘a beautiful spirit’ in Will Rogers Coliseum Sunday night, and said the blessing went on without a hitch” but the reaction from those not present was another story:

“Correspondents say it is the largest number of Bahrainis to be stripped of their nationality since … an uprising in 2011 in which the Shia majority demanded democratic reforms from the Sunni-led government”:

According to a United States Institute of Peace report, “Extremist groups are increasingly active in the central and northern districts, disrupting the pluralistic culture that has long defined the province”:

“Jordan renewed an offer Sunday to swap an al-Qaida prisoner for a fighter pilot held captive by the Islamic State group, a day after a video purportedly showed the militants beheading a Japanese hostage.” At the time of the original offer IS “didn’t say … if they were considering such a deal”:

“The Islamic State group has acknowledged for the first time that its fighters have been defeated in the Syrian town of Kobani and vowed to attack the town again”:

“We do not want a war but we are not afraid of it and we must distinguish between the two, and the Israelis must also understand this very well. “We have the right to respond in any place and at any time and in the way we see as appropriate” — Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah:

January 29, 2015

News and Analysis (1/29/15)

“[P]olice prevented anyone from trying to help 32-year-old Shaimaa el-Sabbagh after she was shot. El-Sabbagh, a mother of a small boy, died Saturday after birdshot fired by police hit her in the head during a rally she took part in”:

“Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon targeted an Israeli convoy in a heavily militarized border region northwest of the Golan Heights with six anti-tank missiles, killing two soldiers … as a much-anticipated response to an Israeli drone strike Jan. 18 on the Syrian Golan that killed six Hezbollah fighters”:

“If an invader kills someone who is trying to resist the invasion, that does not count as heroic self-defense. The invader is the aggressor. The “invadee” is the defender. If anyone’s a hero, it’s the latter” — Sheldon Richman

As with the Bergdahl exchange,  “the principle of bringing soldiers home when you’ve sent them into harm’s way is a powerful one”:

“It really is not required for western women to wear a headscarf when they are in a Muslim country.  They could do it, certainly it is a sign of respect but it’s not a requirement” — Anita McBride, the former chief of staff to Laura Bush:

“The group, calling itself “Islamic State in Tripoli Province,” said it launched the attack Tuesday to avenge the death of Abu Anas al-Libi, who was snatched off a Tripoli street by U.S. special forces in 2013 and died in U.S. custody earlier this month due to complications from liver surgery”:

The girl who tweeted that she wanted to ‘pull a Mulan’ by heading to Syria, a cultural reference to a Disney movie, which the co-author of a recent study finds “fascinating because these people are Western, but also simultaneously loathe Western society”:

Afghanis are disappointed over the failure to establish a government, but still prefer the incumbents to  their predecessors:

January 27, 2015

News and Analysis (11/27/15)

Dismissing speculation that a retaking of Mosul is imminant, an unidentified U.S. official said the Islamic State “wants to draw security forces into a prolonged, urban, street-by-street combat. We’re not going to fall for that”:

Carson has been congratulated by “rabbis, pastors, of course imams and other leaders …, because many of them know my law enforcement background… [W]hen folks have a true sense of what this country is about, I don’t think that they’re distracted easily by the few dissenters that are out there”:

“The release likely signals the Houthi rebels’ readiness for a de-escalation of the crisis that has gripped Yemen. Earlier, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi had set his aide’s freedom as a top demand in order to reconsider his resignation”:

According the Philippine Secretary of Sate, the unit “strayed into territory controlled by the MILF …, and a ‘misencounter’ ensued. The government had not been seeking to sabotage the peace agreement with the MILF by carrying out the operation without their knowledge”:

“By decrying the sweep of eavesdropping on Palestinians, …the move opened a window on clandestine practices” such ‘as the gathering of Palestinians’ private information – [e.g.], sexual preferences or health problems “that might be used to extort people into becoming informants':

Among the unIslamic activities Zakariyah denounced were “distorted implementation of Shari’a law”; “absence of any consultation”; “numerous human rights violations”; and “a distorted form of the Holy Jihad, which resulted countless innocent Somali citizens being killed”:

“Last April, a Cairo appeals court upheld the sentence given to Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel for taking part in an unauthorised protest. Tuesday’s ruling by the Court of Cassation meant all legal avenues had now been exhausted”:

“By distorting Islamic teachings and history, Graham promotes intolerance, encourages extremism and chills speech” — Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center …

… and, ironically, the bell tower of which the Muslim students were denied use “is a replica of the Islamic prayer-call minaret, brought to Latin-Europe by St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) from which the Muslims were denied use m his missionary travels to the Islamic lands” …

… in any case, “the adhan can be good for everyone — even for those who aren’t Muslim, and for those who don’t believe in God…. The adhan can help us recall what gives our lives meaning, and can help us cultivate an attitude of gratefulness”:

Muslims and Bell-Tower Controversy

Muslims and Bell-Tower Controversy

Duke University’s decision to rescind its earlier approval to allow the use of campus bell-tower for a weekly Islamic prayer call has drawn widespread attention. Among the chief opponents of this accommodation to campus Muslims is Reverend Franklin Graham. He says, “It is wrong because it’s a different god. Using the bell tower, that signifies worship of Jesus Christ. Using (it) as a minaret is wrong” (quoted in Atlanta Journal Constitution, 1/16/15).

It is ironic, however, that Franklin Graham’s father, Reverend Billy Graham, was more polite and tolerant about Islam and Muslims. In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, the elder Evangelical preached, in true Christian spirit, that we “should regard Muslims not as the enemy but as fellow-believers who worshiped the same God” (Washington Post, 9/2/02). Of course, over the centuries, numerous non-Muslim authorities (religious and others) have acknowledged that.

As to the bell-tower, it is a replica of the Islamic prayer-call minaret, brought to Latin-Europe by St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) from his missionary travels to the Islamic lands. While in Egypt , Francis “was deeply impressed by the religious devotion of Muslims, especially by their daily calls for prayer.” And, “the thrice-daily recitation of the Angelus that became current in Europe after this visit was precipitated by the impression made on Francis by the call of the muezzin (just as the quintessential Catholic devotion of the rosary derives from the Muslim prayer beads)” (see Thomas Cahill, “The Peaceful Crusade: Francis of Assisi,” New York Times, 12/25/06).

Incidentally, part of St. Francis’ mission was to convert Egypt’s Sultan al-Malik Kamil (reign: 1218-1238). He didn’t succeed, but he “came away from the peaceful encounter with revolutionary ideas
that called for Christians to live harmoniously with Muslims.” Amen. (See Paul Moses, The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace, Image Publishers; 2009).

S.M. Ghazanfar
(Emeritus-Prof., University of Idaho)

January 25, 2015

News and Analysis (1/25/14)

The late Saudi monarch’s gradualist reform program proceeded at a glacial pace …

… and his successor “is largely seen as a place-holder king. Two kings from now is when some chance for change may come in. The current crown prince … will be the last of Abdul Aziz’s sons to hold the title. The deputy crown prince is Mohammed bin Nayef, a grandson of Abdul Aziz”:

“The timing of Abdullah’s passing also reinforces what has been the Saudi policy of containment: trying to limit the fallout from Yemen’s turmoil, rather than addressing it directly. The kingdom is currently building a fence along the two countries’ 1,060 mile land border” …

… but as Iran’s foreign minister goes to Saudi to prepare “the ground for more cooperation in all areas in this very sensitive region based on good neighborliness and rationalism'” …

… Netanyahu boasts he will “go anywhere” to achieve the opposite:

“Few people remember that back in 2002, the war in Iraq was projected to cost around $50 billion. White House economist Lawrence Lindsey actually got canned after he was quoted saying that the war in Iraq would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion”:

How the mainstream media gives the false impression that Palestinians are more violent than Israelis:

Kyle never understood that the Iraqis “were operating in defense. For him, any “Iraqi trying to kill an American soldier … [is] a terrorist. U.S. soldiers were automatically considered to be the good guys notwithstanding the fact that they were clearly violating the principles … set forth at Nuremberg” …

… and the ADC reports that a “majority of the violent threats we have seen over the past few days are result of how Arab and Muslims are depicted in American Sniper”:

“The theological tensions are generated by the division of authority – not between Muslims and Christians or between their sacred texts and doctrinal creeds – but between the Duke Divinity School and the religious life staff of Duke Chapel” — Dr Bruce Lawrence, Duke teacher:

“Although small and scattered, Sunday’s violence is likely to impact negatively on Egypt’s image just two months ahead of an international donors’ conference it will host and in which President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government has high hopes for the ailing economy”:

“The reality is if you haven’t cultivated a friendship, if you haven’t fostered trust, then a letter out of the blue to a mosque… with whom government has refused to engage creates a climate where even the most benign of correspondence can become toxic”

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