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March 16th 2009 print

Bill Muehlenberg

The Islamic Assault on Free Speech

To have religious anti-defamation laws on an international scale would achieve as much for the Islamists as 9/11 ever did. As always, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, and this goes for religious freedom as well. The question is, will the West resist this clampdown on freedom of speech, or will it instead submit to appeasement and dhimmitude?

It is one of the many benefits of Christianity that the West enjoys religious freedom and freedom of conscience. The properly understood notion of the separation of church and state arose from the Christian worldview, and goes back to the words of Jesus: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”.

Islam of course knows of no such separation. Church and state are one in Islam. There is no sacred-secular distinction in the Muslim world. Everything is religious and everything is political. As Rodney Stark wrote, “Muhammad was not only the Prophet, he was head of state. Consequently, Islam has always idealized the fusion of religion and political rule, and sultans have usually also held the title of caliph” (The Victory of Reason).

Or as Dinesh D’Souza put it, “The prophet Muhammad was in his own day both a prophet and a Caesar who integrated the domains of church and state. Following his example, the rulers of the various Islamic empires, from the Umayyad to the ottoman, saw themselves as Allah’s viceregents on earth” (What’s So Great About Christianity?).

As Bernard Lewis explains, “In classical Arabic and in the other classical languages of Islam, there are no pairs of terms corresponding to ‘lay’ and ‘ecclesiastical,’ ‘spiritual’ and ‘temporal,’ ‘secular’ and ‘religious,’ because these pairs of words express a Christian dichotomy that has no equivalent in the world of Islam” (Islam and the West).

It is the genius of the West to have run with the Christian version of events in this regard, and not the Islamic one. But these cherished freedoms are ironically now being whittled way in the West as we increasingly seek to appease militant Islamists.

In many parts of the Western world Muslims are demanding, and getting, preferential treatment. And in the process, freedom of religion is slowly being eroded. A classic example of this can be seen in Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.

This bit of scurrilous legislation has been used to silence Christians from proclaiming their faith, and from making rational criticism of Islam. The nefarious Victorian law effectively cramps real freedom of speech and religious diversity.

Of course hyper-sensitive Muslims around the world are seeking to implement such censorship on all non-Muslims. At the UN level, for example, Muslims are hoping to use UN Resolution 62/154, which has to do with "combating defamation of religions” to allow Islam to be above all criticism and critique.

A number of people have written about this recently, expressing their concerns. Atheist Christopher Hitchens for example wrote in the Australian warning of “so-called mainstream Muslims, grouped in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, who are now demanding through the UN that Islam not only be allowed to make such absolutist claims, but that it be officially shielded from any criticism as a result.”

The Resolution is full of typical UN balderdash: “For example, paragraph five ‘expresses its deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism’, while paragraph six ‘notes with deep concern the intensification of the campaign of defamation of religions and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, 2001’.”

“You see how the trick is pulled? In the same weeks this resolution comes up for its annual renewal at the UN, its chief sponsor-government (Pakistan) makes an agreement with the local Taliban forces to close girls’ schools in the Swat Valley region (a mere 150km or so from the capital in Islamabad) and subject the inhabitants to sharia law. And this capitulation comes in direct response to a campaign of horrific violence and intimidation, including public beheadings.”

One reason why the Victorian legislation is so fatally flawed is that it mixes two quite different things: racial or ethnic vilification, and religious vilification. There may be a case to seek to reduce wrongful discrimination based on race, but to seek to isolate religious views from theological scrutiny and public debate is ludicrous. This is just what is happening in the UN Resolution:

“Yet the religion of those who carry out the campaign [of Islamist violence] is not to be mentioned, lest it ‘associate’ that faith with human rights violations or terrorism. In paragraph six, an obvious attempt is being made to confuse ethnicity with religious allegiance. Indeed this insinuation (incidentally dismissing the faith-based criminality of September 11 as merely tragic) is in fact essential to the entire scheme. If religion and race can be run together, then the condemnations that racism axiomatically attracts can be surreptitiously extended to religion, too. This is clumsy, but it works: the useless and meaningless term Islamophobia, now widely used as a bludgeon of moral blackmail, is testimony to its success.”

The muzzling of free speech is the sure outcome of this: “See where the language of paragraph 10 of the resolution is taking us. Having briefly offered lip service to the rights of free expression, it goes on to say that ‘the exercise of these rights carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may therefore be subject to limitations as are provided for by law and are necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals and respect for religions and beliefs.’ The thought buried in this awful, wooden prose is as ugly as the language in which it is expressed: watch what you say, because our declared intention is to criminalise opinions that differ with the one true faith. Let nobody say that they have not been warned.”

The five-year-long court case involving two Christian pastors should suffice to demonstrate the lunacy of Victoria’s anti-vilification laws. The entire case was a travesty of justice, and was simply an attempt by Muslims to silence Christian voices which dared to question Islam.

To have such laws on an international scale would achieve as much for the Islamists as 9/11 ever did. As always, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, and this goes for religious freedom as well. The question is, will the West resist this clampdown on freedom of speech, or will it instead submit to appeasement and dhimmitude?