Obama’s Resolution to Stifle Free Speech on Islam – by Deborah Weiss

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On October 1, 2009, the Obama administration in conjunction with the Egyptian government, introduced an anti-free speech measure to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council (HRC).  It was adopted the next day without a vote.

Earlier this year, when the United States sought a seat on the HRC, it was a controversial decision.  Many who found the HRC neither credible nor useful, opposed the move.  Yet, others were more optimistic that America could change the HRC from within.  Perhaps the U.S. could spur debate stemming from its opposition to China, Sudan, Libya, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia on critical human rights votes.

Little evidence suggests that Americans on either side of the aisle contemplated the US entering the ring and supporting the opposition’s anti-freedom measures.  Yet now, the current administration has done worse:  it’s leading the charge.

The draft resolution, misleadingly titled “Freedom of Opinion and Expression” includes two troubling components.  First, it calls on nation states to take “effective measures” to address and combat “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.  It expresses concern and condemnation of “negative stereotyping of religions and racial groups”.  It further attempts to construe this as an international human rights law and obligation.  Second, it recognizes the media’s “moral and social responsibilities” and the “importance” that its potential voluntary code of conduct could play in combating intolerance.

This resolution appears to stem from, and constitute a step toward, the Organization of Islamic Conference’s resolution to “combat defamation of religions”.  The OIC’s resolution would ban outright the “defaming” of religions, speech critical of religion (even if accurate), and open discussion about any negative consequences resulting from the implementation of religious beliefs (such as Sharia law).

Though both resolutions mention “religions” generally, the context and references of the resolutions make them almost certain to apply only or disproportionately to Islam.  Indeed, the defamation of religions resolution singles out treatment of Islam.  Yet not surprisingly, the OIC has blatantly refused to curtail hate speech against Jews or Israel.

Further, it is the nature of religion to include a component of exclusivity, thus making it impossible to express one’s theology accurately without making “defamatory” remarks against another theology.  For example, merely preaching that Jesus is the son of God can be viewed as an inflammatory remark and an affront to Islam.  Additionally, the wording of this resolution makes its violation subjectively determined and comes dangerously close to outlawing certain emotions, such as hostility toward Islam or Muslims.

Critically important is the resolution’s attempt to internationalize norms on speech, potentially usurping fundamental constitutional rights.  Strict constructionists of the US constitution view the constitution as “the supreme law of the land” (as the constitution expressly states), whereas those who view the constitution as “a living, breathing document” might not.  But even under a strict construction, when the US signs a treaty, the treaty becomes binding on the US.  Though this UN resolution does not constitute a treaty, it is fair to presume that because it is a US-led initiative, the US should be bound by it.

Also problematic is the resolution’s attempt to make the restriction of free speech a human right.  In fact, it is free speech that constitutes a human right and not its restriction.  Ideologies, ideas and religions do not, and should not be afforded “human rights”.  They should be fair game for criticism, analysis, open debate and discussion.  Religions and ideologies cannot be “defamed”.  Once ideologies are afforded protection from criticism, it is in direct contradiction to individual human rights.  Moreover, some of the language in the resolution is vague and open to interpretation.  Given the parties on the HRC who adopted it, a broad construction of speech restrictions is likely.

It is no accident that countries which have no freedom of expression show support for this resolution.  For example, Ambassador Hisham Badr from Egypt, in discussing his satisfaction with the resolution, stated that “freedom of expression…..has sometimes been misused.”  He went on to imply that media  which fails to comply with limitations on free speech are unethical.

Pakistan Ambassador Zamir Akram, speaking on behalf of the OIC, confirmed that the resolution allows free speech to be trumped by the suppression of that which “defames” religion or expresses a negative stereotype of religion.  He asserted that freedom of expression is important but this right carries “duties and responsibilities”, including the need to fight hate speech.  He articulated the view that defamation of religion and negative stereotyping are forms of religious hatred.  He made clear that in the OIC’s interpretation, such negativity applies not just to individuals, but to religions and belief systems, proclaiming that this constitutes a human rights violation.

Jean-Baptiste Mettei from France, speaking on behalf of the European Union, appears to be in denial about the meaning and impact of this resolution.  While prefacing his remarks with praise for the resolution, the French Ambassador then declared that human rights laws protect individuals in free speech and freedom of religion and does not protect belief systems.  The EU summarily rejected the concept of defamation of religion, and expressly denounced the notion that the media has a moral and social responsibility to curtail speech.  He argued that states should not interfere with the work of journalists, and acknowledged their right to editorial independence.  As such, the EU could not support the restrictions on journalistic speech embodied in the resolution.

In the past, when the US addressed international speech norms, it went out of its way to ensure that treaties by which it was bound would not restrict free speech or undermine America’s first amendment protections.  But now, change has come.

Arguably relinquishing one of America’s most fundamental freedoms, Obama is once again bowing down to the Muslim world.  The interim ranking US diplomat, Douglas Griffiths explained, “[T]his initiative is a manifestation of the Obama administration’s commitment to multilateral engagement throughout the United Nations and of our genuine desire to seek and build cooperation based upon mutual interest and mutual respect in pursuit of our shared common principles of tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”  However, to the OIC, “respect” means the silencing of offensive speech against Islam.

With all due respect Mr. President:  the attainment of freedom and human rights is not tantamount to winning a popularity contest.  And capitulation is not leadership.  It is a sad state of affairs when France refutes major portions of a United States initiative because the initiative undermines fundamental freedoms.

  • ApolloSpeaks

    Google ApolloSpeaks (one word) and read my piece: The Reconciliation of America and Islam: Barack Obama's Secret Plan for US-Moslem Peace

  • keithrage

    mm, mm, mm, backtrak whosane obummer

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Christopher-Laity/1730599721 Robert Christopher Laity
  • etyetydfghfghdfg

    So now, describing Koran's teachings, one might say: “it is a very good statement to kill all infidels.Why good? Because that book says so”.
    Everybody would understand….although two different conclusions, depending on the listener(s). ;)

  • joidevivre

    No surprise. Obama is a Marxist, and has expressed his support for many UN propositions that limit freedom; and in fact, supports world government under the UN.

  • Dean from Ohio

    A Muslim Marxist.

  • bradbrzezinski

    The key to the deep hypocrisy of this resolution is acknowledging that Egypt indulges in hate speech against non-Islamic religions, especially Judaism, in its state controlled media; many OIC countries do this.

    The US has in effect co-authored a book on babysitting with Roman Polanski.

  • Wayne

    Wow! A United Nations Human Rights Commission — i.e. an international world body to define and implement “Human Rights”. Wonder how Human Rights Commissions work in the real world today in places like Canada? Let's ask Mark Steyn or Ezra Levant they've had up close and personal experience with the czars or commissars of Human Rights in Canada.

    “The draft resolution, misleadingly titled “Freedom of Opinion and Expression” includes two troubling components. First, it calls on nation states to take “effective measures” to address and combat “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.

    Any sentient being that thinks the United Nations will protect “Human Rights” (forget individual rights) has earned the rewards the United Nations globalists have in store for him. Speaking of the United Nations — isn't Iran a member nation and isn't President Ahmadinijad a leader who recently spoke at the United Nations? Has he ever spoken with hatred against anther religion or called for another country to be wiped from the face of the planet?

    The United Nations is one of the biggest hoaxes ever created — its goal is the complete destruction of individual rights and freedom.

  • MaryAnn

    Barack Obama has chosen to not so quietly repeal the American Revolution,the Declaration of Idependence and the American Constitution. Our founding documents are testaments to man's inherent right to be free from the whims and power of a ruling elite, whether one man or a group of men; that we are a self-governing people. This is a notion completely at odds with Obama's vision of the world and himself. America's founding principles are anathema to Obama, and he sees himself as the “annointed” elite; “we, the people” do not fit into his vision of the world or himself.

  • http://www.compellingconversations.com Eric the sceptic

    Disturbing on multiple levels. Thank you for sharing this important article.

    Your conclusion sums up the tragedy of a former law professor advocating the overturning of our sacred first amendment: freedom of speech, freedom of the press , and freedom of religion. So let me quote your powerful words:

    “Arguably relinquishing one of America’s most fundamental freedoms, Obama is once again bowing down to the Muslim world. The interim ranking US diplomat, Douglas Griffiths explained, “[T]his initiative is a manifestation of the Obama administration’s commitment to multilateral engagement throughout the United Nations and of our genuine desire to seek and build cooperation based upon mutual interest and mutual respect in pursuit of our shared common principles of tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.” However, to the OIC, “respect” means the silencing of offensive speech against Islam.”

    “With all due respect Mr. President: the attainment of freedom and human rights is not tantamount to winning a popularity contest. And capitulation is not leadership. It is a sad state of affairs when France refutes major portions of a United States initiative because the initiative undermines fundamental freedoms.”

    Perhaps it's also time for political reporters to pay more attention to the actual behavior of the United Nations and its agencies rather than just repeating the bland, if noble, intentions behind the flawed organization.

  • justsaynotoislam

    Obama should be tried for treason and given a just punishment……..

    • Robert Laity

      18USC,Part 1,Chapter 115,Sec.2381. The penalty for treason is DEATH!

  • brimp

    I hope that the backlash that comes from the American people will cause a complete break with the United Nations (and all its subsidiaries). The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution is incompatible with the United Nations.

  • clyde

    lock n` load

  • BobC

    So, does this mean that the Arab world is going to stop defaming Judaism? Even if only in their official publications?

    How can grownups tolerate this level of hypocrisy? Is everyone at the UN crazy?

  • tommanning

    At this time; Only Israel has the guts & fortitude to combat these crazy religious Muslims. It is only when we Americans are attacked with much force that we respond. Yet we have not the will to carry on a full fleiged war with the only choice -”IS TO WIN” ! You cannot fight a war with one hand tied behind your back. We could have already defeated them in Afganistan, & went on into Pakistan & bombed the hell out of them in their lawless areas. Who is Pakistan, to tell us, we can not pursue an enemy that is determined to “Kill Us” when we are sending much $ $ $ .

  • USMCSniper

    Daniel Pipes has warned us. The hardest thing for Westerners to understand is not that a war with militant Islam is underway but that the nature of the enemy's ultimate goal. That goal is to apply the Islamic law (the Shari‘a) globally. In U.S. terms, it intends to replace the Constitution with the Qur'an.

    This aspiration is so remote and far-fetched to many non-Muslims, it elicits more guffaws than apprehension. Of course, that used to be the same reaction in Europe, and now it's become widely accepted that, in Bernard Lewis' words, “Europe will be Islamic by the end of the century.”

    Because of the American skepticism about Islamist goals, I postponed publishing an article on this subject until immediately after 9/11, when I expected receptivity to the subject would be greater (it was published in November 2001 as “The Danger Within: Militant Islam in America”). I argued there that

    The Muslim population in this country is not like any other group, for it includes within it a substantial body of people—many times more numerous than the agents of Osama bin Ladin—who share with the suicide hijackers a hatred of the United States and the desire, ultimately, to transform it into a nation living under the strictures of militant Islam.

    The receptivity indeed was greater, but still the idea of an Islamist takeover remains unrecognized in establishment circles — the U.S. government, the old media, the universities, the mainline churches.

    • Mary

      Living in England for years I see the indifference, apathy and ultimate
      submission to Sharia laws and norms. Its not fully official yet, but no
      one dares to oppose any muslim in any way. I have a couple of times
      when their tactics have become unbearable to be shouted at:
      Youre racist! Well, Im not, but there are worse things than racism here.
      Islam is not a race, but an ideology. Muslims here are arrogant,
      ignorant and oppressive yet the British tolerate this for the sake of
      peace. They have forgotten Nazism, and cannot see its face is
      Islam. Yet.

  • bubba4

    I think you reside in another dimension.

  • bubba4

    “This resolution appears to stem from, and constitute a step toward, the Organization of Islamic Conference’s resolution to “combat defamation of religions”

    Sure it is….groan. Why not? State something true…then tell us what it REALLY means…thanks FPM for continually trying to undermine the country and the President with this kind of bullshit.

  • coyote3

    We, in this country, are free to defame religion, any religion, or not. It is none the president's business., any president.

  • bubba4

    Yeah, but that's not what he did…that's what FPM is implying is the going to be the future result in their bizaro world.

  • USMCSniper

    God you are so stupid you don't even suspect you are stupid.

  • MaryAnn

    Bubba4, are you unaware of the pressures being put on governments concerning Islam? The Danish cartoon fiasco is only one example; there are many. Authors whose books are denied publication, speakers who are denied their right to speak and who are charged with committing 'hate speech” for speaking incorrectly about Islam, and then are forced to spend thousands of dollars defending themselves. Not to mention the people who have been murdered for “disrespecting” Islam. For Mr. Obama to enshrine this behavior in so-called law is a direct attack on the first amendment freedom of speech protected by the American Constitition. Americans are forced to wonder where Mr. Obama's loyalties lie, and it appears they are not with American liberty.

  • Armigerous

    So under this resolution,if I were to say that 'mohammed' was a mass murdering pedophile whose mother wore kosher panties and rode shotgun on the garbage wagon in Medina,I could be what?..fined?..sent to prison?…or a 'sensitivity and reeducation camp' until I am coerced into apologizing?….note to self: buy more ammo at Wal-Mart next weekend.

  • Mahdi Al-Dajjal

    There are those of us who said this kind of thing (efforts to stifle criticism of islam) from an Obama Administration wouldn't be too far off the horizon once he got elected. Appears we were right in this regard.

  • MizPris

    Hi Mahdi
    What can we expect from someone who said in his own book, “if things turn ugly I will stand with the muslims”, Barack Obama, author.

  • winniec

    Obama is a Neville Chamberlain. Welcome to Munich…next stop Poland.