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FP: Why would our government do this?
Weiss: That’s a good question, Jamie. But first let me tell you why the OIC countries want this. The OIC countries want this because in their interpretation of Islam, it is considered blasphemy to say anything negative about Islam. They want to impose this rule on everyone else. Many of the Muslim majority countries have blasphemy laws in one form or another, even if it’s informal. The OIC has a big push to gradually move the West in this direction. Part of it is due to their ideological belief system. The other part of it is that they really have a political agenda. To the degree that they can obfuscate, confuse, or prevent us from knowing what they are doing, that gives them the upper hand in winning the war.
We are not really in a War on Terror; terrorism is a tactic. We are in a war against – not all Islam – but certainly radical Islam, and nobody wants to acknowledge that. The OIC doesn’t want to acknowledge that because going back to the threat doctrine, if we don’t know our enemy, it gives them an edge. Our government doesn’t want to acknowledge it for other reasons. One is political correctness. Two is if one has a political ideology but cloaks it in the language of religion, nobody wants to sound like they are criticizing a religion. Plus we have freedom of religion in America. Third, I hate to say it, but in this administration, I also think Obama is politically sympathetic to the OIC. If you recall during his speech in CAIRO, he said that it was his job as President to combat negative stereotypes of Islam wherever he finds them. Notice he said Islam, not Muslims. Anyway, I don’t remember learning in law school that this was one of the President’s functions. Maybe I was absent that day, but it’s certainly not in the enumerated powers. There are other reasons we don’t discuss this as well.
It poses a big problem because intelligence professionals are now being told to focus on terrorist behavior and disregard the underlying ideology that motivates it. If we are going to win the WOT, it is the ideology that needs to be addressed, not just the terrorism. Terrorism is just a symptom. Additionally, those who adhere to this radical ideology are not always terrorists. Many have a non-violent strategy to undermine our freedoms from within. As I said, it’s a stealth jihad and it’s not being adequately addressed.
FP: Where is the West on the issue of stifling free speech on Islam-related topics?
Weiss: Well, Europe has been much more Islamized than America. Additionally, many of the EU countries have hate speech laws of one sort or another. Canada has Human Rights Commissions that regularly fine people for defaming Islam even if they didn’t defame a person. If a Muslim or Muslim group files a complaint and it is found that they said something that is “likely to cause hatred” against that group, they will most likely be fined. That is true even if there is no intent to cause hatred, and no result of hatred. Not to mention that hatred is an emotion, so we’re not limiting this to the prevention of violence or legal discrimination.
In other countries, one can also get fined for negative speech on Islam or Muslims. Also as you know, recently in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders was actually criminally prosecuted for expressing his views on Islam. He was acquitted, but the mere prosecution has a chilling effect on free speech. And that is in a country where there’s only about 5% Muslims. The whole thing is rather scary.
FP: What is the status of the Defamation of Religions resolutions now?
Weiss: It has been passed in numerous UN bodies year after year starting in 1999. This year, 2011, is the first time that the OIC did not introduce that resolution.
FP: Why not?
Weiss: It has gotten declining support in the last few years. So this year Secretary Hillary Clinton contacted the OIC and the EU to join together with the US and draft a resolution that would hopefully address the West’s concerns about free speech, while still addressing the OIC’s concerns about alleged Islamophobia.
FP: Tell us about the new resolution.
Weiss: The new resolution is titled, Resolution 16/18 to Combat Intolerance based on Religion or Belief. It passed in March of this year and the State Department is touting it as a big success. The State Department is under the impression that the resolution will move from protecting ideas from defamation to protecting individuals. But the OIC has made it very clear in other documents and statements that it has not dropped its goal of achieving the concept of Defamation of Religions.
FP: So the State Department is wrong about this resolution?
Weiss: Well, the whole issue comes down to how the words in the resolution are interpreted and implemented. On its face it seems that the State Department is interpreting the resolution one way, while the OIC is interpreting it another. The new resolution certainly omits the word “defamation” but instead, it replaces it with European hate-speech type language. There is no question that the language embodied in the new resolution can still be manipulated to achieve a Defamation of Religions concept. And that is exactly how the OIC intends to interpret it.
FP: But UN resolutions aren’t binding, so is there still cause for concern?
Weiss: Unfortunately, there is Jamie. First, if the resolutions keep passing and EU parliament implement similar language, eventually it can be considered “customary international law” and the US would be pressured to adhere to it. Second, the State Department has called a series of meetings with the OIC in order to move this last resolution to implementation. The first meeting is in December.
FP: What do you think will take place at the meeting?
Weiss: The OIC will use this as an opportunity to pressure Western governments to regulate speech on Islam-related topics. We’ll have to see exactly how this plays out. Secretary Clinton and the Obama administration have already shown a willingness to “shame” people who talk about these topics in a critical manner. Merely having this meeting with the OIC gives the OIC legitimacy and is cause for concern. As I explain in my chapter, America’s values and the OIC’s values are not in sync. It is futile to try to work with the OIC to show “respect” because the OIC’s definition of respect is that we should just shut if we’re saying anything it doesn’t like, and instead submit to its religiously-based speech codes.
Contrary to the popular belief that restricting our free speech on Islam will show “sensitivity” and win over the affection of Islamic countries, in reality, it will hamper our ability to protect our freedom and national security. It is a slippery slope and it is vital that we remain vigilant in order to keep America free. I hope people will buy the book. Becoming informed is the first step.
FP: Deborah Weiss, thank you for joining us.
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