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Apparently expressing a now standard EU policy, the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, a German Social Democrat (SPD), had earlier declared in a September 15, 2012 press release that he “strongly condemn[s] the use of religion to incite hatred and violence” as well as the “unjustified violence” following the worldwide appearance of Innocence of Muslims. Schulz “also criticize[d] any attempt to ridicule Islam.” Schulz reiterated his views on, once again, September 19, 2012, stating that he “condemn[s] strongly not only the content but also the distribution of such a movie, which is humiliating the feelings of a lot of people all over the world” (video of Schulz speaking in the presence of two Arab Muslim dignitaries from the Gulf States here).
The deference to Islam by the leftist Schulz, though, did not go unnoticed. Schulz’s parliament colleague from the “centre-right,” Hans van Baalen of the Dutch VVD (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie or Party for Freedom and Democracy), told a Dutch radio station that “Schulz should be standing up for the freedom of expression.” Schulz’s “denunciation puts him on the wrong side of the argument. He’d have been better off saying that while he personally might find it a bad film, it must be possible to make and distribute it.” Van Baalen, in contrast, approved of the Muslim Moroccan-Dutch Rotterdam mayor, Ahmed Abu Taleb, who “spoke out for freedom of expression and advised Muslims to ignore the film.”
Van Baalen’s fellow Dutch politician, noted Islam opponent Geert Wilders of the Dutch Freedom Party (Partij voor de Vrijheid or PVV), tweeted that Schulz is a “coward” who had “sentenced freedom of speech to death.” The leader of the PVV delegation to the European Parliament, Laurence Stassen, even went so far as to call for Schulz’s resignation. Expressing similar sentiments, one person has contemptuously posted to Youtube a video entitled Martin Schulz: Whore of islam [sic], juxtaposing Schulz’s call for a prohibition of Innocence of Muslims with images of often unnoticed anti-Semitism in Muslim countries and of slain American Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
In Schulz’s home of Germany, meanwhile, there has been discussion of banning Innocence of Muslims on the part of various German policy makers and political figures, including Chancellor Angela Merkel. Muslim groups in Germany like the Koordinationsrat der Muslime (Coordination Council of Muslims) and the Zentralrat der Muslime (Central Council of Muslims) have called for a prohibition of any public showing of the film, with the latter organization’s chairman, Aiman Mayzek, warning of street battles in case of any screening. The Liberal-Islamischer Bund (Liberal-Islamic Federation), though, rejects any such prohibition.
Already Germany has stopped internationally known Koran burner Terry Jones from entering the country in order take part in a Berlin screening of the film. Evaluations by German police authorities of the security situation created by Muslim reactions to Innocence of Muslims around the world also led the German Interior Ministry to postpone a poster campaign for a call-in help center designed to combat radicalization among German Muslims. Turkish authorities and German Muslim groups had criticized the campaign in the past as being discriminatory.
Such a full court press of public leaders advocating restrictions on free expression in the name of placating often aggressive Muslim groups demonstrates the degree to which such freedom is under threat today. Yet the events of recent days show that even now there are still individuals committed to continued respect of fundamental principles of freedom, whatever the intimidation. They deserve more support in the days to come.
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