FrontPage’s Interview’s guest today is Deborah Weiss, an attorney, freelance writer and public speaker. A 9/11 survivor of WTC attacks in NYC, she formerly worked for the Committee on House Oversight in Congress and the Office of the Corporation Counsel under Giuliani. She is currently President of Vigilance, Inc., and is an expert in OIC UN resolutions. She has written a chapter in the new book, Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network: America and the West’s Fatal Embrace. She can be reached at [email protected].
FP: Welcome Deborah. Glad you could join FPM today.
Weiss: Thank you for inviting me.
FP: Let’s begin with you telling us a about Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network.
Weiss: Thanks, Jamie.
As you know, Western petro-dollars have made Saudi Arabia a rich country. The Saudis use the money in part to export a radical Islamist ideology into the West. The ideology is antithetical to the Western values of freedom, equality and human rights.
The book was put together and edited by Sarah Stern, President of Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET). It has chapters by various experts and well-known authors, including James Woolsey, Steve Emerson, Daniel Pipes, Rachel Ehrenfeld and others. Your readers are probably familiar with many of the authors.
For decades now, the West and America in particular, has been pretending that Saudi Arabia is our ally. This book lifts the veil off that myth by demonstrating the various ways that Saudi ideology has infiltrated America and the West, posing a threat to our freedom and way of life. It includes chapters on Saudi penetration into American NGO’s, American so-called “mainstream Muslim” organizations, the American school curriculum, finances, and more. The point is to illustrate the negative impact our addiction to oil will ultimately have on our society. It’s really about the stealth jihad.
FP: How did you got involved in the book?
Weiss: I am a 9/11 survivor from NYC, and have been working on the issues of non-violent radical Islam for years, as you know, Jamie. Every year, there is an event on Capitol Hill, timed to coincide around the time of 9/11, that showcases speakers and experts on the topic of Saudi infiltration. I was one of the speakers the last two years. So when Sarah asked me if I’d be willing to contribute a chapter on the same subject, of course I said yes.
FP: What is your chapter about?
Weiss: My chapter is titled, “The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Defamation of Religions, and Islamophobia.” The OIC is the largest Islamic organization in the world, comprised of 56 member states plus the Palestinian authority. Its members tend to vote together as a bloc in the UN, so they hold quite a lot of power and sway. Yet, most people have never heard of them.
They are an Islamist organization, which seeks to make Islam a victorious political power and to deny freedom to anyone who doesn’t want to live under Sharia law, including Muslims who don’t want to live under Sharia law. One of its main goals is to eventually internationally criminalize free speech on any Islam-related topic, including Islamic theocracies, Muslims, Islamic terrorism, Islamic human rights violations, and Sharia law. I know it sounds crazy, but partly because the public is not paying attention to this issue, and partly because the OIC’s strategy is to achieve its goal in small increments, it is actually making significant inroads. The OIC has successfully targeted various UN bodies with resolutions on this issue, called “Defamation of Religions” and it has targeted several EU Parliaments as well. The language is presented in a watered down form, so instead of asking for speech to be criminalized, the OIC will ask for states “to take effective action” or “condemn” the speech or discourage the speech. It has also presented Muslims as the victims of so-called “Islamophobia” in order to win more support for their cause.
FP: What exactly is the Defamation of Religions?
Weiss: Well, in America we have the concept of defamation of individuals or groups. Generally, defamation in the U.S. has to be a false statement and with negligent or reckless disregard of the truth, depending on whether you’re defaming a public figure or a private citizen. And it has to be a statement that is likely to result in either a pecuniary harm or harm to that person’s reputation. In America, truth is a complete defense. And I might add that in our system, defamation only applies to statements of fact. The First Amendment gives us protection to express any opinion we desire, no matter how negative it might be.
Defamation of Religions by contrast, gives protection to an idea, in this case a religion, as opposed to protecting a person or group. Also, it constitutes protection from criticism, even if the statement is true. And to boot, the way it is applied in countries that implement it, and the way the OIC interprets it, it is really only applied to Islam. In fact, the original title was called Defamation of Islam, but in order to get more support for it, the OIC changed the title. Still, Islam is the only religion mentioned in the text, and in practice it is only Islam that is afforded protection from criticism. Believe me, the OIC is totally fine with Defamation of Judaism and Defamation of Christianity. Additionally, the Muslim countries that have these types of laws usually impose a harsh criminal penalty for its violation, rather than a civil penalty. People who “defame Islam” are often jailed, flogged, sometimes even executed.
FP: Implementing Defamation of Religions laws obviously harms people.
Weiss: Yes, Jamie, it does. What’s ironic about it is that the OIC wants to make “Defamation of Religions” a human right. But in reality, it constitutes the very opposite of a human right. In countries that have this law, there are gross human rights violations. Not only are the penalties very harsh, but it also has the effect of oppressing those with minority religions. For example, if you are Christian and you say, “I believe Jesus is the Son of G-d”, that is not only blasphemy, but could be considered Defamation of Religions. Saying this could have dire consequences. This law even hurts Muslims who have a minority interpretation of Islam that differs from the official interpretation of the government. For example, in Pakistan it is illegal to be an Ahmadiyya Muslim. Ahamadiyyas are peaceful, loving, egalitarian-minded Muslims. But because they believe in a Prophet after Mohammad (named Ahmad), the Pakistani government considers them heretics and openly practicing their faith is a crime.
FP: Defamation of Religions is clearly harmful to religious freedom and human rights. What are some other negative implications?
Weiss: The ramifications also include the hampering of national security and terrorism prevention efforts. If you know anything about war, the threat doctrine dictates that the first rule of war is that you must know your enemy and be able to name it by name. Unfortunately, to the degree that the West censors discussion of Islam and Islamic terrorism, it hamstrings the ability of intelligence professionals to come up with strategies to defeat the problem.
FP: Here in America, we are still allowed to discuss these things, right?
Weiss: So far, America is the last bastion of freedom in terms of free speech. Unlike Europe, we do not have hate speech laws - yet. However, we have moved from self-censorship to having our government and other institutions issue restrictive guidelines on speech. For example, DHS, the State Department and the NCTC have all issued memos to their professional employees discouraging them from using words such as Islamic terrorism. The National Security Strategy Memo, which guides our whole US national security policy, also has had all references to Islamic terrorism deleted. There have been various other measures taken, especially in this administration, to cleanse all official and unofficial policy from discussion, mention, or even acknowledgement of Islamic terrorism.
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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