Geert Wilders - a film producer and also a member of parliament in the Netherlands - is facing a prison term there for “insulting” Muslims. His short film “Fitna” in 2008 juxtaposed verses from the Koran with scenes of violence committed by jihadist terrorists. The Dutch appellate court refused a free-speech defense because the insults were so egregious.
If convicted, Wilders faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison. Said the defendant: “I lost my freedom already four and a half years ago in October 2004, when my 24-hour police protection started because of threats by Muslims in Holland and abroad to kill me.”
I have heard from Muslims in this country that jihadists around the world have more than insulted traditional Muslim law by their fierce punishments of both non-Muslims and Muslims who have acted in speech or writing against jihadists’ reinterpretations of the Quran. Some of these protesters, exercising freedom of conscience, have been killed for their “blasphemy.”
What awaits Wilders in the Netherlands may be a harbinger of what will happen if a nonbinding Dec. 18 U.N. resolution, passed by a strong majority in the General Assembly, becomes international law. The resolution urges U.N. members to take state action against (punish) “defamation of religion” and “incitement to religious hatred” caused by defamation.
The main force behind this resolution, which was sponsored on its behalf, is the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Following the combustible cartoons of Prophet Muhammad that were published in Denmark in September 2005, this organization had a key role in expanding the violent protests against those cartoons in a number of countries.
On Feb. 9, 2006, I received a copy of a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan from a longtime source of mine. He was acting against Sudan’s National Islamic Front government killing, raping and enslaving of black Christians and animists in southern Sudan. He was John Eibner, director of Christian Solidarity International, which was instrumental in rescuing many of those captives from slavery in the north of Sudan.
Eibner told Annan (as I reported at the time in the Feb. 14, 2006, Village Voice): “The role of the Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), representing 57 Muslim states, in creating a climate for violent confrontation over the cartoons [was shown when] the OIC set the stage for anti-free speech demonstrations at its extraordinary summit in Mecca in December 2005.
“The Muslim states,” Eibner continued, “resolved - through many demonstrations - to pressure, through a program of joint Islamic action, international institutions, including the U.N., to criminalize insults of Islam and its prophet. … On the 4th of February - the day the mob violence commenced - the Organization of Islamic Conference described publication of the caricatures as acts of ‘blasphemy.’ Blasphemy is punishable by death, according to Sharia law.”
Revealingly, although there was outrage when, on Oct. 17, 2005, the Egyptian newspaper Al Fagr published the cartoons on its front page, there was nothing like the furious demonstrations elsewhere until after the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit meeting in December 2005.
After the OIC’s focus on the cartoons at the Mecca summit, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon and Qatar went on to carry the inflammatory message of blasphemy. And the OIC’s grand plan to get international institutions to criminalize insults of Islam began to work. On Feb. 9, 2006, the European Union asked for a voluntary code of conduct to prevent offending Muslims. And on the same day, Annan concurred with an OIC proposal that the U.N. Human Rights Council “prevent instances of intolerance, discrimination, incitement of hatred and violence…against religions, prophets and beliefs.”
Last Dec. 18, the OIC triumphed with the U.N. General Assembly’s passing of the nonbinding but rousing “defamation of religion” resolution on behalf of the OIC, which emphasized only Muslims and Islam by name as the forbidden targets of such “defamation.” Pressure may well continue to enshrine this resolution into international law.
The OIC had a New York Times ad on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, “An Invitation to a New Partnership,” addressed to President Obama. The organization wrote: “Throughout the globe, Muslims hunger for a new era of peace. We firmly believe that America, with your guidance, can help foster that peace, though real peace can only be shared - never imposed.”
The OIC, however, was at the time fresh from its U.N. victory to actually impose silence on critics of Islamic jihadists, who have long been working to hijack the true Muslim religion. And why has the press, particularly the American press, continued to be so silent on this U.N. attack on individuals’ right of conscience throughout the world to call jihadist terrorism what it is? You might want to ask your news sources why they have ignored this global gag rule on free expression.
Nat Hentoff’s column for The Washington Times runs on Mondays.