The United States is about to be tried. At stake are the very freedoms that we all hold so dear. On March 27, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to adopt resolution 7/19 on “Combating defamation of religions.” In one of the most Orwellian resolutions ever passed, this so-called “Human Rights Council” condemns “Islamophobia,” which includes any, “attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human rights violations.”
Think about this for a moment. Suppose that I tell you that according to sacred Islamic tradition, Muhammad himself stated that those who leave Islam should be punished by execution. And suppose that I also point out that all four of the Orthodox Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence as well as the Shiites interpret Muhammad’s statements to mean that death is the appropriate punishment for leaving Islam. According to this resolution, I should be arrested and tried for a “criminal” act. Free speech anyone?
In other words, according to the U.N. Human Rights Council, criticism of Islam should be globally forbidden under penalty of law. Should we be surprised to discover that the resolution was introduced by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, an umbrella organization of 57 Islamic nations? The 58-page document calls for “the international community to come up with a binding legal instrument to fight the menace of Islamophobia” so that “the right to freedom of expression” not be used as a license for “insulting the sacred religious symbols of Islam.” The “freedom of expression … may be subject to certain restrictions … necessary for the respect of the rights or reputations of others.” In other words, expressing a negative opinion about Islam in public, and maybe even in private, could land you in jail.
The resolution is part of the OIC’s “10-year plan of action” “to have the United Nations adopt an international resolution to counter Islamophobia and call upon all states to enact laws to counter it, including deterrent punishments.” Am I the only one deeply alarmed by this?
How often have you heard someone say, “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend your right to say it”? Freedom of speech is one of our most essential rights. Contained within is the freedom to criticize openly and without penalty, the freedom to debate and the freedom to think for oneself. As we in the West know, these freedoms are the foundations of any truly progressive society. When the freedom to speak, to criticize and to debate are squelched, the wheels of intellectual progress cease. As the Bible says, “iron sharpens iron.” The grinding sound of citizens freely and openly criticizing and debating every imaginable thing is actually the sweet sound of intellectual progress.
Today the Western and Islamic worlds are clearly experiencing the “clash” of civilizations that has long been predicted, and the Islamic world is winning. Not militarily, but in the classrooms and courtrooms, through media manipulation and the revision of public policies and procedures – what’s been called “soft jihad.” Of course, it seems like every time the West has a concrete opportunity to stand up for freedom, too many of us choose to sit down instead.
Want examples? Try Sept. 30, 2005, one of the most significant days in the emerging clash between the free world and the very unfree world of Islam. That’s the day that the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a series of satirical political cartoons of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Within days, two of the cartoonists were forced to go into hiding after receiving multiple death threats. Ambassadors from 10 Muslim countries demanded that the Danish government distance itself from the cartoons and other critical comments made about Islam in the newspaper. Several Muslim organizations filed a complaint with the Danish police in an attempt to press criminal charges against the newspaper.
By December, Jamaat-e-Islami, a Pakistani Islamist group offered a reward of up to $250,000 for the deaths of any of the cartoonists. There were riots. In London, mobs of Muslims gathered holding up signs with motifs such as “Freedom, Go To Hell!” “Europe You Will Pay, Your 9-11 Is On Its Way,” and “Get Ready For The Real Holocaust.” Danish embassies burned. International boycotts were unleashed. Several people were killed. Even today, one elderly Danish cartoonist and his wife must remain constantly on the move, fearing for their lives after three Muslim assassins were arrested on the way to executing them.
The general response to these events? While a few did stand up and support Jyllands-Posten and the cartoonists, many more chose to stand down in the name of cultural or religious “sensitivity.” But where was this sensitivity when “Piss Christ” was put on display in 1987? What was the difference between these two events? Besides the riots, embassy burnings, threats, deaths and international boycotts, very little. No, those who did not stand for freedom of speech during the Danish cartoon controversy were one thing and one thing only: Cowards.
More recently iconic French actress Bridgitte Bardot was arrested on charges of “fanning discrimination and racial hatred against Muslims.” Prosecutors are seeking a two-month suspended prison sentence and a $23,900 fine. Her crime? Writing a letter to the French prime minister in which she complains that France’s Muslim population is ruining the country.
Why isn’t the entire Western world up in arms about the fact that someone has been arrested for simply speaking her mind? Because political correctness, fear and lethargy hold sway in our governments, classrooms and the media.
But some people are unafraid to speak the truth, including the contributors to the controversial new book “Why We Left Islam: Former Muslims Speak Out.” Like the Old Testament prophets who continually called attention to the injustices and hypocrisies of the ancient Hebrews, “Why We Left Islam” presents us with the voices of 23 “prophets” for our day. These brave individuals are sounding the clarion call that we must stand up for human rights and freedom despite the external pressure to sit down and remain silent in the face of the evil and inhuman practices that saturate Islam.
At a time when assaults against human rights and freedoms are hitting us on all fronts, Americans must decide which is most important: freedom of speech or freedom from hurt feelings. Absurd as it may seem, Islam is forcing us to make this decision. Freedom of speech should be a slam dunk, and yet history shows that great civilizations are often destroyed not by external assaults, but internal ones. Islam wins when we no longer believe in the principles of freedom that that our nation was founded upon.
Today, I call on those faithful Americans who believe that only a nation that is founded on an uncompromising commitment to human freedoms is worthy of survival. Too much is at stake. “Why We Left Islam’s” courageous contributors should be embraced by liberals and conservatives, Christians, Jews and moderate Muslims alike. I call on everyone who loves freedom to come together and stand in solidarity with 23 very brave individuals who have expressed that most fundamental God-given right; the freedom to choose one’s own beliefs. You don’t have to agree with everything they say. You simply need to stand with their right to say it.
Joel Richardson is co-editor of “Why We Left Islam: Former Muslims Speak Out,” released this spring from WND Books.
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