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One of the world’s most influential Muslims is now calling on the United Nations – in light of the YouTube movie blamed for violent protests across the Mideast – to impose international restrictions on free speech, criminalizing any statement that impugns Islam.
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, a professor at King Abdul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia, is a member of several international organizations, including the Centre for Studying the Aims of Sharia in the U.K., as well as serving as the vice chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.
The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre ranked bin Bayyah No. 31 on its list of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world for 2011.
In a public declaration issued to several Islamic bodies, including the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, one of the largest Muslim mosques in the D.C. metro area and the U.S., bin Bayyah called upon “people of reason and understanding” to put a legal stop to statements that would offend Muslims and thereby threaten world peace.
“We ask everyone to ponder the ramifications of provoking the feelings of over one billion people by a small party of people who desires not to seek peace nor fraternity between members of humanity,” bin Bayyah wrote. “This poses a threat to world peace with no tangible benefit realized. Is it not necessary in today’s world for the United Nations to issue a resolution criminalizing the impingement of religious symbols? We request all religious and political authorities, as well as people of reason to join us in putting a stop to this futility that benefits no one.”
Bin Bayyah’s statement was titled a “Declaration Regarding the Offensive Video to Muslims,” a clear reference to the YouTube film, “Innocence of Muslims,” which has been widely – if controversially – blamed for inciting riots against embassies in the Middle East and the resulting death of four U.S. diplomats.
The Obama administration had similarly asked Google, the parent company of YouTube, to review whether “Innocence of Muslims” violates its terms-of-use policies.
Thus far, Google has refused to remove the video from YouTube, though it blocked access in some sensitive countries.
Pundits from a wide spectrum of news outlets have agreed the video is protected by free speech rights in the U.S.
Bin Bayyah’s statement continued, condemning the embassy attacks in the Middle East: “We implore you not to inflict violence upon anyone, whether foreign delegations or otherwise. You should not destroy property or flout the values and cherished principles that you defend, as attacking innocents, killing foreign diplomats and ambassadors contravenes religious and moral principles before it contravenes political ones.”
Nonetheless, bin Bayyah reiterated the U.S. should make videos like “Innocence of Muslims” illegal, even while he claimed to back “free speech.”
“To our Western neighbors … we are extremely concerned with a small active minority in your countries that seeks to perpetuate a state of conflict and war,” bin Bayyah wrote. “We estimate that such objectives do not serve the general interest. Therefore, it is our hope that you reconsider and criminalize the denigration of religious symbols, as such provocations do not serve the principles of free speech, principles that you and us both seek to uphold.”
In a WND commentary, Diana West discussed other leading Muslims’ attempts to criminalize criticism of Islam.
“Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt (who denies that al-Qaida attacked the U.S. on 9/11, by the way), directed the Egyptian Embassy in Washington to ‘take legal action’ against the movie’s producers,” West writes. “Morsi doesn’t seem to understand First Amendment protections.”
West continued, “Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil asked for similar action ‘within the framework of international charters that criminalize acts that stir strife on the basis of race, color or religion.’ This is a direct appeal to hold Americans accountable to the U.N. blasphemy resolution Hillary Clinton, along with the Islamic bloc, has championed, despite its repressive controls on free speech.”
West was referring a “defamation against religion” resolution the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has been pushing at the U.N. every year since 1999. Last year, Clinton worked with the OIC to pass a revised version, Resolution 16/18, which included both the usual condemnation of defaming speech and a paragraph affirming “the positive role that the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression” plays in “strengthening democracy.”
Critics of the defamation resolutions fear they could be used to outlaw valid and critical scrutiny of Islamic teachings, as some OIC states do through controversial blasphemy laws at home.
The Clinton compromise version, though still roundly criticized, enjoyed more popularity at the U.N. itself and was adopted by consensus.