The Tyranny of Silence

theFrontpage, by Deborah Weiss and Andrew Harrod, November 20, 2014:

Even amidst death threats and Islamist violence, Flemming Rose remains a staunch advocate for freedom of speech.  In a Europe with ever-increasing speech restrictions, he argues for the equivalent of a global First Amendment.

On October 13, 2014, both the Cato Institute and the Newseum in Washington, DC, hosted Rose, author of the recently published book, The Tyranny of Silence. Rose and his paper maintain high security generally. But surprisingly, the only apparent security at these two events consisted of security guards from institutions holding them. Cato had approximately 75 people in attendance, including a young man from FIRE. The Newseum had a smaller audience, consisting of about 35 people, most of whom were older and likely Newseum members, as only members were sent prior notification. Both audiences were attentive, responsive and had numerous questions for the editor during Q&A. Additionally, both events were taped for online viewing.

Rose is an editor of Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, notorious for its 2005 publication of twelve cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Mohammad. Considered blasphemous, the drawings provided Islamists with an excuse to riot across the Muslim world and destroy Danish embassies, killing approximately 200 people.

Preceding these events, Danish author Kåre Bluitgen, wrote a children’s book on Islam’ s Prophet and wanted to include illustrations. Bluitgen sought to commission several illustrators for the Mohammad images. Two declined and one agreed on the condition of anonymity. The illustrators cited safety concerns stemming from death threats to Salmon Rushdie in the United Kingdom and the murder of Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands, both of whom allegedly “blasphemed” Islam. Questions arose as to whether fear caused the illustrators to engage in self-censorship concerning Islam, and whether individuals in the media should cater to a small minority that reacts violently to discussion deemed offensive.

Jyllands-Posten asked members of the illustrator’s union to draw Mohammad as they saw him. The newspaper accepted submissions for seven to ten days. It subsequently published twelve illustrations along with an article addressing free speech and self-censorship. “No one could have anticipated” what would follow, Rose explained. The cartoons were the purported cause of violence that erupted throughout the Middle East, making Rose and his newspaper the center of a media storm. All context was lost.

Rose had sought a debate about ideas and a civil way to maintain a dialogue. Yet jihadists threatened to bomb the Jyllands-Posten’s offices and murder the cartoonists, forcing several of them into hiding. Both Rose and Jyllands-Posten have had to maintain heavy security ever since.

Several Muslim organizations filed a complaint against Jyllands-Posten accusing it of violating the Danish Criminal Code. The statute prohibits public ridicule of religious dogma or public statements that cause a group to feel “threatened, scorned or degraded” due to race or religion. However, using a narrow legal interpretation of the statute, the Danish government decided not to pursue the case, stating that it did not meet the necessary pre-requisites for prosecution.

Rose stated that self-censorship in Europe has worsened since the Jyllands-Posten’s publication of the cartoons. Rose was confronted with numerous anti-free speech arguments. “Isn’t it hurting the religious feelings of people with deeply held beliefs?” “Isn’t it a smart business decision not to use language in newspapers that might offend readers?” “Isn’t is just good manners not to insult someone’s beliefs?”  (paraphrasing) But Rose, without missing a beat, had an articulate and persuasive answer for each point. He insisted that the omission of language regarding Islam did not constitute simply a business decision, as all readers occasionally face offense. Nor did it stem from good manners, as the motivation was not to be polite. Rather, it was self-censorship based on fear and intimidation.

Rose ardently advocated for the equivalent of a worldwide First Amendment, arguing for a free marketplace of ideas including religious doctrine. “Religious feelings cannot demand special treatment” he proclaimed, noting that people might have other deeply held beliefs where they could claim equivalent offense.

European laws balance freedom of expression against other rights such as the right to privacy and the right not to be offended. Therefore, European countries have various laws prohibiting hate speech, religious denigration, and racism. However, “almost absolute” freedom of speech, with exceptions for incitement to violence and defamation of individuals, “makes America unique.” Free speech is “not a balancing test” against the so-called right not to be offended. Offensive speech is constitutionally protected if it’s true or mere opinion.

Rose aptly noted that hate speech restrictions have not reduced violence. Indeed, riots have always erupted in countries where hate speech, blasphemy laws and other speech restrictions exist, but have been violated. Proponents of hate speech laws claim that hate speech leads to violent acts, but there is no evidence to support their claims. In countries where freedom flourishes, offensive expression incites minimal violence.

Rose also noted a seeming paradox: where immigration rises causing an increase in diversity of race and religion, there’s a decrease in the diversity of ideas allowed expression.

When asked if he thought there is a proper role for government censorship, Rose answered with a resounding “no!” Rose noted that while Kurt Westergaard, cartoonist of Mohammad with a bomb in his turban, became victim of an assassination attempt, some believe he deserved his fate. And, the Netherlands’ Minister of Justice professed, “if we had hate speech laws, then Van Gogh would be alive today.” Rose thinks both of these positions are outrageous because they condemn speech while justifying the violence in response to it.

Rose explained that many people fail to distinguish between words and deeds. And, “America is becoming more isolated” as tyrannical countries tighten speech restrictions. While American laws allow freedom, increasingly the citizens are plagued with peer pressure and political correctness, pushing for self-censorship.

Yet, “the right not to be offended” is the only right Rose believes individuals should not have in a democracy. Freedom should be paramount.

Refusing to be silent in the face of Islamist intimidation, Rose exercises that freedom courageously and without qualms.

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This article was commissioned by The Legal Project, an activity of The Middle East Forum.

Deborah Weiss, Esq. is a contributing author to Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Network and the author of Council on American-Islamic Relations: its use of Lawfare and Intimidation. Her work can be found at www.vigilancenow.org

Andrew Harrod, JD, PhD is an independent researcher and writes for FrontPage Magazine and numerous other publications. He is also a fellow at The Lawfare Project and can be followed on Twitter at @AEHarrod.

Many Things Rotten in Denmark

Firoozeh_Bazrafkan-450x300Front Page, November 13, 2013, By :

A Danish appeals court recently upheld the conviction under a Danish hate speech law of an Iranian-Danish woman for her remarks condemnatory of Islam.  Coming amidst the controversial statements by another Dane of Muslim background, this conviction raises troubling questions about who may say what about Islam.

The artist Firoozeh Bazrafkan ran afoul of Danish authorities with a blog entry printed in a December 2011 issue of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper of 2005 Danish Muhammad caricature notoriety.  Bazrafkan expressed being “very convinced that Muslim men around the world rape, abuse and kill their daughters.”  Such abuse resulted “according to my understanding as a Danish-Iranian” from a “defective and inhumane culture—if you can even call it a culture at all.”  Bazrafkan deemed Islam a “defective and inhumane religion whose textbook, the Koran, is more immoral, deplorable and crazy than manuals of the two other global religions combined.”

As explained in an interview, Bazrafkan had appropriated the text with light personal editing from the free speech activist Lars Kragh Andersen.   Bazrafkan acted in solidarity with Andersen after his conviction under Section 266b of the Danish Penal Code (in Danish here) for the same posting at the news website 180Grader.  As one English translation reads, Section 266b punishes any public “pronouncement or other communication by which a group of persons are threatened, insulted or denigrated due to their race, skin color, national or ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation.”

Bazrafkan’s motive was “to show Lars support because, as a Danish Iranian, I know what a big problem Islamic regimes are.”  “Islamic codes give men the rights to do whatever they want to women and children,” something called “disgusting” by Bazrafkan, and “also prevent people in Iran from discussing and saying what they want.”  Bazrafkan sought an “artistic manifesto to show that we cannot say what we want and we cannot criticize Islamic regimes.” Accordingly, Bazrafkan’s website includes a video showing a casually-clothed Bazrafkan jump roping on top of an Ayatollah Khomeini photo (other Bazrafkan criticisms of Islam and Iran are available here and here).

Denmark’s Western High Court on September 16, 2013, convicted her on prosecutorial appeal from successful district court defense.  From a panel of three judges and jurors each, five found Bazrafkan guilty of presenting “statements in which a group of people are mocked and degraded because of their belief.”  The reviewing court sentenced Bazrafkan to a 5,000 Kroner fine or five days in prison, a decision she intends to appeal to the Danish Supreme Court before going to prison in lieu of paying the fine.

Opposing the decision, Bazrafkan noted that she did not say that “ALL Muslim men committed horrible acts,” but merely offered a “critique of religion,” something Section 266b “shouldn’t be used to protect.” The Iranian-born former Muslim Bazrafkan had also previously criticized Judaism and Christianity, but was more concerned with her repressed relatives in Iran.  Bazrafkan claimed for people the right “to write whatever they want,” even “if it’s stupid or well formulated…so long as they don’t threaten other people.”  Police dismissed a person who threatened to dismember and feed to his dogs Bazrafkan, meanwhile, as unserious.

Bazrafkan’s intellectual arguments were unavailing in part because, as Jesper Langballe stated during his December 3, 2010, district court “confession,” Section 266b’s “sole criterion of culpability…is whether someone feels offended…not whether what I have said is true or false.”  Like Bazrafkan, the Danish parliamentarian Langballe suffered a conviction for condemning Islamic norms justifying abuses of women.  Indeed, Danish country reports to the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (see here and here) describe Section 266b as applicable to anyone who “makes a statement or imparts other information” with the stipulated offensive nature.  Danish journalist Lars Hedegaard, meanwhile, narrowly escaped a Section 266b conviction in 2012 after the Danish Supreme Court determined that he had no intention of publicly disseminating his condemnation of Muslim male treatment of females.

Concurrent with Bazrafkan’s legal difficulties, Yahya Hassan, an 18-year-old Palestinian-Danish poet, has attributed high criminality rates among Danish youths with migrant Muslim backgrounds to poor Muslim parenting.  Hassan, who entered an institution at age 13 after several years of juvenile delinquency, complained of watching “our fathers passively rot on the couch with the remote in their hands, living off state benefits, accompanied by a disillusioned mother who never put her foot down.”  Muslim youth “who became criminals and bums…weren’t let down by the system, but by our parents.”  Although Hassan has not faced any Section 266b prosecutions, numerous graphic death threats have appeared at the Facebook page of a television show in which he appeared.

With European societies becoming increasingly heterogeneous, Islamic beliefs and behaviors criticized by Bazrafkan and Hassan demand discussion in an open forum free from legal retribution.  Serious policy issues concerning Islam in free societies will simply not disappear due to a politically correct mandated silence.  Laws like Section 266b are accordingly not just a threat to liberty, but to security as well.

This article was sponsored by The Legal Project, an activity of the Middle East Forum.

 

Through A Projector Lense Clearly

images (38)By Andrew Bostom:

Andrew Harrod has revealed the sad reality which marred an otherwise remarkable event at The Heritage Foundation,  “Silent Conquest: The End of Freedom of Expression in the West”: the Muhammad images under discussion were blurred out, effectively kowtowing to the very Islamic “blasphemy” law being decried.

One day later (Wednesday, March 20, 2013), I participated in a stirring event with my colleagues and friends, Rabbi John Hausman, Lars Hedegaard, Robert Spencer, and Tiffany Gabbay. The video of that forum and discussion, can be seen here.

Our event also included specific shots from “Silent Conquest” with the unblurred images of Lars Vilks’ cartoon , and the more renowned Jyllands-Posten Danish cartoons.

That video snippet is embedded, below:

 

 

 

 

The Islamization of Copenhagen

Bit by bit, it’s getting worse.

 

By Bruce Bawer

Bit by bit, it’s getting worse.

In recent years, life in the city of Copenhagen has hardly been free of, shall we say, problems related to Islam. But for the most part, the worst of it has been confined to Muslim neighborhoods such as Nørrebro. And residents of Copenhagen have at least been able to console themselves that conditions in their city were nowhere near as bad as those right across the Øresund Bridge in the now notorious Swedish burg of Malmö.

Well, as an editorial in Jyllands-Posten acknowledged last week, “conditions such as those in Malmö…are beginning to appear in Copenhagen.”

In a news story that appeared on the same day as the editorial, Jyllands-Posten reported the latest example of these “conditions”: both the Israeli ambassador to Denmark, Arthur Avnon, and the head of Copenhagen’s Jewish community are now advising Jews in that city to stop wearing yarmulkes and Stars of David and speaking Hebrew loudly in public – even in neighborhoods that they think of as “safe.” Asked about this advice, Police Commissioner Lars-Christian Borg told Jyllands-Posten that Jews – and gays, too – should stay away from parts of the city where there is a recognized “risk of clashes and harassment.” (Nice euphemism for “Muslim neighborhoods,” that.)

The Jyllands-Posten editorial bleakly toted up other examples of what they described as the city’s increasing readiness to adapt to the ever-worsening situation in the Danish capital: Copenhagen’s Jewish school “looks like a small fortress,” supplied with an elaborate security system and police protection, a constant reminder to the children that there are people who wish to do them harm; the head of the Danish-Palestinian Friendship Society, who is also a leading figure in Denmark’s ruling Socialist People’s Party, recently opined that Hitler should have killed even more Jews than he did, and went unpunished and all but entirely uncriticized for it; Copenhagen’s mayor called on Jews not to display too many Israeli flags at a recent multicultural festival, an admonition that was generally regarded as sensible: “why pick unnecessary fights?” Why “provoke”? Once again proving itself to be morally head and shoulders above virtually every other major newspaper in Europe, Jyllands-Posten called on Danes to recognize just how dangerous it is to respond in a passive and accommodating way to Muslim hatred, and urged them to  stand up to it before it’s too late.

Read more at Front Page