The Organization of Islamic Cooperation: Infringing on Free Speech
(Deborah Weiss, April 11, 2013)
Transcript available below
About the speaker
The OIC has been aggressively campaigning through the United Nations and elsewhere to treat any criticism of Islam or its Prophet as a criminal act. The OIC’s agenda has been highly successful not only in the organization’s member nations where the law is used to persecute religious minorities, but also in Europe, Canada, and throughout the United Nations system. Is America next? What is the Obama Administration doing in response to these actions? Deborah Weiss will provide an update on these efforts and explain why the success of the OIC’s agenda could spell the end of freedom of expression in the West. Deborah Weiss works for “Vigilance”, an organization dedicated to educating the public on terrorism-related issues. Previously, she was the Manhattan Director for the Forbes for President Campaign, served as a Counsel for the Committee on House Oversight in Congress, and served as an Assistant Corporation Counsel in the Giuliani Administration.
Well, I want to thank Westminster Institute for holding this event and Katie for inviting me to speak and I want to thank everybody in the audience for taking time out of your day to educate yourselves on this important topic. I am going to speak to you about the Organization of Islamic Cooperation or the OIC and its efforts to stifle all criticism of Islam-related topics.
So first, who is the OIC? The OIC is the second largest international organization in the world behind only the UN. It is the largest Islamic organization in the world, claiming to represent 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. It is comprised of 56 UN member states plus the Palestinian Authority, and they tend to vote together as a bloc in the UN, so they are arguably the largest voting bloc in the UN as a whole, and they are absolutely the largest voting bloc in the Human Rights Council, yet most people do not know who they are.
Originally, they were called the Organization of Islamic Conference. If you want to google more information about them. In 2011, they changed their name to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Their mission, however, remains identical to what it was previously, so I will let you decide whether or not they are cooperating and, if so, with whom. The OIC holds itself out as a moderate organization, but let us be clear about the true nature of the OIC. The OIC is an Islamist supremacist organization whose long-term vision is the worldwide implementation of Sharia law.
Its top priorities are the supremacy of Islam and what is in the best interest of the Islamic Umma. It is within this framework through the lens of Sharia law that all ideas set forth by the OIC must be analyzed. Currently, its immediate goal is the international criminalization of all speech which is critical of Islam, Islamic theocracy, Muslims, Sharia law, and even Islamic terrorism. Knowing this cannot occur overnight, it introduces the language in a watered-down form targeting UN bodies and EU Parliaments in order to achieve its goals gradually and incrementally under the guise of sensitive speech, responsible speech, or politically correct speech what the OIC really wants to do is to stifle your freedom of speech.
The first resolution I am going to discuss with you tonight is called “Combating Defamation of Religion” or “Defamation of Religion” for short. Originally, this resolution was called “Defamation of Islam,” but when it failed to get sufficient support, they changed the name to “Defamation of Religions.” Still, in the text of the resolution the only religion that is actually singled out by mention is Islam. The resolution makes numerous assumptions and asserts them as fact. For example, it asserts that Islam is wrongly associated with human rights violations. It is wrongly associated with religious persecution. It is wrongly associated with terrorism and there has been undue backlash against Muslims ever since 9/11.
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of “Defamation of Religions,” what it does is it takes an idea or a religion and gives it protection from criticism. As opposed to what we have in the American legal system which gives defamation protections to individuals or groups of individuals, so you have defamation of an idea or a religion versus defamation of people. Additionally, in the American legal system in order for a comment to be defamatory it has to be a false statement of fact. Truth is the defense, so if you say something bad about someone, no matter how terrible it is, if it is true or mere opinion, it is not defamation. By stark contrast, the OIC’s definition of defamation includes anything that sheds a negative light on Islam or Muslim even if it is true and even if it is mere opinion.
Taking that a step further, it also includes anything that violates Islamic blasphemy codes. For example, in Islam it is prohibited to draw depictions of the Muslim prophet Muhammad even if you show him in a positive light. If you do that, that is blasphemy in Islam and under the OIC’s interpretation of this resolution it would be defamation as well and though the resolution is called ‘defamation of religions’, in the OIC’s interpretation and implementation it applies only to Islam. There is absolutely no reciprocity for anti-Jewish, anti-Christian or anti-Israel hate speech. Indeed, the OIC supports Hamas, it supports Iran’s nuclear program, and it rationalizes 9/11.
For those of you unfamiliar with UN resolutions, they are not legally binding, but they do carry political significance, so the more often a resolution is passed, the more weight is given to the ideas embodied in that resolution. If it is passed repeatedly or in numerous bodies, then it runs the risk of eventually being deemed customary international law. Were that to happen, countries that never signed onto the resolution would be pressured to adhere to it.
This resolution was first introduced into what was called the “Commission on Human Rights” in 1999. Subsequently, it was introduced into the General Assembly in 2005. If you remember, the Human Rights Commission was deemed to be a sham at some point and totally folded in 2005 and in 2006 a new body popped back up called the “Human Rights Council” or HRC and it was introduced there as well. In fact, this resolution passed every single year in all three of those bodies subsequent to its initial introduction.
In 2008, was the first year this resolution was in jeopardy of not getting passed, but the OIC had launched a very aggressive Islamophobia campaign to ensure that it would. They held two Islamophobia conferences; one going back as far as 2006 and one in 2008 where it established the existence of Islamophobia and asserted that they would have a zero tolerance for it.
They said they were going to defend themselves against all free expression that they deemed Islamophobic, including hostile glances and they were going to target cartoonists, film producers, reporters and governments. They also unveiled their first OIC Observatory report. This consisted of 58 pages of real, claimed or imagined instances of Islamophobia. That report is now produced annually, and they also have a monthly bulletin on Islamophobia as well. By the way, this report had a lot of instances when I got a copy of them, approximately half of the things listed in there were not bad things that non-Muslims were doing to Muslims, it was bad things that Muslims were doing to non-Muslims.
So, how can this be? If you understand that the OIC’s definition of Islamophobia includes accurate reports, the veracity of which are not in dispute so long as it sheds a negative light on Islam, then it makes sense. And, by the way, the mainstream media often takes the statistics provided either by the OIC or CAIR or other Islamophobia tracking organizations, and [the media] repeats the statistics without checking into the nature of the claims, and the number alone can be quite alarming.
I am going to give you a few examples that I found. I think these were in the 2008 February monthly bulletin to show you the types of things that they are labeling as Islamophobic. In 2008, in the country of Qatar the first Christian church was erected. Muslims were protesting on the street and Arabic papers were writing articles saying that Christians ought not have the right to build a house of worship in a Muslim majority country.
One of those articles was translated into English and republished. That republishing was Islamophobic. It is Islamophobic that Wikipedia refused to remove depictions of the Muslim prophet Muhammad from the English language website and it is Islamophobic that the EU asked around to drop the death penalty for the crime of apostasy. The OIC repeatedly asserts that Islamophobia is one of the greatest threats to world peace and global security rather than concluding that perhaps Islamophobia is the result of the actions taken by a radical Islamic movement around the globe.
As a result of the OIC’s victimhood campaign – because that is exactly what this was – the resolution passed yet again in 2008, although this time with a plurality. Shortly thereafter, the Human Rights Council passed a rule that said nobody can come before this body and, quote, “judge or evaluate a religion,” unquote. The International Humanist Ethical Union presented for consideration violence against women in some of the Muslim-majority countries. The issues they wanted to have addressed were stonings against women, female genital mutilation, forced marriages of little girls as young as age nine, and honor killings. They were told that these practices are permissible under Sharia law, and therefore they cannot discuss it because to do so would be to judge or evaluate a religion. Therefore, it appears that human rights violations, which are permissible under Sharia law, can no longer be discussed in the Human Rights Council, the body purportedly designed to address human rights.
At a certain point, the U.S. State Department realized that this resolution had potentially dire consequences for freedom of speech, so in 2011, Hillary Clinton asked the OIC to draft an alternative resolution that would both retain freedom of expression and still address the OIC’s concerns about alleged Islamophobia. The result was Resolution 1618 to combat intolerance based on religion or belief. This resolution was introduced and passed into the human rights council in March of 2011. It was the first time in twelve years that the OIC did not introduce the defamation of religions resolution.
Both the State Department and numerous Christian organizations fully supported this new resolution because they believed it was a paradigm shift, moving from protecting a religion to protecting religious people, minorities specifically from discrimination and violence, so what is wrong with that? Well, let us see if that is really what was happening. This is the resolution you have in front of you. The resolution drops the language defamation of religions. It is not in that new resolution. It instead focuses on intolerance, discrimination, and violence based on religion or belief, but a lot of the language is still open to interpretation and therefore is problematic.
Unfortunately, I did not have a copy beforehand to show you where it is. I am going to focus only on three clauses, but hopefully you will be able to find them. I do not think this is the first one, so you might have to scroll down a little bit, but it discourages religious profiling – that should be in the first line of it – it discourages religious profiling for purposes of law enforcement. How does the resolution define religious profiling? It says it is, quote, “the invidious use of religion as a criterion for purposes of investigation, interrogations, searches, and questioning,” unquote, so notice it is not prohibiting the use of religion as the sole criterion.
In other words, nobody is saying, oh, you are Muslim, let us lock you up, and that is what this resolution is prohibiting. This resolution is saying that you cannot use religion as one factor on a list of other elements to consider. Second, now please pay attention to my language, it condemns the “advocacy of religious hatred that amounts to incitement to discrimination, hostility, and violence” unquote and urges states to take effective action against it. Advocacy of religious hatred that amounts to incitement to hostility, what is that? It sounds very similar to outlawing or very close to outlawing hatred which you might have noticed is an emotion and also this resolution attempts to internationalize the norms of free speech, so did the former one. Both resolutions want to internationalize the norms of free speech.
So, in America we have the First Amendment. That governs our speech rules. Other sovereign countries have their own rules regarding free speech. Both of these resolutions aspire to usurp the sovereign rules and replace them with one single rule across the board, additionally, with that same phrase, the ‘advocacy of religious hatred.’
Well, what is going to constitute the advocacy of religious hatred?
There is ample reason to believe that anything critical of anything related to Islam is in other words defamation of religions, because that is what they are calling defamation of religions, anything critical of Islam that, using their interpretation, any criticism of anything to do with Islam would be deemed the advocacy of religious hatred that amounts to the condemned incitement. The third clause I want to draw to your attention, and this is the one that gets the most attention, is it calls for the criminalization of the incitement to imminent violence. So, what is wrong with that? America has laws today that prohibit the incitement to imminent violence.
As it turns out, the OIC has a totally different definition of the word incitement than we do here in America. We have what is called a content-based test and the OIC wants to use what is called a consequence-based test. For example, if I tell all of you to get together tomorrow at two o’clock and go kill Joe and then you go and do that, you will be responsible for murder, and I will be responsible for my comments because the content of my language encouraged or incited the violence. That is a content-based test. That is what we have in America, but the OIC wants a consequence-based test.
The example that they most frequently use is that of the Danish cartoons. If you recall, in 2006 there was a series of depictions of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Subsequently, riots ensued all across the Middle East and all across Europe. The Danish embassies were trashed, people were killed, and mayhem ensued. The OIC would say that those riots were the consequence of the cartoon, but I think you will agree with me when I say that while they were subsequent there was absolutely nothing consequent about them.
There are numerous problems with the consequence test using that interpretation as you can see. First, it is a retroactive definition. Your comment, cartoon, or film is totally legal until someone later on chooses to respond to it violently and then retroactively it was criminal for you to make that comment. Second, it shifts personal responsibility from the violent actor to the person who happens to make a film, cartoon, or comment that someone might find offensive. If you have the Judeo-Christian values of personal responsibility, where does the responsibility lie? Is it with the person who commits the violence or is it with the person who happens to make a comment that someone might find offensive?
Compare that to how Christians responded when they were presented with artwork of a cross in urine or in the Brooklyn Museum when they had a painting of the Virgin Mary that had cow dung thrown on it. They did not kill people and riot and cause property damage. They wrote letters to the editor, Op-eds, and they contacted Mayor Giuliani asking him not to support the Brooklyn Museum with taxpayer dollars.
But most importantly, you need to understand that by using the consequence test definition of incitement – that is the whole issue here, the definition of incitement – by using that definition it has the effect of enforcing the concept of combating defamation of Islam, the very concept that this entire resolution was purportedly designed to defeat, so in other words, this resolution was supposed to replace that other resolution, but by the interpretations the OIC is using, they are still clearly retaining their goal to combat defamation of Islam, so they have dropped the language of defamation of religions, but they have retained the same goal that they had before.
It is also important to know that according to the OIC, anybody that defames Islam is an Islamophobe, so in America we tend to think of Islamophobia or intolerance as very similar to racism, sexism, or some kind of bigotry, but in the OIC’s definition, it means much more than that because it would be anybody that violates Islamic blasphemy codes, so if you say something that is true, you are still an Islamophobe if you are saying something negative about Islam. This resolution says it is to combat intolerance based on religion or belief. In combating intolerance or Islamophobia pursuant to this resolution, you are not just protecting Muslims or people, you are protecting the ideology of Islam as well.
In 2011 in July, Hillary Clinton attended a high-level diplomatic meeting in Istanbul, Turkey on Islamophobia. There she announced to the world that the State Department would host a meeting to move to implementation Resolution 1618 in order to make it a reality despite the fact that there is absolutely nothing in the resolution that mandates this, and it is contrary to the norm of leaving UN resolutions in the realm of the theoretical. The implementation process became known as the Istanbul process.
By making this announcement, the U.S. legitimized the OIC’s positions and signaled to the free world that partnering with the OIC is not only acceptable but perhaps even desirable. The EU had previously kept the OIC at arm’s length, but following America’s lead, it held the second Istanbul conference this past December. The third conference is supposed to be scheduled in June in Geneva. I want to talk to you briefly about what transpired at the State Department Istanbul conference. This conference was held in December 2011 over a three-day period. It consisted primarily of closed-door meetings and approximately 30 countries and international organizations attended, including the OIC and the EU.
The OIC made it very clear that its goal for the conference was to push for speech restrictive measures on anything related to Islam, and Hillary Clinton said, regarding passage of the resolution that the passage shows, quote, “We have begun to overcome the false divide that pits religious sensitivities versus freedom of expression,” unquote, but if the State Department really did have any concern about retaining free speech at the time of the drafting and the passage of the resolution and I believe it did, then somehow by the time the conference came about the entire focus moved to protecting religious minorities. More specifically, it focused on protecting Muslims in America and Muslims in the West rather than focusing on the truly persecuted religious minorities in the OIC countries.
What about the Coptic Christians in Egypt? What about the Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan? What about the Bahais in Iran? What about the Jews in Saudi Arabia – if there are any? That was not the focus. The focus was on protecting Muslims in the West where they are obviously fairly free and equal. And while Hillary Clinton chose not to push for the enactment of speech restrictive laws such as European hate speech bylaws at least for this round, and she extolled the virtues of free speech, she also quickly followed it up by saying that the U.S., quote, “advocates for other measures to achieve the same result,” unquote. Those other measures include interfaith dialogue and quote “the good old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming” unquote.
Hillary Clinton seems to have a fundamental misunderstanding of the principal underlying the First amendment. The First Amendment was designed to encourage robust political debate and to flesh out minority viewpoints. It was not intended for some people to use their free speech rights to tell other people to shut up because that is a more effective means of silencing them than passing speech restrictive laws.
I assume that most of you in this audience support the notion of free speech, but even if you do not, is it the proper role of the State Department to use peer pressure and shaming to stifle the speech of Americans with whom it disagrees? I think not. Secretary Clinton says that she wants to bridge the divide that separates different faiths and different cultures. The problem is the bridge of tolerance flows in only one direction: towards the Islamization of the West and the ever shrinking of free expression.
I want to talk to you a little bit about the process of losing freedom in an incremental fashion. Many people believe that restrictions on freedom of speech will never occur in America because we have the First Amendment and certainly, we will not lose our First Amendment freedoms tomorrow, but if you look around the globe and throughout history, you will see that freedom is the exception. It is not the rule and sometimes the loss of freedom occurs gradually and incrementally not always in a violent coup. If the public is not made aware of the threat and cannot name it by name in order to address it in its early stages, by the time people wake up it might be too late.
So, this is briefly how I see the process going. First, we have people saying we should have sensitive speech, responsible speech, or politically correct speech and you will hear the OIC talk very frequently about responsible speech and free speech comes with duties. Free speech comes with responsibility. And as a result, a lot of people here have been engaging in self-censorship. That is stage one. Stage 2 is governments and institutions such as universities issue speech restrictive guidelines and policies and a lot of people do not realize that we have that in our government today and it is getting worse every year. For example, the FBI, the State Department, the National Counter-Terrorism Center have all issued memos to the national security and intelligence professionals discouraging them from using words such as jihad or Islamic terrorism.
The National Security Strategy Memo, which is our country’s guiding document for all of our national security policy, has completely deleted all mention of Islamic terrorism. Previously, that document said that militant Islam was the greatest ideological threat in the 21st century, but now all references to Islamist ideology are deleted. The Department of Homeland Security Advisory Committee HSAC has also made a concerted effort to say that national security professionals should focus on terrorist behavior and quote “delink it from the underlying ideology that motivates it.”
So, in the last year, just so you know, all of our national security training manuals and programs have been completely rewritten to avoid any mention of Islamic terrorism. The next step is civil violations and Canada is a good example of that. Canada has a constitution that supposedly affords it free speech. However, they also have human rights commissions in almost every province that on a regular and frequent basis issue fines for defaming Islam even if you do not defame a person. And by the way, there is a push to start those in America as well. The final step is the criminalization of speech and an example of that is the case of Geert Wilders.
A lot of you might have followed the case of Dutch Member of Parliament Geert Wilders who has very strong views on the ideology of Islam. He has said repeatedly that he has nothing against Muslims. He just does not like the ideology of Islam. Now you may or may not agree with him, but this is the issue. Should he be put in jail for expressing his views on a religion or an ideology? Yet that is exactly the scenario he faced when he was put on criminal trial while a member of Parliament for expressing his opinion.
After a long, drawn-out trial, he was acquitted, and many people thought that was a victory for free speech, but they were wrong because the process remains in place and the mere prosecution sends a chilling effect to everybody else that they ought not express their views lest they wind up in a trial and have a different result. It is also interesting to note that the language in the Dutch penal code under which he was prosecuted was very similar language to the Resolution 1618’s language. It was ‘incitement to hatred’ language, letting you know that the language can be manipulated so that it is not just about true incitement, and it is not just about discrimination or violence, but about expressing your views of Islam if they are negative.
I am going to give you a few examples of how the concept of combating defamation of Islam is being played out in everyday life today. I want to be clear: I am not saying that these examples are the direct result of the UN resolutions, and I am not saying they are the direct result of the OIC because there are numerous Islamist organizations all fighting to protect Islam from defamation using different tactics. So, these are just examples of how that concept is being played out. First, defamation of religions has a chilling effect on speech and authorship in all quarters of life from the workplace to the public sphere.
You can no longer criticize Islamic terrorism, Islamic persecution of religious minorities, or human rights violations committed in the name of Islam without being slapped with the label Islamophobe. In Europe, most countries have laws, some sort of hate speech laws, whether they are called denigrations of religions, incitement laws, hate speech laws, and all of them serve as proxies for blasphemy laws by providing deterrent punishments for saying something negative about Islam.
In America, books or events with speakers, authors, or prayer leaders who want to address any of these issues are being canceled with increasing frequency. And even TV shows and films have been altered. Corporations are changing their products, their package designs, and their production procedures under pressure in order to address the so-called Islamic issue and make sure they do not defame Islam. And in some cases, due to fear of lawsuits whether real or conjured up, employers are giving special preferences to Muslims, basically exempting them from the laws under which the rest of us have to live.
If you are interested in that, you can Google what is going on in Minnesota with EEOC claims and CAIR. The FBI, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and the National Counter-Terrorism Center have all rewritten their training material as I indicated earlier, basically deleting all mention of Islamic terrorism. So, for example, the consultants who worked for some of these agencies for scores of years with very high ratings who are there for the purpose of teaching intelligence professionals about terrorism can no longer talk about Islamic terrorism because they are Islamophobes, and they have been not invited back. In other words, our government using your taxpayer dollars is working hard to protect Islam from defamation at the expense of protecting you. And finally, just to show you how far your government’s position has shifted over the years…
Years ago, there was a UN resolution that had language in it that was speech restrictive clauses and we signed what is called a reservation. A reservation means that we are opting out of that clause, so we will say that we are signing on to this whole resolution except for that clause. Now we have the State Department, spearheading the effort to implement language that is very similar to the language that the U.S. previously disavowed. And in fact, just this past November the State Department sent another representative to a seminar in Saudi Arabia – oh, they did not bother calling it defamation of religions – defamation of Islam – and we sent a representative.
Finally, we have the Benghazi fiasco. As you all know by now, the attacks in Benghazi were terrorist attacks committed by an Al Qaeda affiliate. They were not the spontaneous uprisings, the way the administration originally claimed, so there are numerous issues with this. One was what were they covering up? What was the government covering up? Why were they covering it up, but also, why were they condemning an obscure, low budget anti-Islam video; the means of a coverup? I believe it was to let the world know that America too is protecting Islam from defamation in order to appease the Muslim world.
If you recall, in his Cairo speech in 2009 President Obama said, quote, “It is my job as President of the United States to fight negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they might be…” – negative stereotypes of Islam, not Muslims, wherever they might be – and that is exactly what this administration has been doing. The Founding Fathers drafted the First Amendment in part to protect offensive speech. The way to counter bad ideas is with good ideas. Instead of working with the OIC to restrict freedom of speech, America should be leading the charge to establish freedom of speech worldwide equivalent to the United States Constitution’s freedom of speech amendment. We should be condemning the persecution of religious minorities and the human rights violations committed by the OIC countries, including those of Saudi Arabia and Iran. Right now, what we are doing is capitulating to them.
Above all we have to understand that free speech constitutes a human right. Its restriction in the form of combating defamation of religions does not [constitute a human right]. It is a totally concocted idea that stands in direct opposition to real human rights. Only people should be afforded human rights. Ideas, policies, and religions ought not get protection from criticism, and I mention this because the OIC is trying to assert defamation of religions as a human right. They want it to be recognized as an international human right.
Additionally, it is important to note that the constitutional concept of religious freedom bears no resemblance whatsoever to the OIC’s concept of combating defamation of religions. The constitutional concept of religious freedom is an individual right. It is the right of an individual to freely practice his faith. It is not the right of a religion to be free from criticism because that is another thing the OIC does. They try to conflate with religious freedom.
Resolutions like the ones I have discussed with you today harm free speech rights, they harm religious freedom rights, they harm human rights, they harm national security and terrorism prevention efforts. Yet the OIC uses cries of Islamophobia as a tactic to gain sympathy and support for its anti-freedom measures. In conclusion, I want to say that we cannot allow the OIC to take the shield of religious freedom and use it as a sword of state censorship. America is the last bastion of freedom and the hope of all men living under tyranny and oppression. We should be holding ourselves up as a role model for freedom, equality, and human rights instead of exalting the Islamist enemies of freedom that constitute the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.