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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

After Benghazi, Muslims Attack Free Speech

By Deborah Weiss
Washington Times
November 4, 2012

It’s unclear if the Obama administration’s purpose in condemning the now-infamous “anti-Islam YouTube video” was to deflect from Obama’s failed Middle East policies, and those of Benghazi in particular, or if it was his intent to “protect Islam from negative stereotypes” as he promised to do in his Cairo speech. Either way, his constant denunciation of the 14-minute, amateurish, anti-Islam YouTube clip signals weakness to the Muslim world and may have given license to Muslims in the West to demand restrictions on freedom of speech.

It later came to light that the brutal murders of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, were the result of a pre-planned terrorist attack by an al Qaeda affiliate. However, in the beginning the Obama administration insisted that the attack had nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy and instead blamed the murders on a “spontaneous” uprising in response to the obscure video, which administration officials referred to as “reprehensible and disgusting.”

Obama appointees refused to let the storyline drop. Jay Carney, White House Spokesman; Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State; and U.N. representative Susan Rice all repeated the mantra. Mr. Obama even addressed the clip in his speech at the United Nations, proclaiming that “the future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam.”

To make matters worse, in Pakistan, the U.S. government went so far as to purchase $70,000 of TV ads lambasting the film, in an unsuccessful attempt to quell anti-American riots.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, thousands of angry Muslims marched outside Google headquarters in London. They were protesting the same YouTube trailer scapegoated by the administration. Titled “Innocence of Muslims,” the film portrays the Prophet Mohammad as a pedophile, philanderer and religious fraud. It was originally posted in English, but later was translated into Arabic and went viral on the Internet.

As protestors in London ratcheted up their “Campaign for Global Civility,” police flanked the doors of Google headquarters and placed barricades around the building. Several streets in England’s capital were closed down for hours due to the demonstration.

The march was organized by the Muslim Action Forum, a group that formed in direct response to the anti-Islam film and its notoriety. Hundreds of mosques from across Great Britain participated in the event, with some people traveling as far as Glasgow in order to attend.

Police reported that an estimated 3,000 protestors showed up, but the Muslim Action Forum claims the number was approximately 10,000.

The stated purpose of the campaign is to ban the video worldwide. Protestors carried signs that read, “[W]e love our Prophet more than our lives” and “[Google executives] support terrorism.”

It’s hard to believe with signs like these, that civility is the goal. According to Sufi cleric Alam Ghulam Rabbini, though, civility means the restriction of free speech if it “hurt[s] the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims.” According to Sheik Faiz Al-Aqtab Siddiqui, terrorists are not necessarily those who kill people, but those “who kill human feelings as well.” Thus, blasphemy equals terrorism.

At the demonstration, over a dozen Imams made speeches in Arabic, English and Urdu. The speeches were met with shouts of “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is great!”), the same cry echoed by Islamic terrorists around the globe before launching their attacks. The audience was urged to honor the Prophet by refusing to back down until their demands were met. There was no room for alternative viewpoints.

In effect, the crowd demanded that western non-Muslims comply with Islamic blasphemy codes.

Protests have already been held in much of the Muslim world, where blasphemy rules already exist. Now, Muslims in the West are holding mass protests to shut down any YouTube material that they deem to be “Islamophobic,” in direct contradiction to the principles of free speech.

This was the third protest held this month. The Muslim Action Forum is planning to hold protests across the globe and is currently organizing a “Million Muslim March,” to be held in the upcoming weeks.

Masoud Alam, organizer of the London march, is hoping to put together a coalition of Jews, Christians and others to join in the campaign. Hopefully, non-Muslims won’t be deluded into believing that such a campaign will protect their faiths from insult, assault or criticism, as the “civility” likely applies only to Islam.

It appears that the more the Obama administration condemns the film, the more Muslims protest. The Islamic notion of “combating defamation of Islam” as it is defined in the Muslim world is a concept utterly at odds with the American value of free expression. In the American legal system, only people are afforded protection from defamation, and truth is a defense. People are free to express their opinions, however abhorrent they might be. But “defamation of Islam” provides Islam with protection from criticism, even if the criticism is true.

Google executives are to be commended for standing strong. So far, they have refused to remove the video clip in countries where free speech is legal, even when governments have requested the video’s removal. As Eric Schmidt, Google Chairman explained, “the answer to bad speech is more speech.”

Political Islam is the ultimate enemy of freedom. Yet, the more Muslims galvanize to demonstrate hostility toward America, Mr. Obama just keeps coming back for more self-blame.

Deborah Weiss is a lawyer and a freelance writer. She is co-author of “Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamist Terrorist Network” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

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Friday, November 02, 2012

The War Against Free Speech Rages On

By Deborah Weiss
FrontPage Magazine
October 22, 2012

The Obama administration conveniently scapegoated a short, anti-Islam video for the murderous attacks on the US consulate on September 11, 2012. Now that the State Department has confessed its knowledge that Benghazi was the result of a pre-planned terrorist attack, many in both the mainstream and conservative media are asserting that it’s obvious nobody would really have responded to a silly 14-minute YouTube clip with mass protests. Not so fast. In fact, the administration’s relentless condemnation of the video’s content, even after the Benghazi facts have been established, may have given license for many Muslims in the West to do the same.

On Sunday, October 14, 2012, thousands of Muslims stormed the London Headquarters of Google, the parent company of YouTube. They were protesting the notorious anti-Islam video clip, titled “Innocence of Muslims,” a 14-minute, amateurish, low-budget trailer that portrays Mohammad in a negative light. The video had been falsely blamed by administration officials for the murders of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other US diplomats in Benghazi, Libya.

Barricades were erected around the building, and numerous streets in England’s capital were blocked off near the Queen’s palace. Those in protest were demanding that YouTube pull down the video.

The Muslim Action Forum organized the event and approximately 800 imams from mosques across the UK assisted. Muslims from Manchester, Blackburn, and Luton attended. Others came from as far away as Glasgow.

The Birmingham Mosque told its attendees that it was important to attend the event in honor of the Prophet, and warned participants to refrain from violence in order to prove to the world that Islam is a religion of peace. The mosque provided buses to transport crowds to the event.

Though police reported that only approximately 3000 people attended, the Muslim Action Forum insists that attendance was closer to 10,000. At a glance, the irate mob appeared to consist primarily of men, but in fact, a smaller gathering of women joined them, as is often the case, in the back of the crowd. They were fully covered from head to toe in hijabs and chadors.

The name of the campaign was “The Campaign for Global Civility.” Demonstrators carried signs that demanded civility from others, even as they intimidated those with whom they disagreed. Others signs proclaimed “Islam is a religion of peace,” even as an implied threat of violence filled the air. And some even had the audacity to wave signs that read, “Prophet Muhammad is the founder of freedom of speech” despite the fact that the entire purpose of the protest was to shut people up. Additional signs read that “Google is a worldwide terrorist” and “[H]ow dare you insult the blessed Prophet.”

Protest organizer, Masoud Alam, asserted that the goal of the demonstration was to have the anti-Islam YouTube clip banned worldwide. The video has been blocked by Google in a few countries where prohibited by law, such as Saudi Arabia, and a handful of governments in other countries removed the video when Google refused. However, it remains posted throughout the West and in numerous other regions. Alam made it clear that the protests would continue until demonstrators get their way. There would be a zero tolerance for dissent.

Indeed, the protest in London was the third held this month in the here-to-fore Free World. The Muslim Action Forum plans to hold protests at Google offices around the globe, including a “Million Muslim March” anticipated to be held in the next few weeks.

Masoud Alam proclaims that he’s merely seeking “civility” and Alam Ghulam Rabbini, a Sufi cleric, explains that Google should not have the right to “hurt the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims.” But the real goal of the protests is to stifle all criticism of Islam in a way that parallels Islamic blasphemy laws. In fact, Alam states that he believes “YouTube and its parent company, Google, continue to share Islamophobic material and continue to incite racial hatred” and admits that “[T]his insult of the Prophet will not be allowed.”

Clearly, if the video is taken down, it will not end the demonstrations, but only serve to further embolden those who seek to stifle free speech in the name of Islam.

And, in accordance with the Muslim Brotherhood mandate to sabotage the West from within, using their own hands (emphasis added), the Muslim Action Forum hopes to create a coalition of dhimmis, including Christians, Jews and conservatives to join their ranks for the cause of civility. Never mind that the bridge of civility flows in only one direction, with complete disregard for the daily diet of anti-Semitism fed through Arab media, and the persecution of Christians spread pervasively throughout Muslim lands.

So far, Google has stood firm. First, it refused to remove the video clip in response to the administration’s “inquiry” to determine if the clip violated YouTube’s terms and conditions, and now it stands strong in its response to thousands of angry Muslims who want to protect Islam from so-called “defamation.”

And, while Team Obama continues to denounce the content of this film, “shaming” those who espouse a different viewpoint, the President’s actions amount to yet another policy of appeasement. Fighting negative stereotypes of Islam wherever he finds them, as he promised to do in his speech at Cairo, the President is giving a green light to those who want to do the same by other means.

The real job of the President of the United States it to stand on principle and fight for the rights enshrined in the Constitution…. including the right to freedom of speech. Google executives have it right. They have asserted that the company “has very clear views on this issue. We believe the answer to bad speech is more speech.”

In the context of other wars, the President has stated that he wants to “lead from behind.” However, in the War against Free Speech, he’s ahead of the pack.

Please drop a note of support to Google executives to stand on principle as the pressure mounts in the coming weeks:

Google UK, Ltd. Larry Page, CEO
Belgrave House Google Headquarters
76 Buckingham Palace Road 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
London, UK , SW1W9TQ Mountain View , CA 94043

Deborah Weiss is a freelance writer and co-author of “Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamist Terrorist Network” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

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Rescuing Rimsha

By Deborah Weiss
FrontPage Magazine
October 15, 2012

The penalties for committing the crime of blasphemy in Pakistan are cruel, if not unusual. But even if little Rimsha is acquitted of the charges, she still faces the possibility of death.

Rimsha Masih is a 14-year-old Christian girl believed to have Down’s Syndrome. She resides in the town of Mehrabad, a poverty-stricken slum on the outskirts of Islamabad.

This summer, one of Rimsha’s neighbors claimed he saw her burn the pages of a holy book that contained Koranic verses. Such conduct constitutes “blasphemy” in violation of Pakistan’s penal code. The rumor spread like wildfire and local clerics whipped up religious sentiment, riling up the masses.

Subsequently, on August 16, 2012, Rimsha was playing in an area close to her home when she was attacked by a vicious mob of religious fanatics, intent on killing her. She and her mother were severely beaten.

A call to the local police station prompted Rimsha’s arrest. She and her mother were carted off to jail, where Rimsha sat traumatized in a high security prison for three weeks, waiting for her bail hearing.

During that time, the Ramna Police Department conducted an investigation of Rimsha’s case. It discovered that Imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti had framed Rimsha as part of a larger scheme to force Christians in the area to flee their homes permanently. Several witnesses stated that the Imam held extreme animosity toward “infidel Christians” and knew that blasphemy charges against Rimsha would force a mass exodus of local Christians from their homes.

Indeed it did. Outraged Muslims sought to collectively punish Rimsha’s entire village, which consisted of approximately 800 Christians, by threatening their lives and property. Hundreds fled due to fear and intimidation.

At Rimsha’s bail hearing, the police contended that there was no factual evidence to support the claim that Rimsha had committed blasphemy, but instead she had been framed by the Imam. Rimsha was a street sweeper, a job often performed by poor Christians for meager pay. It seems that she had swept up some pages from the Noorani Qaida — a primer used to teach children the Islamic Holy Scriptures — and then placed them in her plastic bag to throw out. At least three witnesses testified that Imam Chishti said he was unsure if this was sufficient to uphold a blasphemy charge, so he personally ripped out pages from the Koran, burned them himself and then planted them in Rimsha’s bag.

Based on the information provided by the police report, in addition to witness testimony, the judge granted Rimsha bail on September 8, 2012. She and her mother were airlifted from the jailhouse to an undisclosed location where they were placed in hiding for their own protection. They will remain there until the next hearing date, which is scheduled for October 17, 2012. At that time, the court will consider the defense attorney’s petition to dismiss Rimsha’s case due to lack of evidence.

Subsequently, the Imam was arrested for framing Rimsha. It is unprecedented that anyone in Pakistan has ever been held to account for making false blasphemy charges. Rimsha’s case has drawn international attention due to her age and mental incapacity. It is likely that the arrest was prompted by outrage abroad, pressuring the Pakistani government to let Rimsha go free. It remains to be seen whether the Imam will be charged with his crimes (witness tampering and possibly additional charges of blasphemy), or whether his arrest was a show, staged for the benefit of the international audience and the human rights watch dogs who have been monitoring Rimsha’s case.

After the Imam’s arrest, three of the witnesses who had testified against the Imam recanted their statements. They claimed that they had been coerced by the police to accuse the Imam of framing Rimsha. Police and investigators insist this is false and that any claims to the contrary constitute blatant lies.

Initially, Rimsha was hailed into Islamabad’s High Court to be tried as an adult. She was charged for blasphemy under Section 295(B) of the Pakistan Penal Code for defiling the Koran. A conviction in this court would require a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Other sections of the blasphemy law prohibit a range of behavior from insulting Islam, derogatory remarks about the Prophet, etc. The penalties range from fines to mandatory execution. After a dispute regarding Rimsha’s age, the court accepted a medical report declaring her chronological age to be 14 (albeit with a younger mental age due to her condition).

Accordingly, on September 24, 2012 the court declared that Rimsha’s case will be transferred to juvenile court where her case will proceed if it’s not dismissed. This is good news for Rimsha, as juvenile courts are generally more lenient than adult courts.

However, even if she is acquitted, Rimsha is not safe. Literally hundreds of religious clerics throughout Pakistan are demanding a guilty verdict and calling for Rimsha’s death. They have made it clear that if their demands aren’t met, they will take matters into their own hands.

Though aid groups in Italy, Canada and the United States have offered refuge for Rimsha and her family, Rimsha wants to remain in her motherland. Unfortunately, the mere taint of the blasphemy allegations will no doubt outlive the actual court case, and her chances of returning home alive are slim. In other words, even if Rimsha escapes a judicial mandate of execution, in reality, she will still face the threat of death.

Rimsha’s is only one story. But there are many more like hers that go unreported. According to Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan Director of Human Rights Watch, 1400 people in Pakistan have been charged with the crime of blasphemy since 1986; currently, there are 15 people sitting on Pakistan’s death row for blasphemy convictions and thus far, 52 people have been murdered by mobs while awaiting their day in court.

The blasphemy laws in Pakistan have existed for scores of years. They originated in India in 1860 under British colonial rule where they were intended to quiet hate speech considered offensive to Muslim minorities. The law was imported to Pakistan as a way to keep the peace and reduce strife amongst different religions. Later, in 1986, under an Islamist government, the laws were amended to include the penalties of life imprisonment and mandatory execution.

Though the initial intent of the law had a feel-good sense about it, as is always the case with speech restrictive laws, in practice it had an effect opposite of its stated purpose. The wording of the law is vague and subjective. It is used to carry out personal grievances and settle economic scores. It is disproportionately applied against those most vulnerable – religious minorities, women, children and the poor. And, scores of Pakistanis are implicated in false charges entirely.

The human rights violations and extrajudicial death threats such as those faced by Rimsha, are the inevitable result in a country that for decades has fostered an environment which values “defamation” protections for Islam over basic human dignity.

It is no coincidence that Pakistan, which originally sought to prioritize peace at the expense of free expression and individual liberty, wound up with neither. Poor Rimsha.

Deborah Weiss is a freelance writer and co-author of “Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamist Terrorist Network” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

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Thursday, November 01, 2012

Arrested for Blasphemy in America?

By Deborah Weiss
FrontPage Magazine
October 5, 2012

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, aka Sam Bacile, was recently arrested for violations of his probation terms from a 2010 conviction for bank fraud. But many in both the legal and political world believe that the real crime for which he was jailed was blaspheming Islam.

Nakoula is an Egyptian-born US citizen with a history of drug and financial crimes. In 2010 he was sentenced to 21 months in jail and 5 years probation for bank fraud. The terms of his probation were that he was not allowed to use any alias names or use the Internet without prior approval from his probation officers.

Merely weeks after his release from jail in June 2011, Nakoula posted a film trailer on YouTube. It was a 14-minute video clip promoting the film “Innocence of Muslims.” The video was totally un-noteworthy and of unprofessional quality. Left in English, it might have gone unnoticed.

Yet, a few months later, the film was translated into Arabic and went viral over the Internet. It inflamed Muslims worldwide, and sparked protests and riots for its content depicting the Muslim Prophet Mohammad as a child molester, womanizer, and religious fraud.

At first, Nakoula acknowledged that he wrote the script for “Innocence of Muslims,” but denied his role in creating the film. After all, the credits listed a “Sam Bacile” as the producer.

But upon investigation, federal authorities identified Nakoula as the culprit. Nakoula confessed to producing the film and admitted that “Sam Bacile” was merely an alias. Originally, “Sam Bacile” had called reporters claiming that he was an Israeli Jew who had raised 5 million dollars from wealthy Jewish donors to produce the film. However, in the end it became clear the mere $50,000 to $60,000 film budget was a gift from his wife’s family, who is based in Egypt, where the riots began.

The riots spread to at least 20 countries worldwide and fanned the flames of pre-existing anti-American sentiment, causing numerous deaths.

Ever bowing down to Islam, President Obama chose to blame the video clip for “spontaneous uprisings” in Libya, which resulted in the murder of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other US diplomatic officials.

The administration held this story line for days. However, it became evident that the attack on the US consulate which occurred on the symbolic date of September 11, was a pre-planned terrorist attack executed by Al-Qaeda or its affiliates.

Nevertheless, Obama can’t seem to let the film go, even referring to it in his address to the United Nations, castigating it as “disgusting.” And, while he gave lip service to the virtues of free speech, he simultaneously raised Islam up as untouchable, asserting that “the future does not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam.” It seems like a bizarre statement coming from a United States president, until one remembers Obama’s Cairo speech in which he claimed that it’s his job as president of the United States to “fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

To make matters worse, this President requested that Google (YouTube’s parent company) remove the video from YouTube. To its credit, Google refused, explaining that free speech is legal in America and that Nakoula had not violated YouTube’s terms and conditions.

Subsequent to all the attention paid to Nakoula and his video, Nakoula received death threats from enraged Muslims who called for his arrest and execution. Pakistani Federal Railways Minister, Ghulan Ahmad Bilour, put a 100,000 dollar bounty on Nakoula’s head, offering this reward to anyone who would find and murder the notorious blasphemer. The Minister invited both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to join him on his “blessed mission.”

Thereafter, Nakoula and his family were forced into hiding and Nakoula placed his California home up for sale.

On September 27, a mere two days after Obama’s speech to the United Nations, Nakoula was arrested for violating his probation terms.

Flanked by at least five law enforcement officials on all sides, Nakoula was pushed into a car and carted off to court.

Assistant US Attorney, Robert Dugdale, charged Nakoula with 8 counts of violating the terms of his probation. The charges all related to using an alias name and lying to officials about his role in making the anti-Islam film. The US Attorney’s office refrained from charging Nakoula with unauthorized use of the Internet.

Nakoula was escorted into court with handcuffs and shackled at the waist. His attorney denied the charges and pleaded for his client to be released on 10,000 dollars bond.

The court, however, was unsympathetic. The judge ruled that Nakoula would be held in jail without bond, reasoning that Nakoula was both a flight risk and a danger to the community. The latter is a little perplexing for someone who has never committed a violent crime. Nevertheless, Nakoula now sits in jail awaiting the scheduling of his probation revocation hearing, where he faces the possibility of 24 additional months in prison.

It is relatively easy to find technical violations of probation. In this case, it’s obvious that had so much attention not been shed on Nakoula’s video clip, any infractions of the terms of his probation would likely have gone unnoticed.

Legal professionals and First Amendment advocates of all political stripes are questioning the legitimacy of the charges. Due to the highly political nature of the case, there is significant speculation that high level US officials may have weighed in on the decision to arrest Nakoula.

It is common knowledge that authoritarian regimes around the globe arrest those who are politically inconvenient or at odds with those in power. In Muslim majority countries, even those considered secular, blaspheming the Muslim Prophet Mohammad is quite problematic. The consequences can range from community threats and out-casting to jail, flogging and even execution.

There is no doubt that in recent years, there has been momentum building in the West for the silencing of speech which is critical of Islam. Whether it takes the form of UN Resolutions to combat “defamation of religions” (i.e. Islam), hate speech legislation, or politically correct policy enactments, speech critical of Islam or its Messenger has become increasingly verboten in Europe and Canada.

The question now is, in the last bastion of freedom known as this great United States of America, will man continue to be free to express his ideas, even if unpopular, or will the government join the rank and file by retaliating against those whose speech it dislikes, under the pretext of probation violation technicalities?

Deborah Weiss is a freelance writer and co-author of “Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamist Terrorist Network” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

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