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Sunday, February 10, 2013

U.S. Pastor Faces Trial in Iran for Christian Faith

U.S. pastor faces trial in Iran for Christian faith
State Department looks the other way

By Deborah Weiss
Washington Times
January 21, 2013

As this is being written, Saeed Abedini, an American citizen and evangelical pastor, sits in an Iranian jail awaiting his trial. The expected ruling is death, for charges which are presumed to be related to his Christian faith. The State Department, which works closely with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to stamp out “intolerance” and “Islamophobia” against Muslims in America, has been virtually silent about Mr. Abedini’s predicament in Iran, one of the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Thirty-two-year-old Saeed Abedini was raised in Iran as a Muslim. At age 20 he converted to Christianity and subsequently became an evangelical pastor. He married a U.S. citizen, and is now a U.S. citizen himself. He and his wife have two children, ages 4 and 6.

Mr. Abedini still has family that remains in Iran, and for years he has been travelling to visit them. Initially, he also worked to set up an underground church, an act which is illegal in Iran.

In 2009, he was caught and arrested. He was let out on bail conditioned upon his agreement to stop running the underground church and to refrain from proselytizing his Christian faith. In return, the Iranian government agreed not to put him in prison. Both parties kept their agreement for years. Mr. Abedini visited Iran eight times since his 2009 arrest. During his visits, he saw his family members and initiated plans to start an orphanage.

In the summer of 2012, the Iranian government went back on its promise. During one of Mr. Abedini’s visits to Iran, a Revolutionary Guard interrogated him, and he was placed under house arrest. Disregarding Mr. Abedini’s U.S. citizenship, the Iranian government forced him to remain at his parents’ house.

Then, in September 2012, Mr. Abedini was sent to Evin prison in Tehran, notorious for being especially brutal and abusive. He was never informed of the charges. Moreover, the government confiscated his bank account, which contained approximately $105,000 that had been donated to him to help start the orphanage.

In a letter sent to his family, Mr. Abedini stated that he had endured beatings during interrogations that occurred regularly, and that the Iranian guards have given him death threats, saying that he “will hang” for his “faith in Jesus.”

Throughout all of this, the State Department remained silent, despite the fact that it is mandated to protect U.S. citizens who travel abroad.

Finally last week, for the first time, Mr. Abedini’s lawyer was permitted to see his file. It was only then, with less than one week’s notice, that he discovered the date of Mr. Abedini’s trial. His lawyer reports that the charges are indecipherable, except for one dating back to the year 2000, the same year that Mr. Abedini converted to Christianity and became an apostate.

The charge issued is for “actions [taken] against the national security of Iran.” This is typical of the type of charge hurled against religious minorities that are to be persecuted. It is clear that the charges against Mr. Abedini pertain to his Christian conversion and prior evangelizing.

The trial date is set for Jan. 21, 2013. Mr. Abedini’s case is assigned to Judge Pir-Abassi, who heads the 26th Branch of the Revolutionary Court. The judge is nicknamed the “hanging judge,” and he has a reputation for doling out especially harsh sentences. He has been known to issue death sentences to mere protesters and political dissidents. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has cited Pir-Abassi as one of three judges “responsible for particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

The judge is so extreme that most attorneys refuse to handle cases that are calendared for his courtroom. In 2011, the European Union named Judge Pir-Abassi as an individual subject to sanctions for his human rights abuses. It has issued a ban disallowing him to enter the European Union.

In Iran, as in all Muslim countries, conversion out of the Islamic faith (apostasy) constitutes a capital offense. According to Faraz Sanei of Human Rights Watch, the Iranian regime believes that evangelicals are trying to convert Muslims to Christianity and considers them a particular threat. He reported that Iran has increased its targeting of Christian converts starting in 2005 when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president. The targeting escalated even further after the 2009 protests.

Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt and Idaho Sen. Jim Risch have issued a letter along with numerous other congressional signatories, calling for Pastor Saeed’s release. There are also some online petitions circulating toward that same goal.

Finally last week, in a feeble, almost meaningless statement, Ms. Victoria Nuland of the State Department proclaimed that the Department has a “serious concern” about Mr. Abedini’s detainment. After learning that he has been denied access to his lawyer since his arrest, she asked Iranian officials to “respect Iran’s own laws and provide Mr. Abedini with access to a lawyer.”

The Obama administration bends over backwards to ensure that that it doesn’t use any language that might offend American Muslims, even if accurate. Yet it has turned a blind eye to the real persecution of religious minorities implemented by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation countries, such as the abuse of Mr. Abedini, despite his being an American citizen.

Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, is John Kerry’s confirmation hearing for the position of secretary of state. If Mr. Abedini is lucky enough not to be executed in the interim, Thursday’s hearing would provide the perfect opportunity for senators to place pressure on Mr. Kerry to demand Mr. Abedini’s unconditional release.

Deborah Weiss is a lawyer and a freelance writer. She is a co-author of “Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamist Terrorist Network” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). A partial listing of her work can be found at

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Islamist Org Working to Prohibit Criticism of Islam

Posted by Deboarh Weiss: An article written by Ryan Mauro of

Expert: Islamist Org Working to Prohibit Criticism of Islam
January 15, 2013

Deborah Weiss, Esq. is an expert on the defamation of religions U.N. resolutions set forth by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. She writes for several online news sites and is co-author of the book, Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network: America and the West's Fatal Embrace."

The following is National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro’s interview with Deborah Weiss.

Ryan Mauro: What is the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and what is its end goal?

Deborah Weiss: The OIC is the largest Islamic organization in the world, claiming to represent 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. It’s comprised of 56 UN Member States plus the Palestinian Authority. They tend to vote together as a block in the UN and are arguably the most powerful voting block in the UN as a whole. They are certainly the most powerful voting bloc in the UN’s Human Rights Council.

Though the OIC holds itself out as a “moderate” organization, it is clear from its own documents and its concepts that it is anything but moderate. Its long term goal is the worldwide implementation of Sharia law and the supremacy of an Islamic State.

In its immediate activities, it is working to solidify the relationships among Muslim majority countries, to unify the Muslim voice, to support the so-called “Palestinian struggle” and to restrict all speech that is critical of anything related to Muslims or Islam including Islamic terrorism and Islamic persecution of religious minorities.

Mauro: Tell us about the OIC’s concept of “Combating Defamation of Religions” and its impact.

Deborah Weiss: “Combating Defamation of Religions” is a concept which gives an idea or religion, in this case Islam, protection from criticism, as opposed to what we have in the American legal system which only gives defamation protections to people.

Additionally, the OIC’s definition of defamation includes anything that sheds a negative light on Islam or Muslims, even if it’s true and even if it’s opinion. In fact, it goes even further and condemns any free expression that would violate Islamic blasphemy laws even when, and perhaps especially when, expressed by non-Muslims. So it’s the OIC’s attempt to pressure non-Muslims to comply with Islamic blasphemy codes. Its target is the West and failure to comply with its demands is deemed “Islamophobic” even when no actual bigotry or prejudice is present.

The impact of putting the concept of combating defamation of religions into effect has numerous consequences and implications.

First, though it’s called “combating defamation of religions,” the OIC interprets and applies it to Islam only without any reciprocity for other religions. In fact, the concept of protecting Islam from “defamation” is used in many OIC countries to persecute religious minorities. The concept gives credence to Islamic blasphemy laws, which not only operate to suppress freedom of religion, but also violate human rights. For example, in Pakistan, Ahmadiyya Muslims believe in a prophet after Mohammad. They generally have a peaceful, egalitarian interpretation of Islam. Yet, they are considered heretics, and it is not only illegal for them to practice their faith, but it is criminal. Merely sending out a wedding invitation with an accurate quote from the Koran can land an Ahmadiyya Muslim in jail.

Last, but not least, the implementation of the concept of combating defamation of religions has serious consequences for freedom of speech. This is the main concern from a Western, and specifically American perspective. The OIC as well as other Islamist organizations continue to work hard to stifle free speech. They are constantly placing pressure on Western governments and societies to refrain from saying or dong anything that violates Islamic blasphemy codes, even though they don’t word it this way.

For example, the OIC encourages “hate-speech” laws in Europe that make it illegal to speak negatively about Islam. And in America, though the government has thus far declined to make such speech illegal, it is enacting policies that discourage such speech even when it’s critical in protecting US national security.

Though not necessarily a direct result of the OIC’s UN resolutions, the implementation of the concept of combating defamation of religions has resulted in America’s recent cleansing of all national security training material for the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the National Counterterrorism Training Center. National security and intelligence professionals will still learn about terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, but will be deprived of teachings regarding the underlying[Islamist] ideology, disconnecting the motivation from the terrorist behavior. This ties one hand behind America’s back in fighting the War on Terror and is very dangerous.

Mauro: In March 2011, Secretary of State Clinton urged the OIC to “move beyond a decade-long debate over whether insults to religion should be banned or criminalized.” At the United Nations in September 2012, President Obama spoke against banning anti-Islam speech in the wake of the violence following the publicity surrounding the Innocence of Muslims YouTube video. What is your criticism of the U.S. government’s relationship to the OIC then?

Weiss: While President Obama might have spoken out against the legal ban of anti-Islam speech, his administration has worked to implement policy bans on such speech in a way that is both unprecedented and has grave national security implications. Whereas the National Security Strategy Memo, the guiding document for all American national security policies, previously proclaimed that radical Islam is the most dangerous ideological threat to American freedom in the 21st century, now all mention of it has been deleted.

Government agencies discourage use of the words “jihad”, “Islamist”, “caliphate” and others. Any connection of Islamism or radical Islam to terrorism is verboten, even when the terrorists identify themselves as Islamic. Terrorism is merely a symptom of a deeper problem, and the refusal to address the underlying ideology that motivates it makes it more difficult to identify terrorism in its early stages and more difficult to defeat it.

The OIC has a strong anti-freedom and anti-Israel agenda. Despite this, the Obama administration works with the OIC on numerous fronts, sometimes excluding Israel from participation.

You might be interested to know, Ryan, that although Obama said we shouldn’t ban anti-Islam speech after the “Innocence of Muslims” YouTube video, he also asked Google, the parent company of YouTube to check its terms and conditions to determine if the video violated them, and to remove the video if it did. Fortunately, YouTube insisted on keeping the video posted.

As to Hillary Clinton’s comment urging the OIC to move beyond the banning or criminalization of religious insults, all I can say is that she has no authority to effectuate this in the Muslim world. The OIC must have been laughing all the way home as they exited the December 2011 State Department Istanbul Conference where Secretary Clinton promised to use the “peer pressure and shaming” to silence the speech of Americans critical of anything Islam-related. The result of that conference brought the OIC one step closer to making their goal of criminalizing such speech a reality.

Ryan Mauro is's National Security Analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.

Deborah Weiss is a lawyer and a freelance writer. She is a co-author of “Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamist Terrorist Network” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). A partial listing of her work can be found at

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