I’m Offended, You’re Dead

The US President and the media have portrayed “radical extremists” as angry about cartoons of the Muslim prophet by western media. Such a view focuses very narrowly on the recent attacks in Paris and Copenhagen. This is because democracies consider freedom of speech a fundamental right in their societies and object strongly to such rights coming under fire. Should the media and democracies look more broadly, they would note the broader attacks on basic human rights that Islam imposes where it is in control.

The “hateful ideology” (as US President Obama calls it) is not simply an “ideology” by a few “extremists”. The basic laws of several Islamic countries trample on many fundamental human rights. Islamic laws do not only challenge what you can say, but often attack the essence of who you are, and enforce double standards regarding what you can do. To aggravate the Islamic illiberal attitudes further, the laws impose severe punishments to the offenses, often the death sentence.

 muslim protest
Muslim Protest in England

What you said

Blasphemy is clearly part of the objection of the Muslim killers. Whether Charlie Hebdo (2015), Copenhagen (2005; 2015) or Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands (2004), the drawings of the Islamic prophet Mohammed were considered offenses deserving of murder. Those attacks made news and drew world attention because they happened in Western Europe. In the Islamic world, blasphemy is considered a crime in over a dozen countries. Pakistan recently sentenced a blasphemer to death, but the laws and actions do not often attract the world’s attention.

Asa Bibi
Asa Bibi sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy,
November 2014

Who you are

Islamic countries impose the death sentence on people for simply being who they are.  Innocent civilians are viewed as criminals even though they harm no one.

  • Apostasy is the act of changing religion. In several Islamic countries, the act of converting from Islam to another religion is punishable by death. Those countries include: Afghanistan; Brunei; Mauritania; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Sudan; United Arab Emirates; and Yemen. Many other countries also consider it a crime, punishable by a year or more in prison.
  • Being Gay is considered a crime in 76 countries in 2015. There are several Islamic countries that sentence gays to death including: Iran; Iraq; Mauritania; Nigeria; Qatar; Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
  • Islamic terrorists targeted Jews in recent attacks in Jerusalem; Paris and Copenhagen. Many Muslims feel that non-believers are doomed and should be killed according to Islamic teachings. While many Islamic countries do not sentence non-Muslims to death, they subject the non-Muslims to secondary “dhimmi” status and make them pay special taxes. There are “radical” Islamic groups like Boko Haram and ISIS that are actively killing non-Muslims throughout NigeriaIraq, and Libya.

gay hang iran
An estimated 4,000 gays have been killed in Iran since 1979

What you do

Some Islamic countries have laws that prevent persecuted segments of society from doing what other members of society (Muslims, men) can do freely.  The double standards and misogyny are simply part of the culture that the world ignores.

  • In Saudi Arabia, there are laws that prevent women from driving cars; only men can drive.
  • In Pakistan, girls are prevented from going to school to get an education; only boys can go to school.
  • In many Southeast Asian countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, a girl who reject a boy’s marriage proposal may be disfigured either by having her nose and ears cut off, or acid poured on her face. Boys do not deal with such issues.
  • In Israel, the Jordanian Muslim Waqf prevents Jews from praying on the Jewish Temple Mount; only Muslims are allowed to pray on the entire 35 acre site.
  • In Gaza and Islamic countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, people kill female family members in “honor killings” if they dress inappropriately or date unapproved men. Men do not face honor killings.

KSA women drive
Woman arrested for driving in Saudi Arabia,
December 2014

How they Respond

The punishment for many of these basic activities that people in the western world take for granted, is death.  The death sentence is often brutal and public.

“Minor” infractions also can yield a death sentence:

  • Adulterers are stoned to death in Iran; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Somalia; Sudan; UAE; Yemen
  • Drug traffickers are killed in: Egypt; Indonesia; Iran; Iraq; Kuwait; Oman; Saudi Arabia; South Sudan; Syria and UAE
  • Prostitutes are killed in Sudan

The Danger

The view that a few “extremists” have hijacked Islam and are attacking the freedom of press is both myopic in terms of history and geography, and hazy in terms of numbers and scope. In reviewing the laws and actions of several Islamic countries, one can better understand the gross intolerance and extremism in their societies. Many Muslims are offended by a great many things, and will kill the offender.

If the West limits its review to freedom of speech in the world of social media, the conversation becomes limited as well.  Hate speech versus freedom of speech, and attitudes towards censorship of social media (such as in Turkey) are worthwhile discussions, but far too narrow.  The value of jobs and economic development for a handful of radicals is brought up by the Obama administration because he misses the larger point. Obama argues for “reasonableness and restraint” from countries because he views the attacks on them as limited to a handful of radicals.

That flawed worldview led Obama to abandon Iraq without helping secure the vacuum.  It will lead an Obama administration to enable Iran to get a nuclear weapon.

Perhaps it is time for Obama to visit Cairo again as he did on his first international trip in 2009.  This time he will meet a new leader in al-Sisi who has called for a “revamping” in Islam. Maybe al-Sisi should be on Obama’s Iran negotiating team.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Murderous governments

Blasphemy

My Terrorism

US Hypocrisy – “Reasonableness and Restraint”

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My Terrorism

The streets in Paris were full of support for the victims of terror in January 2015. An estimated 1.6 million came out along with leaders of over 40 countries to memorialize the 17 victims, with signs that included “I am Charlie”, “I am the police” and “I am Jewish” to show solidarity with the murdered people.

jesuisjuif

The unity march was highly unusual compared to the reaction to terrorism that has plagued Europe for the past decade. There were no million person-marches or signs of support when:

The past victims included people killed for their use of free speech. They also included law enforcement officers and Jews. More people were killed at some of the attacks than were killed in the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket attacks. So why was there the unique outpouring of support in Europe in 2015? Why didn’t anyone wear a pin “JeSuisMiriam” for the 8-year old girl that was shot in the head in France in 2012?

Looking at the recent protests in many European cities could lead one to conclude that the momentum of anti-immigrant groups and political parties have gained strength and popularity. The rise may stem from the number of terrorist attacks in Europe as well as the number of Islamic immigrants which has ballooned to 20 million in Europe due to the “Arab Spring” producing asylum seekers from throughout the Middle East/ North Africa region.

But why would world leaders show up now?

There was perhaps another factor at play which has to do with a more fundamental human characteristic: selfishness.

My Terrorism

People and nations react when they feel that their interests are being attacked. While they may sympathize with murdered victims everywhere, they take action when they feel that the terrorism strikes a selfish or personal nerve.

Witness the killings and abduction in Nigeria by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram. While there were murderous groups all over the world, including nearby in Sudan, there were barely any popular protests. However, when the US first lady Michelle Obama witnessed the abduction of over 200 black girls, she saw victims that looked like her own daughters and launched a “BringBack Our Girls” campaign which went viral. I do not doubt her sincerity or concern for other victims of terror including the 1400 girls who were raped by Muslim men for over 13 years in England. But it took a terrorist action that struck “close to home” against victims that resembled her own family for her to take action.

When three teenage boys were abducted in Israel a month after the Boko Haram abductions, Jews around the world and Israelis started their own hashtag campaign of #BringBackOurBoys and #EyalGiladNaftali. Israelis were obviously concerned about the Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram too – indeed Israel was one of only four countries that actually sent support to find the missing girls. But world Jewry acted much more actively when it was three teenaged Jewish boys that were abducted.

In Iraq, the Islamic State/ ISIS was busy wiping out entire cities, killing thousands of Christians, Yazidis and fellow Muslims. However, it took a video of the beheading of American journalists to get America to take action against the Jihadist group. Stated differently, while Americans may have been appalled at knowing that thousands of innocents were being slaughtered in Iraq, the atrocities were viewed as distant. It took the attack on a single man to bring the conflict close-to-home, and therefore worthy of a response.


And so it was with the various attacks in Europe. While the French were likely sad about the killings of Jews over the past decade, they viewed it as a Jewish problem. The majority of French could consider those attacks as targeted against a small community that was not their problem or a threat to themselves. Jews make up 0.2% of the world’s population and 0.8% of France’s population. The French may have felt pity for 8-year old Jewish girl Miriam, but they were not Miriam; no “JeSuisMiriam” placards.

Similarly, the Europeans were likely incensed over the decade-long attacks on policemen and servicemen too. But most Europeans were not in the military. They were angry, but they were not the military. Their military was fighting wars far away.

The large scale attacks in London and Madrid were similar to the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. Each nation was harmed as an entity, not just the immediate victims.

Yet the French did not march in Spain; the Germans did not march in England; and the Dutch did not march in the USA.

Lastly, free speech had been attacked before. The murder of Theo van Gogh, bombings in Stockholm (which didn’t murder anyone) and protests against the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, in 2005 all stemmed from Muslims protesting the press’s postings of images of their prophet Mohammed. But the limited scale of those attacks compared to the Charlie Hebdo strike awakened a different sensibility in millions of Parisians and leaders of the western world that prize freedom of the press and speech. (Other countries that do not have freedom of speech and press attended the march as well, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, to place a fig leaf over their extremist Muslim ideology, lack of freedoms and desire to ingratiate themselves with the western world). The attack on free speech spoke to the people and leaders, as a personal attack on their way of life.

When terrorism became personal, people and countries responded with actions. When terrorism seemed remote and someone else’s problem, there was inaction.

Thanks for the Inclusion

So nations, people, papers and celebrities wore the “JeSuisCharlie” to stand by the victims, and to protest the assault on their own basic freedoms. Some people extended a courtesy to the other victims of the attacks, even though they did not represent a personal attack, wearing “JeSuisPolice” and “JeSuisJuif” alongside their primary banner.

The Jews of France were happy to be included in the memorial of the anti-Semitic attack and appreciated the condemnation of the French government against the attack on their community. But the Jews of France also recall the lack of outrage at the various murders in the recent past of Jews being killed for being Jews.

In France and most of the world, Jews do not get starring roles in the rage on behalf of victims. However, the world will consider Jewish loss once they have expressed outrage for an attack on themselves. Like the five people in the background who stand behind the principal star who receives a trophy at an awards show, Jews were happy to be recognized, even if no one really saw them.

The recognition is a step forward and better than the long history of being ignored.  But everyone knows that such acknowledgement is similar to non-Jews wishing Jews “Happy Chanuka” because it comes at the same time as Christmas. Chanuka is a minor holiday compared to Shavuot and Sukkot which are unknown to non-Jews. When was the last time any non-Jew wished someone a “Happy Purim”? It doesn’t happen because it is not connected to something that they care about personally, like Christmas.

Today’s war on terrorism will continue to be waged when nations see their interests being threatened.  The outpouring of emotion will also be rooted in selfish preservation.

While it may have been called a “unity march”, the Jews of Europe have already been educated about their place in society.


Sources:

Paris march: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30765824

Madrid bombings: http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/04/world/europe/spain-train-bombings-fast-facts/

London bombing: http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/06/world/europe/july-7-2005-london-bombings-fast-facts/

Stockholm bombing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Stockholm_bombings

Copenhagen plot: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/December_2010_Copenhagen_terror_plot

Brussels shooting: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/01/suspect-arrest-brussels-jewish-museum-shooting

Toulouse shooting: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/9154350/Toulouse-shooting-little-girl-cornered-in-school-and-shot-in-head.html

Torture of French Jew: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/05/international/europe/05france.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Killing of Theo van Gogh: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2004/11/gogh-n10.html

Muslims in Europe: http://www.wsj.com/articles/europe-immigration-and-islam-europes-crisis-of-faith-1421450060

Lee Rigby: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-26357007

Michelle Obama protest: http://hollywoodlife.com/2014/05/08/michelle-obama-kidnapped-nigerian-schoolgirls-bring-back-our-girls/

Eyal Gilad Naftali: http://proisraelbaybloggers.blogspot.de/2014/06/eyal-gilad-and-naftaliin-our-hearts.html

Je Suis Juif: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/13/world/french-jews/


Related FirstOneThrough articles:

Je Suis Redux

Obama’s limit on abducted teenagers

Israel assists Nigerian search

Free speech review music video

Targeted terrorism for blasphemy

I’m Offended, You’re Dead

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Blasphemy OR Terrorism

On January 7, 2015, three French Muslim men went into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine in Paris, France, and killed eleven people in response to the magazine’s cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed in a negative manner. Politicians have publicly questioned whether this “act of terrorism” was done by “lone wolves” and whether this action had anything to do with Islam. The leaders of the western countries knew full well that this was not a random act of terror, but part of an ongoing rollout of laws that their governments are advancing with 57 Islamic nations to curb free speech around the world to comply with Muslim blasphemy laws.

Origins

Many religions consider blasphemy to be a sin. The range of the sin could be uttering the Lord’s name in vain or it could be drawing a picture of a prophet.  The Old Testament specifically prohibits using the name of God for no purpose or abusing the use of His name:

  • “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain” (Exodus 20:7)

The New Testament refers to blasphemy many times, such as Matthew 12:31:

  • “Therefore I say unto you, Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men;
    but the blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.”

The Quran does not specifically call against abusing the name of God, but does consider it a crime to insult Mohammed:

  • “They swear by Allah that they did not say [anything against the Prophet] while they had said the word of disbelief and disbelieved after their [pretense of] Islam and planned that which they were not to attain. And they were not resentful except [for the fact] that Allah and His Messenger had enriched them of His bounty. So if they repent, it is better for them; but if they turn away, Allah will punish them with a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And there will not be for them on earth any protector or helper.” (Quran 9:74)

In Judeo-Christian tradition, the punishment for the sin of blasphemy is considered to come from God and meted out either in this world or the world to come according to divine justice. In Islam, the punishment should be delivered by man in this world according to many Islamic scholars.

Country Laws

Western countries do not have laws against blasphemy. While insulting a religion may be considered rude, it is protected by the laws of free speech. (An editorial by David Brooks covers that nuance in the link below).

Countries that are governed by Islamic law (Sharia) have strict laws against blasphemy. The punishment ranges from fines to prison sentences to death. Here is a review of some of those countries:

  • Algeria: An individual who insults the prophet and the messengers of God, or denigrates the creed or prophets of Islam through writing, drawing, declaration, or any other means, will receive three to five years in prison.
  • Bahrain: Article 309 of the Bahrain Penal Code of 1976 penalizes individuals who insult any religious sects with a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year.
  • Egypt: A person ridiculing or insulting a heavenly religion or a sect following it, or damaging national unity” is punishable with six months to five years’ imprisonment.
  • Indonesia: Blasphemy is addressed in Article 156(a) of the Penal Code.  The Code imposes a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment.
  • Iraq: Article 372 of Iraq’s Penal Code of 1969 provides that any individual who insults the creed of a religious sect or its practices, or publicly insults a symbol or person that is an object of sanctification, worship, or reverence for a religious sect, may be punished with a term of imprisonment not exceeding three years.
  • Jordan: Jordan explicitly criminalizes blasphemy.  Article 273 of Jordan’s Penal Code of 1960 punishes any individual who insults the Prophet Mohamed with a term of imprisonment of one to three years.
  • Kuwait: Law 19 of 2012 on National Unity was issued to amend article 111 of the Penal Code by imposing harsher penalties and criminalizing any publications and broadcasting content that could be considered offensive to religious “sects” or groups, including through social media.  The new law punishes such crimes with a fine ranging from US$36,000 to US$720,000 and a maximum of seven years in prison.
  • Lebanon: The Lebanese Penal Code punishes individuals who perform acts that are considered blasphemous to the name of God.  It also imposes penalties against individuals who publicly insult the religious proceedings of any religion.
  • Libya: Whoever publicly abuses the Islamic religion—that being the official religion of the State under the Libyan Constitution—with verbal terms not befitting for the Divine Being, the Messenger, or the Prophets, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.
  • Oman:  Article 209 of Oman’s Penal Code punishes with a term of imprisonment of between ten days and three years, or a fine between five to five hundred Omani Riyals (approximately US$13 to $1,300) an individual who commits the following acts: (1) publicly blasphemes God or the prophet Mohamed, (2) commits an affront to religions and faiths by spoken or written word, or (3) breaches the peace of a lawful religious gathering.
  • Pakistan:  Converts from Islam and atheists may be vulnerable to Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which prescribes life imprisonment for desecrating or defiling the Quran and the death sentence to anyone for using derogatory remarks towards the Prophet Mohammed.
  • Syria: Article 462 states that individuals who publicly defame religious proceedings are punishable with a term of two years’ imprisonment.

 A Global Mandate

Muslim countries have sought to enforce the ban on blasphemy beyond their borders to cover the entire world. In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly voted 85-50 (with 42 abstentions) to make blasphemy a crime. The measure was originally introduced by Pakistan in 1999 and has continued to be brought up by the 57 Muslim countries that make up the OIC, Organization of Islamic Conference. When the vote was brought up again in 2010, the margin of passage was smaller, 76-64 with 42 abstentions.

In 2011, the OIC attempted to push forward an alternate version of the resolution to overcome the objections of the United States and other western countries that felt the law trampled on basic rights of free speech. The US’s Obama Administration worked hard at developing Resolution 16/18, which sought to criminalize the act of stereotyping or discriminating against people based on religion, rather than the pillorying of the religion itself.

The terms “stereotyping” and “incitement to … hostility or violence” that are used throughout the resolution have been called “vague” and “problematic”.  The mandate of “[a]dopting measures to criminalize incitement to imminent violence based on religion or belief” is confusing as to whether it bans the direct call to incite violence, or for doing anything that could incite violence.  For example, if the cartoons made in Charlie Hebdo did not call for violence against a group, but the negative stereotyping could incite people to violence, would that be considered illegal? Would it be considered illegal if the stereotyping brought violence against the targeted group only, or even if it brought violence against Charlie Hebdo themselves for publishing the piece?  If each instance was considered illegal, it would likely have direct and significant negative impact on the freedom of speech and press for everyone.

 The Individual

According to many Muslim clerics, Islamic law mandates that Muslims take actions against people who slander the prophet Mohammed. As seen above, Sharia law has put such laws into effect in several Islamic countries, and the 57 OIC member countries have been aggressively advancing the case for blasphemy laws everywhere.

While Resolution 16/18 passed without a vote in 2011, most westerners do not know of its existence and consider the freedom of speech, thought, expression and press to be basic fundamental rights that they have in their countries. It is possible that the journalists at Charlie Hebdo did not know about Resolution 16/18.  They knew that their articles and pictures upset many people of different faiths; that was the essence of why they made them, and they considered it their right to do so under the country’s freedoms of speech and press. They experienced the wrath of Muslims when their offices were firebombed in 2011 after posting a caricature of Mohammed.  However, did they consider those cartoons illegal because it lampooned Mohammed which could have incited people to violence?

The French Muslims who came to the offices of Charlie Hebdo to kill the staff may or may not have known about Resolution 16/18.  They did know that their prophet was insulted and no action by the French government was being taken against the perpetrators.  Any Muslim who believes that blasphemers should be punished are obligated to take action. They took matters into their own hands, shouting while they shot the journalists “Hey! We avenged the Prophet Muhammad! We killed Charlie Hebdo.”  They viewed their actions as targeted vigilante justice against evil perpetrators, not terrorism.



If France and the western world are concerned about terrorism that strikes at random individuals, they should put “Paris Est Juif” on the Arc de Triomphe instead of “Charlie” in support of the innocent Jews who were massacred while shopping for their Sabbath meals.

paris est charlie

If France and the western world are concerned about the loss of their treasured freedoms, they should speak to their governments about the essence of Resolution 16/18 that they have advanced at the United Nations, and its implication on their freedom of speech.  At the moment, the governments are ducking from their complicit role, pointing their fingers at “terrorism” instead of “blasphemy”, and denying the role of Islam in any of this.


Sources:

Blasphemy in Quran article with eleven citations: http://www.deoband.net/blogs/blasphemy-in-islam-the-quran-curses-and-hadith-prescribes-punishment

David Brooks editorial on Charlie Hebdo: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/09/opinion/david-brooks-i-am-not-charlie-hebdo.html?_r=0

Country laws on blasphemy: http://www.loc.gov/law/help/apostasy/index.php

Recent death sentence in Pakistan for blasphemy: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/pakistani-court-upholds-blasphemy-death-sentence-against-christian

2010 UN vote on basphemy: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/25/blasphemy-resolution-pass_n_788305.html

Excellent Freedom House article on blasphemy laws: https://freedomhouse.org/blog/trouble-blasphemy-laws#.VLM1Z8mVnEY

UN Resolution 16/18: http://iheu.org/resolution-adopted-united-nations-human-rights-council-1618/

Article on Res 16/18: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/religious-tolerance-resolution-backed-obama-administration-aligns-islamic-bloc-s

US report on adopting Resolution 16/18: https://geneva.usmission.gov/2012/04/19/implementation1618/

Attack on Charlie Hebdo: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/charlie-hebdo-french-satirical-magazine-paris-office-attack-leaves-casualties/

French President Hollande: “these fanatics have nothing to do with the Muslim religion.”

http://www.news24.com/World/News/LIVE-Police-chase-Paris-suspects-20150109

Related First One Through article:

Press pushes free speech to advance the new blood libel: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/eyal-gilad-naftali-klinghoffer-the-new-blood-libel/

Apostasy: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/apostasy/