Thursday, November 30, 2006

Defining Moderate Muslims

Self-proclaimed "Muslim refusenik" Irshad Manji asks a very important question in the Times of London: What is a "moderate" Muslim?

Ms. Manji begins seeking her answer by describing two rather hostile responses she received after commenting on the controversial speech by Pope Benedict. Disturbingly, the messages came from two Muslim Americans who seemed to be anything but radical. After some analysis, Ms. Manji is forced to conclude that the intolerant nature of their comments is reflective of a larger problem:

Imran and Sonya are more representative than I wish. All Muslims are taught that because the Quran comes after the Torah and the Bible, we must regard it as the final and perfect manifesto of the Divine. It is, we’re told, free of ambiguities, contradictions and human editing; in other words, free of the corruption that contaminates Jewish and Christian scriptures.

Thus the central conundrum for us Muslims. If it’s an article of our faith that the Quran is the unfiltered declaration of God, then what makes moderate Muslims “moderate”?

Perhaps it’s that they won’t murder to assert their convictions. But is this enough, given that moderates such as Sonya tolerate the murderers? And, as Imran demonstrates, those of us who dare to imply that the Quran can be questioned are not real Muslims. We are Jews.

Being told that only Jews would condemn Islamic radicalism? Hmmm, that sounds strangely familiar. I guess that puts me in very good company indeed.

Ms. Manji does see reason for optimism in some recent developments:

Fortunately, more and more Muslims are proclaiming that it’s time for a liberal Islamic reformation. Two groups that powerfully attest to this movement are the Democratic Muslims of Denmark and their off-shoot, the Critical Muslims, both of which emerged from the Danish cartoon wars.

It’s revealing that neither group calls itself the “Moderate Muslims”. Their members considered doing so. But in the end, they couldn’t agree on what “moderate” means. Maybe that’s because it means too little. Suppose more of us aimed to be reform-minded instead?

Yet another question to ask during an important week in relations between Muslims and Christians worldwide.

I for one definitely hope that more Muslims answer Ms. Manji's question in the affirmative.

Speaking of Azerbaijan

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has an excellent analysis of the perilous state of independent media in that country:

Most independent media outlets -- whether print or electronic -- that have struggled over the past 10-15 years to fill the "information gap" by reporting on issues ignored by the state-run media have been repeatedly subjected to arbitrary official harassment and reprisals and, in some cases, to libel suits that have resulted in the imposition of huge fines.

In early October, satirical journalist Mirza Sakit Zahidov, who had criticized President Ilham Aliyev in columns published in the independent newspaper "Azadliq," was jailed for three years on drug charges that his colleagues and international media watchdogs denounced as fabricated. Individual journalists have been beaten up, and Elmar Huseynov, editor of the hard-hitting "Monitor," was shot dead outside his apartment last year.

RFE/RL argues that this apparent crackdown on free expression may be the result of a power struggle within the Azeri regime, as opposed to an organized campaign. That may be true, but the impact on free speech is just as harmful.

Jumping on the Fatwa Bandwagon

The BBC reports that yet another, more senior, Iranian cleric has issued a fatwa calling for the murder of Azeri journalist Rafiq Tagi:

It was issued by the conservative Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani.

The writings of Rafiq Tagi sparked recent demonstrations outside the Azerbaijani embassy in the Iranian capital, Teheran.

The Iranian media is reporting that Grand Ayatollah Lankarani's followers inside the republic of Azerbaijan wrote to him asking for advice about what they called "the apostate writer".

They accuse the Azeri writer of portraying Christianity as superior to Islam and Europe as superior to the Middle East.

They allege that he has ridiculed all the sanctities of Islam and done it knowingly, fully aware of the consequences of his action.

In response, Grand Ayatollah Lankarani is said to have issued a fatwa calling for the death of the writer and also the person responsible for publishing his articles.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Koenraad Elst has documented the murderous efforts of radical Islamists to silence freethinkers and dissidents. I hope Mr. Tagi is not added to this list.

Defending the Enlightenment

Yesterday's Opinion Journal published a powerful, must read essay from Dr. Victor Davis Hanson. In his article, Dr. Hanson castigated those in the West unwilling to stand up to Islamist efforts at censorship:

What would a beleaguered Socrates, a Galileo, a Descartes, or Locke believe, for example, of the moral paralysis in Europe? Was all their bold and courageous thinking--won at such a great personal cost--to allow their successors a cheap surrender to religious fanaticism and the megaphones of state-sponsored fascism?

Just imagine in our present year, 2006: plan an opera in today's Germany, and then shut it down. Again, this surrender was not done last month by the Nazis, the Communists, or kings, but by the producers themselves in simple fear of Islamic fanatics who objected to purported bad taste. Or write a novel deemed unflattering to the Prophet Mohammed. That is what did Salman Rushdie did, and for his daring, he faced years of solitude, ostracism, and death threats--and in the heart of Europe no less. Or compose a documentary film, as did the often obnoxious Theo Van Gogh, and you may well have your throat cut in "liberal" Holland. Or better yet, sketch a simple cartoon in postmodern Denmark of legendary easy tolerance, and then go into hiding to save yourself from the gruesome fate of a Van Gogh. Or quote an ancient treatise, as did Pope Benedict, and then learn that all of Christendom may come under assault, and even the magnificent stones of the Vatican may offer no refuge--although their costumed Swiss Guard would prove a better bulwark than the European police. Or write a book critical of Islam, and then go into hiding in fear of your life, as did French philosophy teacher Robert Redeker.

And we need not only speak of threats to free speech, but also the tangible rewards from a terrified West to the agents of such repression. Note the recent honorary degree given to former Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, whose regime has killed and silenced so many, and who himself is under investigation by the Argentine government for his role in sponsoring Hezbollah killers to murder dozens of Jewish innocents in Buenos Aires.

Please read the rest:

Losing the Enlightenment

"(T)he bad lovers of sport are in jail"

This past weekend, members of Somalia's Islamic Courts Union (ICU) arrested 25 people for the crime of watching the English Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United:

The sports fans were seized by the Islamists who also destroyed and confiscated equipment belonging to the cinema in the Buulo Burde district of Hiiran region in central Somalia.

Eye witness Adul Waahid Ahmed told the AIPS website that during the fiercely contested 1-1 game between Chelsea and Manchester United masked Islamists stormed into the cinema and opened fire above the heads of the viewers.

"Everyone ran toward the front of the cinema and only 25 of the more than 150 fans were arrested and had their heads shaved," the eye witness told Shafici Mohyaddin Abokar of the Somali Sports Press Association via phone this morning.

"Praise be to Allah no one was hurt," he said

The local Islamist sheikh defended the arrests by arguing that young men should be preparing for jihad instead of watching "bad games":

Sheik Hussein Barre Raage of the district Islamic Courts Union in Buulo Burde harshly criticized the viewing of sport by Somali citizens and said that anyone caught watching a match would be registered as a criminal.

"Now the bad lovers of sport are in jail and will remain there until they are taught the good culture and lessons of Islam," the Islamist administrator said.

The Sheik told a press conference that Somali youth are obliged to go to the holy war instead of watching what he called "the bad games which descended from the old Christian cultures." The Sheik decreed that instead of watching television, sports fans must register at specially established holy war registration centers.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Numerous press reports state that the ICU has brought a much coveted peace and stability to Somalia. Unfortunately, the Somali people are now realizing the price to be paid.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cartoon Censorship in Yemen

A few days ago, a newspaper editor in Yemen was sentenced to prison for republishing the Danish Mohammed cartoons. This BBC report offers the details:

A court in Yemen has sentenced a newspaper editor to a year in jail for reprinting Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

The court also ordered the independent weekly newspaper which carried the cartoons to be closed for six months.

The editor, Kamal al-Aalafi, said he had reprinted the cartoons to raise awareness, not to insult Muslims.

The cartoons sparked violent protests around the world after Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published them in 2005.

Mr al-Aalafi has been released on bail and will appeal the sentence.

The editors of two other Yemeni publications face similar charges.

Islamic tradition explicitly prohibits images of Muhammad and other major religious figures. At least one of the cartoons portrayed Muhammad as a terrorist.

Michelle Malkin has additional information on this case. In the meantime, I have to take issue with one item from the BBC article: "Islamic tradition" is much more ambiguous on the question of depicting the Prophet Mohammed than the last paragraph acknowledges. That this prohibition on images is now the prevailing interpretation in much of the Muslim world is due to the relatively recent spread of Wahhabism, Salafism, and other intolerant variants of Islam. Having morphed into the totalitarian political ideology of Islamism, these movements seek to suppress free expression not only among Muslims but in western societies as well.

Indonesia's Bono vs. the Islamists

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross recently published a fascinating article for the Weekly Standard on how Indonesia's top pop star has taken a stand against the spread of radical Islamism in his country:

A ROCK STAR WOULD BE the last person one might expect to address a major defense policy conference. Yet the National Homeland Defense Foundation Symposium, held on October 3 in Colorado Springs, welcomed such a guest: thirty-four-year-old Ahmad Dhani.

Dhani is nothing short of a superstar in his native Indonesia, where he performs to sold-out crowds with his band Dewa 19, and where his music has defined a generation of young Indonesians. Frequently compared to U2 frontman Bono, Dhani and his band's music took a political turn two years ago. Since dictator Suharto was ousted from power in 1998, the country has been engaged in a high-stakes "culture war": Islamic political movements have been able to operate more freely, and extremist groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Islamic Defenders Front have been pushing for the adoption of sharia law. Indonesia has been plagued by major terror attacks in Jakarta and Bali, and by religious and communal violence, such as clashes between Muslims and Christians in early 1999. Dhani and his group, like many urbanites, were alarmed by these developments. They decided to use their music to respond to the hateful ideology that has been seducing so many Indonesian youths.

Please read it all:

Warrior of Love

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tolerance at the Bookstore

Courtesy of Peaktalk, here's an interesting item published several weeks ago in the Daily Telegraph:

A reader from Worthing, West Sussex, recently attempted to buy a copy of Ian Buruma's Murder In Amsterdam: The Death of Theo Van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance in her local bookshop. 'I'm sorry,' said the sales assistant, 'but the book has been banned.'

Atlantic Books, who publish Mr Buruma, assure us that the book is not only freely available but also selling well. It turns out a wholesaler misinformed the bookshop. However, the assistant must take responsibility for the following - startling - suggestion: 'Why not try Mein Kampf instead?'

As someone in the midst of reading Murder in Amsterdam, it is obvious that the sales clerk has no clue whatsoever about the contents of Mr. Buruma's book. Still, the book does point out the violent actions of radical Islamists, a sin that many of the politically correct simply cannot forgive.

Censorship Intensifies in Zimbabwe

Under its megalomaniacal dictator Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe has become one of the most repressive societies on Earth. Freedom House lists Zimbabwe as being among the "Worst of the Worst" in terms of state oppression of human rights, while Reporters Sans Frontieres describes Mugabe as a "Predator of Press Freedom". This is why it is especially disturbing to read that, according to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, the Mugabe regime is actually intensifying its campaign against independent media:

President Robert Mugabe's media control unit, the Media and Information Commission, MIC, has begun a new onslaught on journalists in Zimbabwe, a country dubbed as one of the worst countries in which to work as a journalist.

The move by top Mugabe loyalists is aimed at derailing efforts by the independent Media Alliance of Zimbabwe, MAZ, to establish a voluntary council to regulate the media industry.

Sources within the ministry of information told IWPR that MIC chairman Tafataona Mahoso is working hand-in-glove with the ministry's top civil servant, George Charamba, to have the three organisations comprising the membership of MAZ subjected to an official investigation and then stopped from operating, just as many independent papers and broadcasting groups have been destroyed over the years by the president and his loyalists.

Mahoso diligently administers the Orwellian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, AIPPA, which dictates that domestic and foreign journalists who work without Mahoso's and Mugabe's permission can be imprisoned. Among papers forced to close was the Daily News, the country's most popular and only independent daily, read by more than a million of the 11.5 million population. Under AIPPA and other draconian laws, every foreign correspondent and many Zimbabwean journalists have been forced out of the country.

To secure the legal right to publish or work as a journalist, applications have to be made to Mahoso, a former head of the school of journalism at Harare Polytechnic, known among the media as Mugabe's hatchet man.

Another IWPR article provides some historical background on why journalists and others are right to be afraid of Mugabe and his regime:

Over the years, Mugabe's language has become ever more coarse and callous. In 1998, the then editor of the weekly Standard newspaper, the late Mark Chavunduka, and his chief reporter Ray Choto reported an alleged coup attempt within the armed forces. They were arrested by police who handed them to the army, whose interrogators tortured the men so severely that they had subsequently to be flown to Britain for several months of treatment in a London clinic under the protection of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.

Asked for his reaction to the torture of the journalists, his fellow citizens, Mugabe told Voice of America radio, "The army had been provoked. I will not condemn my army for having done that. They can do worse things than that."

(Emphasis added-DD)

Proscribing the Right to Offend

Norm Geras links to this piece from the Guardian on proposed new laws in Britain that would circumscribe offensive speech at protests:

Police are to demand new powers to arrest protesters for causing offence through the words they chant and the slogans on their placards and even headbands.

The country's biggest force, the Metropolitan police, is to lobby the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, because officers believe that large sections of the population have become increasingly politicised, and there is a growing sense that the current restrictions on demonstrations are too light.

Trouble at recent protests involving Islamic extremists has galvanised the Met's assistant commissioner, Tarique Ghaffur, into planning a crackdown. His proposals are due to be sent to Lord Goldsmith, who is reviewing how effective the current laws are in tackling extremists.

The police want powers to proscribe protest chants and slogans on placards, banners and headbands. Human rights experts say that such powers could also be used against protesters such as animal rights and anti-globalisation activists. The civil rights group Liberty said the powers would make the police "censors in chief".

(Emphasis added-DD)

I agree with Norm that these proposals go too far. Free expression must include the right to offend. Even those such as Islamists who wish to destroy free speech must be allowed to exercise this right.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Refuting a Canard

There was a recent controversy on LISNews regarding the status of Librarians for Fairness, as a commenter named "Daniel" claimed that LFF is an artificial "front group" for a pro-Israel organization. The group's response, posted by Walter Skold to Freadom, points out that there is nothing nefarious about the relationship. In fact, as Jack Stephens noted, one simply had to click on LFF's donate link to see an open reference to the organization in question. In light of the evidence, "Daniel" has wisely withdrawn his accusation.

As far as the facts concerning LFF, I have nothing to add to the excellent work of Jack and Walter. I would simply note that the pathological, morally bankrupt hatred of Israel expressed in many of the LISNews comments help show why LFF is such a necessary organization.

Silencing Dissent in Azerbaijan

Unfortunately, supporters of free expression in Azerbaijan have even more pressing worries than death threats from Iranian clerics. Their own government is silencing dissident media, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

Azerbaijani authorities threw a leading opposition party and newspaper out of their offices today, in a continuing crackdown on the independent media, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported.

Police removed belongings and equipment from the offices of "Azadliq," the largest opposition newspaper, and the Popular Front, the main opposition party.

A journalists' union leader accused the government of seeking to silence dissent.

Yesterday, authorities warned the paper and the party of the impending eviction and took independent broadcaster ANS, the country's first private radio and television company, off the air.

The BBC provides additional details and this bit of context:

Campaigners for media freedom have accused the Azeri government of curbing free speech in recent months by arresting journalists, launching punitive libel suits and trying to silence independent voices such as ANS, the BBC's Matthew Collin reports from the region.

President Ilham Aliyev has denied there is a problem with freedom of speech in Azerbaijan and the Azeri authorities say they are simply enforcing the law.

Yes, I'm sure that President Aliyev is quite satisfied with the state of freedom of speech in his country. I suspect, though, that many Azeris would disagree if they had the opportunity.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

"Censorship by Salesmen"

An Australian publisher has apparently canceled publication of a young adult book because the villains are Islamic terrorists. The Australian provides the details:

Scholastic Australia pulled the plug on the Army of the Pure after booksellers and librarians said they would not stock the adventure thriller for younger readers because the "baddie" was a Muslim terrorist.

A prominent literary agent has slammed the move as "gutless", while the book's author, award-winning novelist John Dale, said the decision was "disturbing because it's the book's content they are censoring".

"There are no guns, no bad language, no sex, no drugs, no violence that is seen or on the page," Dale said, but because two characters are Arabic-speaking and the plot involves a mujaheddin extremist group, Scholastic's decision is based "100 per cent (on) the Muslim issue".

According to the article, the publisher based their decision on the reaction of their audience:

Scholastic's general manager, publishing, Andrew Berkhut, said the company had canvassed "a broad range of booksellers and library suppliers", who expressed concern that the book featured a Muslim terrorist.

"They all said they would not stock it," he said, "and the reality is if the gatekeepers won't support it, it can't be published."

Mr. Dale's agent has rightfully assailed this situation as "censorship by salesmen". There might still be hope, though. Maybe if her client changes the terrorists from jihadists to European neo-Nazis, his book could be published after all.

Giving Thanks for Intellectual Freedom

Michelle Malkin has a terrific post in response to those who complain about the "atmosphere of McCarthyism" in George Bush's America. While directed primarily at journalists, it's also quite applicable to those in our profession who believe that there is no greater threat to intellectual freedom than the Patriot Act:

Give thanks we don't live in Bangladesh, where you can be put on trial for writing columns supporting Israel and condemning Muslim violence. Just ask Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of Blitz, the largest tabloid English-language weekly in Bangladesh. He is currently facing a sedition trial for speaking out about the threats radical Islam poses in Bangladesh. He has been imprisoned, harassed, beaten, and condemned. In court last week, his persecutors read these charges against him: "By praising the Jews and Christians, by attempting to travel to Israel and by predicting the so-called rise of Islamist millitancy in the country and expressing such through writings inside the country and abroad, you have tried to damage the image and relations of Bangladesh with the outside world." For expressing these dissident opinions, he faces the possibility of execution.

Give thanks we don't live in Egypt, where bloggers have been detained by the government for criticizing Islam and exposing the apathy of Cairo police to sexual harassment of women. Just ask Abdel Karim Suliman Amer, 22, who was arrested earlier this month for "spreading information disruptive of public order", "incitement to hate Muslims" and "defaming the President of the Republic." Ask Rami Siyam, who blogs under the name of Ayyoub, and has been outspoken in his criticism of Egyptian brutality. He was detained this week along with three friends after leaving the house of a fellow blogger. His host, 24-year-old reformist Muslim Muhammad al-Sharqawi, had been detained by the Egyptian government this spring as he left a peaceful demonstration in Cairo where he had displayed a sign reading, "I want my rights." Sharqawi was beaten in prison over several weeks.

Give thanks we don't live in Sudan, where editors can lose their heads for not kowtowing to the government line. Ask the family of Mohammed Taha, editor-in-chief of the Sudanese private daily Al-Wifaq, who was found decapitated on a Khartoum street in September. He had been kidnapped by masked jihadi gunmen. What did Taha do that cost him his life? He insulted Islam, and dared to question Muslim history, the roots of Mohammed, and other Muslims. Before his murder, his paper was shuttered for three months and he was hauled into court for "blasphemy."

Please read the rest.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Hiatus

Happy Thanksgiving to all, posting resumes on Sunday.

One Step Forward, One Step Back

Reuters, November 16th:

Online encyclopedia Wikipedia was accessible again in China on Thursday after being blocked for more than a year, a move hailed by free media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders.

The main page of the Chinese-language version of Wikipedia ( could be displayed and searches for apolitical terms turned up results, but searches for subjects taboo to China's Communist leadership, such as "June 4", remained blocked.

Associated Press, November 17th:

The easing of a ban on the popular online encyclopedia in China was short-lived.

Barely a week after Wikipedia viewers were able to access the Web site -- after a year-long ban -- they reported Friday that it was blocked again in several parts of China.

Reapplying the Rushdie Rules

Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ascended to the Iranian presidency in 2005, he has overseen a resurgence of the revolutionary fanaticism of the Khomeini era. Under his leadership, Iran's already strict limits on intellectual freedom have been intensified. Now, in imitation of Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 fatwa against British novelist Salman Rushdie, Iranian clerics are again calling for the murder of a foreign writer. Reuters provides the details:

Last week, an Azeri court jailed journalist Rafika Tagi, who wrote an article in Azerbaijan's Senet newspaper illustrated by cartoons of the Prophet. The cartoons were originally published in Denmark and caused an outcry in the Muslim world earlier this year.

Tagi and the paper's editor were each jailed for two months.

"Whoever kills this Azeri writer who insulted the Prophet Mohammad, I will give him my house as a reward," Ayatollah Morteza Bani Fazl said in the northwestern city of Tabriz, Fars reported late on Monday.

(Emphasis added-DD)

As the article points out, the Rushdie fatwa is being cited as a precedent in calling for Tagi's murder:

Ayotallah Mohsen Mojtahed Shabestari, another senior Shi'ite cleric, also said the Azeri writer deserved to be killed based on Khomeini's fatwa, Fars said.

"The sentence issued by Khomeini for Rushdie, could also be carried out against all those who insult Islam and the Prophet," said the cleric, who leads Friday prayers in Tabriz, which is close to the border with Azerbaijan.

In addition to sponsoring terrorism, the Iranian regime has a history of murdering writers and other dissidents, both within Iran and elsewhere. In 2005, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the regime's key paramilitary force, reaffirmed the validity of Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Among the former leaders of the IRGC is one Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Koenraad Elst has described how Khomeini's 1989 fatwa led to the "Rushdie Rules", a model for how radical Islamists could silence critics of their vision of Islam through violence and intimidation. It now appears that Iran under Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has every intention of enforcing the Rushdie Rules. The horrendous impact this will have on intellectual freedom will be felt well beyond Iran.

Free Speech Prevails at Brown

According to radio host and blogger Michael Graham, Nonie Darwish has been reinvited to speak at Brown University.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Free Expression, Europe, and Islamists

I often disagree with the views of Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick. Her most recent column, however, makes some telling points on how European critics of radical Islamism have often been silenced. As she notes, this censorship comes from both Islamists and European purveyors of political correctness:

This weekend British author Douglas Murray discussed the intellectual terror in the Netherlands. Murray, who recently published Neoconservativism: Why We Need It, spoke at a conference in Palm Beach, Florida sponsored by the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He noted that the two strongest voices in Holland warning against Islamic subversion of Dutch culture and society - Pim Fortyn and Theo Van Gogh - were murdered.

The third most prominent voice calling for the Dutch to take measures to defend themselves, former member of parliament Ayan Hirsi Ali, lives in Washington, DC today.

Her former colleague in the Dutch parliament, Geert Wilders, has been living under military protection, without a home, for years. In the current elections, Wilders has been unable to campaign because his whereabouts can never be announced. His supporters were reluctant to run for office on his candidates' slate for fear of being similarly threatened with murder. Last month, two of his campaign workers were beaten while putting up campaign posters in Amsterdam.

In particular, Ms. Glick's conclusion is dead on:

If journalists, intellectuals, social critics, authors and concerned citizens throughout the world do not rise up and demand that their governments protect their right to free expression and arrest and punish those who intimidate and trounce that right, one day, years from now, when students of history ask how it came to pass that the Free World willingly enabled its own destruction, they will have to look no further than the contrasting fortunes of Al-Jazeera and Dyab Abou Jahjah on the one hand and Le Figaro and Robert Redeker on the other.

Our World: After the muses fall silent

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Nobel Prize is for Traitors?

For an example of the xenophobic, anti-intellectual freedom worldview that Nonie Darwish and other moderate Muslims struggle against on a daily basis, see this recent interview with Iraqi researcher Samir 'Ubeid. During the interview, Mr. Ubeid expressed his rather bizarre views on the Nobel Prize. MEMRI has the transcript, here's just a sample:

Samir 'Ubeid: "I don’t call it the Nobel Prize - I call it the hubal [idol] prize."

Interviewer: "Hubal?"

Samir 'Ubeid: "Yes, because it often encourages heresy. It encourages attacks against the heritage, and encourages those who scorn their people and their culture. The proof is that it was awarded recently to Pamuk, who had encouraged civil strife, which might preoccupy Turkey and the Muslims in general. He held Turkey responsible for what the Ottoman state did, when he referred to the massacre of the Armenians."


Interviewer: "In other words, if you are a traitor to your country, you deserve this prize."

Samir 'Ubeid: "If you are a traitor to your country, and a heretic, who curses his Prophet, you deserve a Nobel Prize.

(Emphasis added-DD. The Pamuk in question is Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, recently awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.)

I'm going to go out on a limb and postulate that Mr. Ubeid is not a big supporter of intellectual freedom. It is this attitude, this belief that freethinkers are "heretics" and "traitors", that is the main source of danger to intellectual freedom in the Muslim world. It leads to the suppression of alternative viewpoints, and enables the rise of intolerant ideologies such as Islamism.

Silencing Nonie Darwish

Nonie Darwish is an author and outspoken Muslim advocate of peace with Israel, women's rights, and a critic of Islamist radicalism. Recently, she was invited to speak at Brown University. However, her appearance was canceled after Muslim students at Brown complained. In doing so, these students have made Ms. Darwish's case for her. This piece by Adam Brodsky, reproduced by Frontpage Magazine, explains:

In plugging their ears to Darwish, Brown's Muslim students proved her very point: Muslims who attempt constructive self-criticism are quickly and soundly squelched - by other Muslims.

"Speaking out for human rights, women's rights, equality or even peace with Israel is a taboo that can have serious consequences" in the Arab world, Darwish says. In part to drive home that point, she wrote a book, just out. Its title says it all: "Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror."

Darwish argues that her own community - in the Middle East and in America - is hostile to criticism, even from Muslims. After 9/11, she says, many in Egypt refused to believe that Muslims were responsible. Instead, they blamed "the Zionist conspiracy."

From her childhood in the '50s, she's seen seething animosity toward Jews, Israel, America and non-believers generally pervert her culture. "I asked myself, as a Muslim Arab child, was I ever taught peace? The answer is no. We learned just the opposite: honor and pride can only come from jihad and martyrdom."

Ms. Darwish explains further in this interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online:

Lopez: Why don'’t we hear from more Muslim moderates?

Darwish: There is a fear factor that all Arabs share of never speak against our own culture, tribe or religion and it does not matter how wrong or right they are. But it is more than just fear. Most Muslims believe that jihad is their duty and is part and parcel of being a good Muslim. That creates a conflict with us since many of us truly believe that many of these terrorists are great jihadists. Osama bin Laden was a hero among many Muslims. Many Muslim leaders tell the West in English they are against violent jihad; but in private, in Arabic, they praise the jihadists and the martyrs.

Lopez: Is there anything we can do to encourage more moderate Muslims to speak out?

Darwish: After 9/11 very few Americans of Arab and Muslim origin spoke out and from my experience it took us a long time to get noticed by Western media. Western media still regards Muslim organizations such as CAIR as representative of moderate Muslims in America. This is not the case. Radical Muslim groups in the U.S. try to silence us and intimidate American campuses who invite us to speak. I often tell Muslim students that Arab Americans who are speaking out against terrorism are not the problem, it’s the terrorists who are giving Islam a bad name. And what the West must do is ask the politically incorrect questions and we Americans of Arab and Muslim origin owe them honest answers.

By revoking their invitation to Nonie Darwish, the Brown Hillel organization has helped enable the silencing of moderate Muslims.

A Filter Too Far

The Second Amendment Foundation and three local residents are suing the North Central Regional Library in Washington State for refusing to provide unfiltered Internet access. The Volokh Conspiracy provides the details, along with legal analysis.

I have no objection to libraries using Internet filters, but it seems absurd not to turn them off when requested by adult patrons. Based on what I've seen so far, I hope the plaintiffs are successful.

Vietnamese Dissidents Speak

As the host for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Vietnam has briefly come under the media spotlight. The Vietnamese regime has certainly loosened its grip on society since the dark days of the 1970s and 80s. Unfortunately, the Leninist dictatorship in Hanoi remains determined to prevent Vietnam's dissident movement from exercising the elementary rights that we take for granted. To quote an article from the November 15th Washington Times:

Vietnamese democracy and human rights activists accused the government yesterday of stepping up harassment in an effort to silence them ahead of President Bush's visit and a high-profile economic summit this week.

The activists, some of whom are under house arrest, praised a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday that denied permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status to Vietnam and criticized Vietnam's removal from the State Department's blacklist of countries that limit religious freedom.

"The PNTR status must come with a condition that the government respect human rights for our own people," said Pham Hong Son, an activist who was detained for two years beginning in 2002 and has been under house arrest for another two.

He said he was detained because of an article on democracy that he translated into Vietnamese from the Web site of the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi and posted separately on the Internet. His claim could not be independently verified because the government does not comment on dissident cases.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Just today, Reporters Sans Frontieres noted that Pham Hong Son, the same individual quoted above, was arrested and beaten by Communist authorities on Friday. However, Hanoi's repression has not prevented the dissidents from making their voices heard. Steven Denney has reproduced the text of an open letter signed by 18 Vietnamese activists, while Freadom has the text of a separate document from Catholic priest Phan Van Hoi. Both letters are worth reading. It is important that we as Americans stand with Vietnam's dissidents in their struggle for freedom of expression.

The True Threat to Our Liberties

As we confront the threat of terrorism, it is essential that we do everything possible to safeguard our liberties, even as we wage war against a jihadist movement determined to destroy them. Yet, to make a point that sometimes seems to be forgotten, the right to life is the ultimate liberty. Writing in the New York Sun, Harold Evans notes how political correctness and a reflexive blame America attitude have led to a seriously distorted view of where the true threat to our freedoms lie:

The culture of complaint I find indulgent is typified in the 52-page document issued earlier this year by the International Federation of Journalists — 52 alarm bells. The federation describes the response of government to terrorism as "a devastating challenge to the global culture of human rights established almost 60 years ago … we are sleepwalking into a surveillance society."

A devastating challenge to the global culture of human rights?

Speaking personally of challenges to human rights, I'd rather be photographed by a hidden surveillance camera than travel on a train with men carrying bombs in their backpacks. I'd regard being blown to bits on the street as more of an intrusion of privacy than having an identity card. I don't protest some curtailment of freedom of expression: Incitement to murder should not be protected.

I would disagree with Mr. Evans on one point: freedom of expression does not need to be curtailed, nor should it. After all, "incitement to murder" is not protected speech to begin with.

As Mr. Evans notes, many of those who claim to be worried about official censorship are themselves unwilling to tolerate opinions that offend their political sensibilities:

Something similar happened at this year's Hay-on-Wye festival, sponsored by the Guardian, where a five-person panel discussed "Are there are any limits to free speech?" One of the Muslim panelists said if anyone offended his religion, he would strike him. A lawyer, Anthony Julius, responded that Jews had lived as minorities under two powerful hegemonies, Christian and Muslim, and had been obliged to learn how to deal nonviolently with offense caused to them by the sacred scriptures of both. He started by referring to an anti-Semitic passage in the New Testament — which passed without comment. But when he began to list the passages in the Koran that denigrate Jews, describing them as monkeys and pigs, the panelists went ballistic. One of them, Madeline Bunting of the Guardian, put her hand over the microphone and said words to the effect, "I am not going to sit here and listen to any criticisms of Muslims." She was cheered, and not one of the journalists in the audience from right or left uttered a word about free speech — not hate speech, mind you, but free speech of a moderate nature.

(Emphasis added-DD)

There is certainly cause for legitimate debate about where to draw the line on anti-terrorism measures. However, one salient fact must be kept in mind: The threat to our freedoms comes from bin Laden and Zawahiri, not Ashcroft or Gonzales.

(Link courtesy of Normblog)

One of the Bad Guys

ALA luminary John Berry has started blogging, and has kindly included me on his list of "bad guys":

In the interest of knowing what they think, and what we’re up against, I want to tell you I read quite a few bad guys. I try to be “fair and balanced” (like a Fox staffer). The one that sends me away sputtering in anger most is usually Greg McClay’s SHUSH. I don’t mind the gentler but still far right and anonymous Annoyed Librarian, or even Jack Stephens’ Conservator, although Jack can push me to react, and I miss arguing with him on ALA’s IFFORUM. Heretical Librarian, and Walter Skold’s Freadom are others, but enough about these right wingnuts. There are many more, and as they post stuff about which I want to comment, you’ll get links. The right wing in librarianship is getting noisier now that blogs and other electric stuff have become so commonplace, and even if it may not really be growing.

"(R)ight wingnuts"? Please! I prefer Neocon Fascist Warmonger, thank you very much. I guess I'll have to start wearing black now that I'm one of the bad guys. The most disappointing thing, though, is that he chose McClay as setting the standard. How come I don't make him sputter the most? Clearly, I'm going to have to raise my game.

Update: Fellow bad guys Walter Skold and Annoyed Librarian weigh in with their thoughts.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

On Dissident Librarians

Imagine my surprise when a co-worker told me recently that I was mentioned in American Libraries. Nonetheless, there I was, as part of an interesting and thoughtful essay by Wayne Bivens-Tatum in the November 2006 issue of AL.

In his piece, Mr. Bivens-Tatum discusses how me came across my article from the September 30, 2005 Chronicle, and from there discovered this and other conservative librarian blogs. As he did so, he "grew more and more disturbed, not because I agreed with these dissident librarians on every issue...but because I began to realize that the creation of political dissidents by ALA leadership was itself a problem."

Obviously, I agree with the point Mr. Bivens-Tatum is making. However, if you'll allow me, I need to make one important albeit semantic point: I am not a "political dissident". Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is a dissident; Martha Beatriz Roque is a dissident; Andrei Sakharov and Vladimir Bukovsky were dissidents. These are people who have risked death or imprisonment to speak their minds. I, on the other hand, risk little more than having unpleasant things said about me on web sites and listservs.

(What about your blog title, oh persecuted heretic? -Ed.) "Heretical Librarian" is nothing more than a tongue-in cheek way of getting my point across. Besides, it was the best name I could come up with. Unfortunately, it also makes me sound like a complete ubergeek, a not totally inaccurate impression, I'm forced to admit. However, the reaction my blog name got out of a certain humor-impaired Stalinist alone made it all worthwhile.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. While Mr. Bivens-Tatum's essay is not online as far as I can tell, I encourage you to pick up a copy of the November American Libraries and give it a read. This key passage in particular cannot be improved upon:

If ALA and the culture of politicized librarianship it seems to foster are responsible for the alienation of fellow librarians...then this alienation should make us question our own values as well. How tolerant and understanding are we? How much diversity do we really care to see? Do we really respect intellectual freedom, or only when the free intellects join us in thinking like we do? Are we advancing private interests over professional concerns? Do we really respect our colleagues, or only if they happen to agree with us?

I applaud Mr. Bivens-Tatum for his willingness to step up and ask these questions.

Why the Choudhury Case Matters

Courtesy of the blog of Congressman Mark Steven Kirk, Janet Albrechtson explains in The Australian about why the case of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is so important:

WHILE Taj al-Din al-Hilali is now an international star, having attracted worldwide headlines for his recent outpouring of Western hatred, another Muslim man has barely registered on the media's radar screen. This man is facing the death penalty charged with blasphemy, sedition and treason. He was in court on Monday. His crime? He has been advocating peace between Muslims and the West. You won't have heard of this man. But it's time you did. From a small country half a world away, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is fighting Islamic extremism the only way he can: with words and ideas.

The West could learn something from this man. Slow on the uptake, we have finally worked out that the war on terrorism is, in the long run, a battle of ideas. When terrorists fly planes into skyscrapers, blow up a Bali nightclub, a Spanish train, the London Underground or an embassy in Indonesia, the worldwide media understandably gives maximum coverage to the death and destruction. For Islamist terrorists, it is another win in the propaganda war for Osama bin Laden, al-Qa'ida and every radical racing to join the jihad cause.

The West has been slow to realise that the only real way to fight terrorists who preach death and devastation based on a perverted Islam is by presenting an enlightened alternative to those thinking about joining the jihadists.

In some ways, it is the Cold War all over again.

(Emphasis added-DD)

The lack of intellectual freedom in the Arab and Muslim world has been crucial in facilitating the rise of radical Islamism. For one thing, it has fostered a climate in which free thought and expression is discouraged, thus helping enable Islamists to silence those they disagree with. In addition, the atmosphere of censorship and intimidation has stunted the growth of moderate viewpoints in opposition to the current ruling regimes. The only alternative that has been able to emerge is the totalitarian vision of the Islamists. Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury and other Muslim liberals are risking their lives to change this situation. They deserve our support.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Thoughts from Salman Rushdie

FrontPage Magazine has the transcript of an October 11 lecture given by Salman Rushdie in New York City. It is a lengthy and wide ranging set of remarks, one well worth reading. While I disagree with Mr. Rushdie on certain issues, he is dead on in his understanding of the threat posed by radical Islamism, no doubt due to his own experiences. Please be sure to read his remarks. In the meantime, here are some relevant passages:

I suppose one has to mention the Danish cartoons. I ran into a young journalist at a party in New York working for a small New York magazine who said that he’d been obliged to quit his job because his proprietor refused to publish the cartoons because he was worried about his offices getting bombed. And this kind of cravenness was worldwide. And the name that the cravenness was given was respect. When people said that they didn’t publish them out of respect for Muslims, what they meant is they didn’t publish them because they were afraid of their offices getting bombed.

And when you create that kind of a climate of fear, when you concede, you give in to that kind of intimidation, you don’t as a result have less intimidation. I mean as a result you have more intimidation. Because I think with the cartoons, there were really two quite separate issues. One is whether you thought the cartoons were good or bad and should have been published or shouldn’t have been published and those are decisions that every newspaper editor makes every day, and different editors would make different decisions. Some would say yes, we will publish it, some would say no, and that’s, in a way, not even a contentious issue.

But the second issue is when the subject of intimidation enters, then the question is how do you respond to intimidation, and do you give into it or do you not give into it. I think when the intimidation became as heavy as it did, the only proper response was everybody should have published the cartoons the next day. And not to do that was a way of showing that threats work. The purpose of terrorism is to create terror and if you show yourself to be terrified then the terrorists have done their work.

This is a curious climate that we’re living in where people are falling over backwards not to name the phenomenon that’s taking place, which is the progressive intimidation of the world in which we live. But as I say, I’m not talking about these great big geopolitical things going on elsewhere in the world; I’m talking about what is in our own hands to discuss and argue about and fix, what is happening in our town, what is happening in our culture. And the way in which things that, certainly I think we in this room probably all value a deal, are being eroded by this kind of intimidation and cowardice and by an unwillingness to call things by their true name.

And I have found one of the most strange things about the last, you know, 20 years or so that I’ve been involved in all this, is that the left and the liberal intelligentsia have not been good on this. And that in many cases you find yourself agreeing with people that you’ve never agreed with in your life before. The wrong people are on your side. And the “right people”—or in other words, the left people—are on the wrong side because there has been on the left for a long time this view that, Third World, good; First World, oppressive and bad. And that kind of Third Worldism has led to some very strange intellectual mistakes here, part of which is a kind of infantilization of people to say that they don’t know any better, which would not happen if you were dealing with anyone else who was not brown of skin.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Empowering Citizens in India

Here's a great story from the BBC on how a recently enacted law in India that improved access to government information is helping people make their lives better:

For two decades the people of Sunder Nagri, on the north-east edge of the Indian capital, Delhi, had to make do without sewers.

As the alleyways and backyards of their slum festered, local officials kept making and breaking promises to clean things up.

Then, local businessman Noshe Ali decided to take matters into his own hands.

Using a new law that forces the authorities to disclose information, he discovered what everyone in Sunder Nagri had already guessed - that there were no plans to dig any sewers.

Armed with this knowledge, he persuaded the Indian capital's chief minister to authorise a budget, and work started within a year.

"This place used to be really dirty. There were lots of mosquitoes and many people caught disease. Now things are quite different," Noshe Ali said.

Please read it all.

Supporting Choudhury

Courtesy of Jihad Watch, a plea from Dr. Richard Benkin on behalf of Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury:

On November 14, Representives Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Nita Lowey (D-NY) introduced a Congressional Resolution urging the Bangladesh government to drop all charges against Muslim journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury and cease all other forms of harassment against him. I have attached Congressman Kirk's press release about this, as well as the Resolution itself, House Resolution 1080. It will be voted on before Congress adjourns at the end of this year.

Please contact your Congressional Representatives and urge them to support House Resolution 1080. Please encourage everyone you know to do the same. This is an issue that both Democrats and Republicans are supporting, and we must get it passed by a huge margin. This is our chance and the Congress's chance to make a strong statement for justice and against radicalism, and help save the life of this very brave man. You should contact your current Member of Congress who was in office before the recent elections.

Please act now and get everyone you know to act.

Please visit the Jihad Watch post for PDF links to the relevant documents. You can find out who your Congressman is, and how to contact him or her, by going to Project Vote Smart and typing in your 9 digit zip code. If you don't know your full zip code, use the USPS web site to find it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Mr. Choudhury Goes to Court

Courtesy of the Israel Insider web site, Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury relates his experiences in court during the first day of his trial on charges of treason and blasphemy:

The Court picked up my case at 1:35 pm., and there was a hearing for around 10 minutes. The judge, Mohammed Momin Ullah, asked the Public Prosecutor to read the charge in front of me. He came and read, "By praising the Jews and Christians, by attempting to travel to Israel and by predicting the so-called rise of Islamist millitancy in the country and expressing such through writings inside the country and abroad, you have tried to damage the image and relations of Bangladesh with the outside world. For which, charges under section 295-A, 120-A, 124-A, 105-A and 108-A are brought against you. Are you guilty or not"? he asked.

I replied, "I am not guilty." By advocating inter-faith dialogue, supporting relations between Bangladesh and Israel, I have not done anything wrong. Regarding the existence of Islamist radicals in this country, the matter is already endorsed several times by country's press, leaders, administration and judiciary. Continuation of this false case will open the doors for JMB criminals, whose death penalty issue is now in the higher court, in getting legal benefit. I firmly stand on my position'. Then my lawyers told the court that they will challenge this decision to the higher court.

My Day in Court

(Link via Jihad Watch)

Again, I encourage anyone reading to express their support for Mr. Choudhury.

A Book Finally Un-Banned

22 years after it was banned by the then-ruling communists, Czech author Milan Kundera's novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being has finally been published in his native land.

Why Banning Hate Speech is Wrong

Writing for the Jewish Magazine, Stefan Braun discusses the issue of censoring hate speech in Canada and why Canadian Jews were wrong to support such legislation. The big problem, as he points out, is that the definition of "hate speech" can easily change, and in Canada, it has:

To be sure, hate censorship laws and campus speech codes seemed like a good idea, back when they were first enacted. For awhile, it seemed to serve Jews well. What right thinking Canadian official would hesitate to muzzle militant neo-Nazis, sexists, homophobes, and xenophobes; or tolerate their indecent attempts to squelch the voices of their victims? Hadn't extremists done enough damage to societies everywhere? Didn't we learn our lesson in a horrific world war, combating the messages and the methods of their boundless hate? Weren't Jews the proverbial crow in the mineshaft of exploding Nazi intolerance and imploding German democracy? Justice before the age of clash of civilizations may have been hard, but it was unambiguous. Victims and victimizers were clear. This was the golden age for Jewish hate censorship.

So why, once again, do thoughtful Jewish students have to fear to speak when those whose hate knows no bounds do not fear to speak against them? Hate censorship laws and the speech codes haven't changed. But times have. The political climate has changed. Faces of oppression have changed. And so, too, have the discourses of campus hate censorship. There is now a new, more popular, more belligerent, minority in town; a new victim; the victim of occupation. Forget how this occupation came to be, or the complex truths of why it persists to this day. David is now Goliath, and Goliath is David, at least in the minds of those now favored to speak. Zionism, we are told is racism. A Palestinian Holocaust is unfolding. Jewish leaders are genocidal Nazis. Israel is an Apartheid state, not a legitimate repository of the historic Jewish identity. To merely identify with it, much less advocate for it, is to stand accused of the worst kind of criminal racism in the docket of hate. Jewish voices be warned; guilt by association will not be tolerated.

And so, Benjamin Netanyahu and Daniel Pipes cannot equally freely, or fearlessly, speak at any progressive, multicultural, Canadian campus. No pro-Zionist can. But just about every self-serving anti-Zionist demagogue and Israel-demonizing progressive ideologue can. Hate is whatever those with the power to disrupt, destroy, and silence, say it is. And so, only the Jewish voice is a campus security concern. Hate censorship has been hijacked. A shelter against illegitimate promotion of hate has been turned into a sword against legitimate exercise of Jewish voice.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Why Jewish Speech and Hate Censorship Do Not Mix

(Link courtesy of the Volokh Conspiracy)

Once you start banning "hateful" speech, you legitimate censorship. Then it may be only a matter of time before your own speech is labeled as "hateful".

Monday, November 13, 2006

A Useful Collection Development Resource

The British book review publication ForeWord has produced a special supplement discussing books on terrorism. It is an excellent resource for librarians looking to purchase books on this topic for their collections, and is freely available online courtesy of the Counterterrorism Blog.

Islamist Censorship in Somalia

Somalia's radical Islamist movement, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), continues to expand its draconian control over most of that unhappy country. As J. Peter Pham noted in an October 26 analysis, the ICU now controls over 70 percent of Somalia. Pham's essay lays out in detail the ICU's efforts to suppress free speech and expression as part of their drive for power. Here are the relevant passages:

After an initially light-handed approach, the ICU has also begun imposing its strict totalitarian rule on the areas it controls. Shortly after taking Kismayo, ICU forces closed down the local substation of the privately owned Horn Afrik Radio.

According to the Sheikh Abdirahman Mudey, minister of information and Da'wa ("Islamic call") in the ICU's governing council, the broadcaster was seized because it aired the voice of a woman who claimed she was raped by Islamist militia members as well as another news story that reported the breakdown of talks between ICU envoys and local elders. According to the sheikh, the reports were "unfounded" and hence the station had to be shut down. In early October, according to Reporters Without Borders, the ICU issued a list of thirteen "rules of conduct" for reporters, severely curtailing their freedom. According to the Paris-based nongovernmental organization, "The result of this draconian charter which Mogadishu's new masters want to impose on Somalia's journalists would be a gagged, obedient press, one constrained by threats to sing the praises of the Islamic courts and their vision of the world and Somalia."

A few days after the press gag order, on October 12, the United Nations announced that it was "temporarily" pulling its international staff out of parts of Somalia controlled by the ICU in response to "direct written threats," the nature of which the international organization did not elaborate on. The withdrawal, while understandable from the security perspective, has the unfortunate effect of imperiling an estimated 3.6 million Somalis who will depend on outside assistance to stave off famine if the rains fail to come soon.

Nor are the ambitions of the radicals limited to taking control of the ruins of the former Somali state. Increasingly, the democratic and secular Republic of Somaliland – which resumed its independent sovereignty upon the dissolution of Somali Democratic Republic in 1991 – has been targeted by the ICU.

In early October, moderate clerics like Sheikh Adan Haji Hirow of Hargeisa, Somaliland's capital, began received letters warning them to desist from their criticisms of the radicals or face the consequences. Similar threats were sent to the independent newspaper Haatuf, which has been outspoken in denouncing the ICU. On October 13, militants associated with 'Ayro's al-Shabaab appeared after Friday prayers in the Somaliland town of Buroa and publicly burned copies of the publication in ominous warning of what might come if they return in strength. The militants have also begun training dissident Somalilanders for a possible assault on their own country, a fact confirmed late last week with the publication of a fatwa signed by Sheikh 'Aweys and dated on the 6th day of Ramadan 1427 (September 28, 2006) which declared that the ICU had "decided to send thirty young martyrs to carry out explosions and killing of Jewish and American collaborators in the northern regions," including Somaliland President Dahir Riyale Kahin, Foreign Minister Abdillahi Mohammed Duale, and other senior officials.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Reporters Sans Frontieres has more details on the October 13 newspaper burning incident. Note that this happened in an area called Somaliland that is not yet controlled by the ICU. One can only imagine what will happen to intellectual freedom in Somaliland if the ICU does conquer that region.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

"I hope that people in the world will stand with us against radical Islamists."

Courtesy of Power Line comes this New York Sun interview with persecuted Bangladeshi newspaper editor Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. Here is a small portion of that interview:

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is remarkably calm for someone facing death. I sat for a few minutes in a state of near shock after our conversation earlier today ended with him politely thanking me for my time and telling me that "I hope that people in the world will stand with us against radical Islamists. We can be free together and secure the world for future generations." He spoke from Dhaka, Bangladesh, where on Monday he goes on trial for his life on counts of sedition, treason, and blasphemy.

Mr. Choudhury, a Bangladeshi journalist, is accused, he told us, of "praising Jews and Christians," "spying for Israel," and being "an agent of the Mossad" -- because he advocated relations between Israel and Bangladesh. He's also accused of being critical of Islamic radicals, which is considered blasphemy. He committed these crimes by writing articles favorable toward Jews and Christians.

He did so, he says, because while he was born and raised in a Muslim country (Bangladesh) where he was taught a "religion of hatred" and a "religion of Jihad," his father "told from an early age not to listen and to learn for himself."
He did and became friends with Jews, realized the lies he had been taught, and wanted to end "the culture of hatred." He says that if "Muslim countries want peace they need relations with Israel."

Mr. Choudhury says he holds no hope of getting a fair trial. The judge, he says, is a radical Islamist who has already made clear his view that Mr. Choudhury is guilty. "In open court ... he made comments that by praising Christians and Jews I have hurt the sentiment of Muslims ... which is a crime," the journalist says. Other comments made by the Judge have made it clear, Mr. Choudhury tells me, that the judge's goal is a conviction and a death sentence. Mr. Choudhury describes his judge as a "one man judge and jury," and Mr. Choudhury cannot even present witnesses in his own defense.

(Emphasis added-DD)

As noted above, Mr. Choudhury goes on trial Monday on charges of blasphemy, for which he faces the death penalty. His only crime is that he had the courage to speak out against the climate of hatred and intolerance fostered by radical Islamists in his country. Click here for information on how you can support this brave individual.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Incitement to Genocide

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting brings word that a Rwandan songwriter is on trial for helping incite that country's horrific 1994 genocide through his lyrics:

Simon Bikindi, a 52-year-old Hutu, famous in African for his development of a unique ballet company, has gone on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, ICTR, in the northern Tanzania town of Arusha, for inciting mass murder through song during Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

He faces six charges, including genocide directed against the country’s Tutsi people.


Bikindi - the founder of the Irindiro Ballet, a company renowned for its blend of traditional music and dance - is alleged also to have worked with Habyarimanja and Nzabonimana in composing lyrics to songs urging Hutus to kill Tutsis and Hutus who sympathised with Tutus, so-called moderate Hutus. The songs were played many times a day over the radio station Radio Télévision Libre de Mille Collines and over a public address system as Bikindi drove around in his vehicle in Gisenyi.

According to a report by the Hirondelle news agency, which reports extensively on Rwandan affairs, Bikindi incited the Hutu population with the words, “The majority population, it’s you, the Hutu. I am talking to. You know the minority population is the Tutsi. Exterminate quickly the remaining ones.”

Bikindi’s trial resumed in September this year. A witness, a former member of the Interahamwe, identified only as “AHB”, told the tribunal that Bikindi had performed in an Interahamwe uniform before at least one meeting of the former ruling party. AHB, serving a life sentence for his role in the genocide, said that although Bikindi’s songs were full of allusions their meaning was clear to any Rwandan - that Tutsis should be slaughtered.

Bikindi’s lawyers argue that the trial is an infringement of his rights of freedom of speech and expression and a denial of his artistic liberty. But prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow told the tribunal that Bikindi used his artistic talent for criminal ends.

(Emphasis added-DD)

The article discusses at length the issues of free expression raised by this prosecution, and is well worth reading. While I fully understand the "slippery slope" concerns about this case, this is one instance where speech should not be protected. If the charges are true, Bikindi was not expressing a personal opinion, no matter how offensive: he was openly and knowingly inciting people to commit mass murder. This is one form of expression that cannot be tolerated.

Friday, November 10, 2006

"Libel Tourism" in Action

No sooner did I finish this post on "Libel Tourism" and one Khalid Bin Mahfouz, then I saw the following on LISNews:

An Anonymous Patron writes "The November 4-10, 2006 issue of The Economist has printed a full-page apology (p.47) by Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, authors of "Forbidden Truth: U.S.-Taliban secret oil diplomacy and the failed hunt for Bin Laden", c2002. This title is held by over 900 U.S. libraries. The authors are retracting "...very serious and highly defamatory allegations about Sheikh Khalid Bin Mahfouz and Sheikh Abdulrahman Bin Mahfouz, alleging support for terrorism through their businesses, families and charities..." Brisard and Dasquie further state "...(W)e accept and acknowledge that all of those allegations about you and your families, businesses and charities are entirely and manifestly false."

What are U.S. libraries doing with their copies of this title?

Full text of apology at:"

(Emphasis added-DD)

Sheikh Bin Mahfouz has certainly been busy. To be fair, Forbidden Truth is hardly the most credible source. It is chock full of conspiracy theories about pipelines and how the US provoked the 9/11 attack. The "voltairenet" web site where the authors' statement is posted is a cesspool of 9/11 denial. Still, for all my misgivings about these particular authors, this is yet another example of how Bin Mahfouz has exploited libel law to silence his critics.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Dangers of "Libel Tourism"

In a November 7th Boston Globe op-ed, Samuel A. Abady and Harvey Silverglate address an example of how Islamists and others have successfully exploited English libel law to try to silence critics here in America:

Rachel Ehrenfeld, an adviser to the Defense Department and director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy , pioneered investigation into the financial roots of terrorism, first in her 1990 book "Narcoterrorism" and, most recently, in "Funding Evil -- How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It." She argued, controversially, that dollars from drug traffickers, corrupt state leaders, and wealthy Arab financiers, especially Saudis, fund terrorism.

One target of Ehrenfeld's work is Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz, former owner of the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia and former chief operating officer of the scandal-ridden Bank of Credit and Commerce International. In 1992, he paid $225 million after his indictment in New York for his role in the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

Bin Mahfouz responded to Ms. Ehrenfeld's accusations by suing her for libel in a UK court. This is part of a pattern for Bin Mahfouz, as Abady and Silverglate point out:

Bin Mahfouz has sued or threatened suit in England 33 times against those who linked him to terrorism. He runs a website boasting of his victories. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post all have settled with him. The English court enjoined publication of "Funding Evil" in Britain and awarded bin Mahfouz 60,000 pounds ($109,470), even though the merits of his allegations were never tried.

Rather than confront bin Mahfouz on England's libel-friendly turf, Ehrenfeld sued him in a New York federal court seeking a declaration that his English judgment is unenforceable in the United States as repugnant to the First Amendment.

Abady and Silverglate eloquently sum up the stakes as follows:

Writers are now subject to intimidation by libel tourists. Little wonder that the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Association of American Publishers, and 14 other media groups have filed a "friend of the court" brief to support Ehrenfeld's quest to raise her First Amendment defense now. Until she is able to do so, she will have problems finding American publishers willing to risk publishing her research and writing.

England's libel laws have provided the means by which Bin Mahfouz and others can employ the power of the British state to silence their critics. Their ability to do so should not be allowed to let them threaten First Amendment rights here in the US. I fervently hope that Ms. Ehrenfelt's lawsuit is successful.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

VDH: The New Dark Ages

My apologies for the lack of recent posts. I've been busy traveling, and then got back just in time to be ill. Regular posting will resume in a day or two. In the meantime, this recent column from Dr. Victor Davis Hanson is a must read:

Who would have thought centuries after the Enlightenment that sophisticated Europeans -- in fear of radical Islamists -- would be afraid to write a novel, put on an opera, draw a cartoon, film a documentary or have their pope discuss comparative theology?

The astonishing fact is not just that millions of women worldwide in 2006 are still veiled from head-to-toe, trapped in arranged marriages, subject to polygamy, honor killings and forced circumcision, or lack the right to vote or appear alone in public. What is more baffling is that in the West, liberal Europeans are often wary of protecting female citizens from the excesses of Shariah law -- sometimes even fearful of asking women to unveil their faces for purposes of simple identification and official conversation.

Who these days is shocked that Israel is hated by Arab nations and threatened with annihilation by radical Iran? Instead, the surprise is that even in places like Paris or Seattle, Jews are singled out and killed for the apparent crime of being Jewish.

Since September 11, 2001, the West has fought enemies who are determined to bring back the nightmarish world we thought was long past. And there are lessons Westerners can learn from radical Islamists' ghastly efforts.

Dark Ages, Live from the Middle East

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Remember Theo Van Gogh

Wednesday marked the second anniversary of the horrific murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by fanatical jihadist Mohammed Bouyeri. Few events have revealed so starkly the serious threat that radical Islamism poses to intellectual freedom.

Correction (11-7): Thursday, November 2, was the second anniversary of the Van Gogh murder.