Thursday, May 31, 2007

Intolerance Wins in Malaysia

Yesterday, Malaysia's highest court announced its verdict in the Lina Joy case. The Guardian has the details:

Lina Joy, 42, had fought the decisions of Malaysia's lower courts in an effort to have the word "Islam" removed from her identity card, arguing that the constitution guaranteed her religious freedom.

But the panel of three judges decided, in a majority verdict, that it had no power to intervene in cases of apostasy. These cases fall under the jurisdiction of Malaysia's Sharia courts, which run in tandem with the country's civil courts.

However, it has never been made clear which branch of the court takes precedence. The Malaysian constitution guarantees freedom of worship, but ethnic Malays must be Muslim by law. "She cannot simply, at her own whim, enter or leave her religion," Judge Ahmad Fairuz said during yesterday's ruling. "She must follow rules."

But Judge Richard Malanjum, the only non-Muslim on the panel, said it was "unreasonable" to ask Ms Joy to turn to the Sharia court as she could face criminal prosecution because abandoning Islam is punishable by a fine or jail. Critics of the verdict expressed dismay and said it failed to uphold the legal rights of Malaysians.

Two-hundred Muslim protesters who gathered in a prayer vigil outside the court yesterday greeted the verdict with cries of "Allahu Akbar" (God is great).

(Emphasis added-DD)

In other words, in order to fulfill her wish to no longer be considered a Muslim, Miss Joy will now have to go before an Islamic Sharia court that considers leaving Islam to be a crime. As noted by the non-Muslim judge, this would be tantamount to volunteering to go to prison.

This decision makes a mockery of Malaysia's claim to uphold freedom of religion, and will only hasten the creeping Islamization of that country.

Reflections on Campus Censorship

The Volokh Conspiracy links to a very provocative brief essay on campus censorship and its historical parallels. The article in question comes from the Spring 2007 FIRE Quarterly (link in PDF, p.2):

I have always found it fascinating that colleges and universities—which tend to believe themselves to be centers of perfect open-mindedness and progressive thought—so often end up echoing the censors of bygone eras. As we note in FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus, for example, administrators’ justifications for punishing politically incorrect, ideologically
incompatible, or simply inconvenient speech at times echo the rationale of southern slave owners in the early 19th century who wished to ban abolitionist speech because it “inflicted emotional injury” on slave owners. As we often have to point out, while politeness is a virtue, it is of minuscule importance when compared with robust debate and discussion.

The pattern that strikes me the most, however, is the tendency of administrators to sound like the censors of the Victorian era—morally infallible, plugged into absolute truth and engaged in saving the country’s soul from incivility or impropriety.

Take Johns Hopkins University, for example, where President William Brody imposed an extraordinary speech code in the wake of the “Halloween in the Hood”/Justin Park controversy (covered in detail on page 4) as part of a series of efforts to “build a stronger community.” The code provides, in relevant part, that “Rude, disrespectful behavior is unwelcome and will not be tolerated,” and that “Every member of our community will be held accountable for creating a welcoming workplace for all.”

The code, by its breadth and anachronistic priggishness, turns common student interaction into actionable campus offenses. Because such a code is impossible to enforce uniformly (as virtually all students are “disrespectful” at some point), the only option for Hopkins is to enforce this code selectively. It therefore virtually guarantees arbitrary punishments and viewpoint discrimination. President Brody should ask himself: why would a parent wish to send a child to a college that maintains policies that mean his or her son or daughter may be punished at any time for normal college age behavior? Why would students wish to attend a university where their
academic careers are so tenuously protected?

(Volokh link courtesy of Instapundit)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Real Threat to Intellectual Freedom

If there is one line from my "infamous" September 2005 Chronicle article that explains my dispute with the bulk of the library profession, it's this one:

...I believe that the primary threats to our freedom are named bin Laden and Zarqawi, not Ashcroft and Gonzales. My main worry is not FBI agents with subpoenas but the supporters of a totalitarian ideology of death that represents the antithesis of everything our profession is supposed to stand for.

While much of the library profession has engaged in single minded opposition to the Patriot Act, often to the point of fear mongering, American librarians have been virtually silent in response to the murder of Theo Van Gogh and the violent reaction to the Danish Mohammed cartoons.

Just this week, Al Qaeda offered additional evidence of where the real threat to intellectual freedom lies. On May 29, a message from American Al Qaeda member Adam Gadahn appeared on a jihadist web site. Included in Gadahn's remarks was a list of those demands that America must meet before Al Qaeda will cease its war against us. MEMRI has posted a transcript of the speech, as well as a link to the video itself. Here are the list of Al Qaeda demands expressed by Gadahn, taken directly from the MEMRI transcript:

"One: Pull every last one of your soldiers, spies, security advisors, trainers, attachés, and so on out of every Muslim land from Afghanistan to Zanzibar. Should so much as one single American soldier or spy remain on Islamic soil, it shall be considered sufficient justification for us to continue our defensive jihad against your nation and people.

"Two: Stop all support and aid, military, political, economic, or otherwise, to the 56-plus apostate regimes of the Muslim world, and abandon them to their well-deserved fate at the hands of the soldiers of Islam. Should you fail to comply in full, we will deem it sufficient justification to continue to fight and kill Americans.

"Three: End all support, moral, military, economic, political, or otherwise, to the bastard state of Israel, and ban your citizens, Zionist Jews, Zionist Christians, and the rest from traveling to occupied Palestine or settling there. Even one penny of aid will be considered sufficient justification to continue the fight.

"Four: Cease all interference in the religion, society, politics, and governance of the Muslim world. And leave us alone to establish the Islamic shura state, which will unite the Muslims of [the] earth in truth and justice. A single word of American protest shall be silenced by a thousand Islamic bombs.

"Five: Put an end to all forms of interference in the education curricula and information media of the Islamic world, and impose a blanket ban on all broadcasts to our region, especially those designed to alter or destroy the faith, minds, morals, and values of our people.

"Six: Free all Muslim captives from your prisons, detention facilities, and concentration camps, regardless of whether they have been recipients of what you call a fair trial or not. Your refusal to release them will mean the continuation of our just struggle against your tyranny until the last kidnapped Muslim has been liberated.

(Emphasis added-DD)

As you can see, Al Qaeda's demands go well beyond an American withdrawal from the Middle East. It is not enough that we allow them to impose their barbarous totalitarian ideology and stage Holocaust 2.0. We have to give up some of our own freedom in the process. Al Qaeda demands that we prevent Americans from so much as traveling to Israel; that we stay silent on the pain of "a thousand Islamic bombs" while the jihadists gleefully murder "heretics and freethinkers"; and that we offer Muslims no alternative to the Islamists' ideology of death. In essence, they insist that we surrender our free expression. I think the ridiculous notion that Al Qaeda's war against us is motivated solely by disputes over policy, and has nothing to do with their hatred of tolerance and pluralism, can safely be put to rest.

BTW, Gadahn also deflates the hopes of those who think that running away from Iraq will appease the jihadists:

"Let Us Be Clear: A Pullout From Iraq Alone, In The Absence Of Compliance With The Remainder Of Our Legitimate Demands... Will Not Save You From Our Strikes"

It seems to me that a global totalitarian movement that openly threatens America with censorship by terrorism is a far greater threat to intellectual freedom than the FBI wanting to know who sent an anonymous e-mail threat from a Connecticut library computer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Rebuilding an Iraqi Library

At the American Library Association's June 2005 Annual Conference, ALA Council passed a resolution calling for an American withdrawal from Iraq. As I noted at the time, the resolution is a monument to moral and intellectual bankruptcy. It argues that after withdrawing from Iraq, the US should pay the United Nations to "rebuild" Iraq's libraries. Yeah, that should work. I'm sure that, after we leave, Al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq, and the Iranian-sponsored Mahdi Army, would be happy to build modern libraries where people are free to read whatever they want. Yes, and I have some great beachfront property on the Outer Banks I'm looking to sell.

Anyway, I couldn't help but think of that ALA resolution when I saw this e-mail that blogger and independent journalist Michael Yon sent to Instapundit:

Am in the city of Hit, out in Anbar Province, with Task Force 2-7 Infantry. 2-7 took over this section of Iraq on 08 February. The area of operations comprises approximately 4,000 square km with an estimated 100,000 people. On 30 Jan, as the last of the previous unit departed, 3 mortar rounds landed about 50 yards from where I sit, wounding about 8 of the departing soldiers. Since that time, there have been no mortar attacks on base – and only one possible small mortar attack in the entire 4,000 sq km. The last battalion took nearly 150 wounded and 15 killed in action in 14 months. They fought very hard while building the ISF, and I hope those soldiers, Marines and others would be happy and proud to know that their efforts set the conditions for the current success here. Following a major clearing operation that 2-7 IN executed with Iraqi Police when they initially took over, the guns are mostly quiet now. IEDs are still a threat but are few. Over the first one-hundred days, 2-7 has taken one wounded Soldier, and unfortunately a Marine was killed by an IED.

Otherwise, 2-7 hardly have fired their weapons. Today, I accompanied LTC Doug Crissman, the commander, to three meetings with Iraqi police and civilian leadership. The meetings were important but thankfully more administrative than combat oriented. Subjects included police recruitment and local politics, and actually seemed more difficult to navigate than "simple combat." And to think that only in January of this year, this city was a daily battle. Today, there are clear signs of development and the civilian population was out shopping. In addition to basic services being restored, the city of Hit has rebuilt its library. Citizens had stored away the books during the war here. They are preparing to re-stock the library. Glenn, you know that I do not hesitate to deliver bad news. I have no bad news to deliver today. The town of Hit clearly is doing much, much better. "Anbar the impossible" might be possible after all.

(Emphasis added-DD)

You can read more about conditions in Hit in this followup message from Yon.

Now, it may come as a shock to find out that Iraq might actually not be a hopeless quagmire. However, as filmmaker and blogger J.D. Johannes notes, "(m)ost of what people think they know about Iraq is wrong". The situation there is, of course, horrific in many ways. However, it is also far more complicated, and far more susceptible to change, than most people realize.

In the meantime, I wonder what condition Hit's library would be in if ALA Council had its way and our forces weren't there to help rebuild it.

A Turning Point in Malaysia

The Associated Press reports on a key court case that will help decide whether Malaysia remains a pluralist democracy or continues to slide towards the Islamist abyss:

Lina Joy has been disowned by her family, shunned by friends and forced into hiding -- all because she renounced Islam and embraced Christianity in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Now, after a seven-year legal struggle, Malaysia's highest court will decide on Wednesday whether her constitutional right to choose her religion overrides an Islamic law that prohibits Malay Muslims from leaving Islam.

Either way, the verdict will have profound implications on society in a country where Islam is increasingly conflicting with minority religions, challenging Malaysia's reputation as a moderate Muslim and multicultural nation that guarantees freedom of worship.

Despite the heroic efforts of civil society groups such as Article 11, Malaysian Islamists have enjoyed great success in recent years at imposing their agenda of intolerance. If the court rules against Miss Joy, the Islamization of Malaysian society will only accelerate. Her lawyer explains the consequences for both his client and his country:

The constitution does not say who has the final word in cases such as Miss Joy's. If she loses her appeal and continues to insist she is a Christian, it could lead to charges of apostasy and a jail sentence.

"Our country is at a crossroad," said Miss Joy's attorney, Benjamin Dawson. "Are we evolving into an Islamic state or are we going to maintain the secular character of the constitution?"


Miss Joy's case "will decide the space of religious freedom in Malaysia," said Mr. Dawson. If she wins, "it means that the constitutionally guaranteed right of freedom of religion prevails. If she loses, that means the constitutional guarantee is subservient to Islamic restrictions," he said.

Finally, the article describes how the Lina Joy case has demonstrated the ability of Malaysian Islamists to curb free expression:

Miss Joy's decision to leave Islam sparked angry street protests by Muslim groups and led to e-mail death threats against Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, a Muslim lawyer supporting her. The widely circulated anonymous e-mail described him as a "traitor" to Islam and carried his picture with the caption "Wanted Dead."

Proselytizing of Muslims is banned in Malaysia and apostasy is a crime punishable by fines and jail sentences. Offenders often are sent to prisonlike rehabilitation centers.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Whatever the outcome, this case will be a crucial turning point in Malaysia's culture war. I just hope the court decides in favor of freedom instead of intolerance.

Princeton Update

Courtesy of LISNews, here's an article from the Princeton Packet on the controversy over the recent Princeton Human Rights Film Festival:

According to some critics, two of the 15 films shown during the library's annual Human Rights Film Festival last weekend are "propaganda" and do not accurately reflect life in Cuba.

"I think it's outrageous to have a film festival at a public library that leaves out all the realities of Cuba, especially when you have thousands of witnesses to the human rights violations," said Maria C. Werlau, executive director of Cuba Archive, an organization that collects information about the country.

Ms. Werlau and Princeton Township resident Fausta Wertz raised issue with the documentaries "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil" and "Salud! What Puts Cuba on the Map in the Quest for Global Health Care."

The article explains why Princeton Public Library decided to show these films:

Leslie Burger, library director, said the film festival committee had no intentions to glorify Cuba. "Salud!" and "The Power of Community" were chosen because of the issues they addressed, not where they were filmed.

"They felt it was unbalanced because there were two films that were holding Cuba up as a model, and that really wasn't it," Ms. Burger said. "It wasn't a Cuban film festival. It was a human rights festival. The conversations we were trying to have were about education and energy and health care and immigration and disaster relief."

The selection committee, headed by youth services librarian Pamela Groves, followed a list of criteria that included: whether a film educates and informs; treats complex issues in a skillful way; is unlikely to receive wide distribution; and has the potential to inspire, motivate and stimulate meaningful dialogue.

"What we were trying to do is focus on things that we think are the rights of human beings versus the human rights violations in the world," Ms. Burger said. Ms. Groves could not be reached for comment.

(FYI, Ms. Burger is the current President of ALA.)

Yes, "the rights of human beings versus the human rights violations in the world". You would be hard pressed to find a finer example of leftist gibberish. As a definition of human rights, it is so broad as to be meaningless.

Anyway, as I noted in my earlier post, this year's festival did include a film about people who were "persecuted" for expressing their views: Shut Up and Sing, the story of those heroic dissidents known as the Dixie Chicks.

Someone needs to write Rafiq Tagi and tell him just how lucky he is. Sure, he was sentenced to three years in prison just for writing an article critical of Islam, and one of Iran's most senior clerics wants him dead. But hey, at least he's never had to endure the horror of Rush Limbaugh saying mean things about him.

Back on topic, the main point of the critics, and I agree wholeheartedly, is not so much the films that were shown; it's the ones that weren't shown:

Ms. Wertz and Ms. Werlau said they respect the committee's right to show films of its choosing. However, they add, the committee should have included films to counter the positive light "Salud" and "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil" cast on Cuba.

They suggested films such as "Before Night Falls," "Children of Paradise," "A Patriot's Path to Democracy" and "The Torture in Castro's Cuba."

"The thing about the two films is not that they're being shown. I have no objection to that," Ms. Wertz said. "The facts on Cuba are not the facts that were shown."

Islamist Idol

AFP reports that hundreds of people in the Indian-ruled region of Kashmir recently auditioned to appear on the program "Indian Idol". Normally, this would not be considered newsworthy. However, in this case, the participants defied threats from radical Islamists in order to perform:

Earlier Monday, hardline militant group Al Madina Regiment ordered Kashmiris to boycott the talent show, which draws massive television ratings across India.

"No leniency will be shown to anyone participating in the show," a rebel group spokesman told the local Current News Service.


The participants appeared unfazed by the threat by the rebel outfit, which Indian authorities believe is a splinter of the Lashkar E Toiba militant group.

"I think such talent shows should be held regularly, and the militants should leave us alone and allow us to shape our own careers," said participant Dilafroz Jan.

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. As the article notes, "the rebels have shut cinema halls and liquor shops across the Indian zone of Kashmir." Earlier this year, an Islamist women's group celebrated Valentine's Day by burning greeting cards and beating up couples. As they did so, they chanted "(w)e will not allow Western culture to take roots in Muslim Majority Kashmir".

Radical Islamism's war on free expression is truly a global phenomenon.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Fecklessness on Free Speech

Bridget Johnson has written a great essay for National Review Online, in which she takes the Bush Administration and United Nations to task for not resolutely defending free expression:

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations hosted a panel discussion the same day — for which I was the moderator — discussing threats to Internet free-speech worldwide. The fliers prepared by the office to advertise the panel featured an image of a news brief about the four-year prison sentence for blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil Soliman — datelined, of course, Egypt.

The U.S. was asked to remove the word “Egypt,” said deputy spokeswoman Carolyn Vadino, lest they offend a member state. After the mission refused to edit the fliers, approval to post the fliers was denied by U.N. officials on the grounds that they were only approving postings for “cultural events.”

Was someone afraid that people might find out that vaunted countries in the big, happy family of member states actually do bad things?

Please read the rest:

Free Speech Is Not Peripheral

Friday, May 25, 2007

Mugabe's Priorities

Just because Robert Mugabe has spent the last decade diligently destroying his own country doesn't mean he's all bad. After all, the Zimbabwean dictator isn't afraid to invest in culture. Sure, Zimbabwe may have 80% unemployment, 4,000% inflation, and be teetering on the brink of mass starvation, but it will soon have a $4,000,000 museum dedicated to the glorious leader who made it all possible. According to UPI, the museum "reportedly will cover the size of a soccer field" and will open next year.

Read this recent piece from National Review Online for more on the implosion of Zimbabwe.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Irony@Your Library

Freadom has a great post on the absurd goings on at this year's Princeton (Public Library) Human Rights Film Festival. The highlight of this year's event was a film called Salud, a ridiculous, one-sided paean to Cuba's health system. Yes, an American library, in the name of "human rights", showed a film in praise of a regime that burns books.

Unfortunately, this seems to be par for the course for the Princeton Film Festival. Also featured on this year's bill was a salute to those heroic persecuted dissidents, the Dixie Chicks. Previous years have featured numerous films on the evils of corporations and the American criminal justice system. Films about the atrocities of radical Islamism, the genocidal acts of Saddam Hussein, or the crimes of leftist/Marxist regimes are nowhere to be found on the schedule. Apparently, such topics must fall outside the scope of "human rights", as defined by the event's organizers.

More Repression in Azerbaijan

Imprisoned Azeri newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev has now been charged with terrorism. If convicted he could be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison, in addition to his current 2 and 1/2 year sentence for "defamation". This comes in the wake of the eviction of Fatullayev's newspapers from their offices.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has condemned this latest attack on independent media. The response of the Azeri government, quoted in the same article, has to be read to be believed:

In Baku today, a senior aide to the Azerbaijani president today denied that the government is cracking down on media freedoms.

Ali Hasanov said the recent jailings of journalists and the closure of the newspapers' offices have been justified.

Hasanov called international criticism about attacks on the media "subjective." He said there is freedom of speech and an independent press in Azerbaijan, but he said freedom of speech does not mean journalists can break the law.

Uncivil Liberties

From yesterday's Opinion Journal, a must read essay by Wendy Kaminer on the ACLU's increasing adoption of politically motivated double standards:

The ACLU was even AWOL in one of the most visible and frightening free-speech controversies in recent years--the Muhammad cartoons, which many condemned as "hate speech." When Muslim groups violently protested the cartoons (first published in the Danish press), when American newspapers declined to publish them for fear of reprisals, and when the U.S. State Department condemned their publication--the ACLU exercised its right to remain silent. In fact, its press office actually advised ducking questions about the cartoons that might arise during discussions of torture at Abu Ghraib. A set of talking points from the press office recommended responding to questions about the cartoons by exhorting the U.S. government to "demonstrate . . . that it is taking the Abu Ghraib images seriously." (This was later spun as an effort to stay on message about abuses at Abu Ghraib.)

Not until an ACLU donor complained about this silence on the cartoon controversy, and questions about it were raised before the ACLU board, did ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero speak up--quietly. He mentioned the controversy in a relatively obscure dinner speech to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. He sent a letter to the University of Illinois urging it not to discipline student editors who published the cartoons in a campus paper. In a letter to the ACLU board, Mr. Romero both denied and defended the ACLU's relative silence: "With regard to the cartoons, rather than put out a hortatory statement that no one would read (except insiders) but might make us feel good about ourselves, we have tried to engage in thoughtful forums and discussions that relate to the issue. Speaking out on an issue involves more than slapping a paragraph together and posting it on a website."

Perhaps. But, like other advocacy groups, the ACLU routinely circulates hortatory statements to insiders that herald the organization's important work. And it regularly posts slapped-together paragraphs on the ACLU Web site (and in emails) about the abuses of the Bush administration, among other subjects. In fact, much of the ACLU's post 9/11 work (and its budget priorities) involves public education. Whatever Mr. Romero's reasons for staying out of the cartoon controversy, they did not include disdain for paying lip service to free speech.

Why did the ACLU avoid issuing a loud and clear public statement decrying violent efforts to suppress the Muhammad cartoons? Its silence may have reflected growing sympathy among ACLU leaders and supporters for restricting what many liberals condemn as hate speech. "Take hate speech," Mr. Romero remarked to the New York Times in May 2006. "While believing in free speech, we do not believe in or condone speech that attacks minorities." (He was commenting on a proposal to bar board members from criticizing the ACLU--a proposal that was amended only after being exposed in the Times.)

The American Liberal Liberties Union

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"We'll blow up your newspaper office on May 25 if anti-Islamic activities are not stopped by May 20."

AsiaMedia reports that Islamists in Bangladesh are threatening to blow up the offices of a local newspaper if it doesn't cease its "anti-Islamic" reporting.

Newspapers Evicted in Azerbaijan

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports on the latest outrage against free expression from the self-described "land of tolerance":

Local authorities evicted the independent Russian-language weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the Azeri-language daily Gündalik Azarbaycan from their Baku offices on Sunday night, saying that the publications’ building violates safety regulations. The action comes amid a series of threats, attacks, and cases of harassment targeting the muckraking newspapers—including, most recently, an anonymous death threat against their imprisoned editor, Eynulla Fatullayev.

“We are alarmed by the threat made against Eynulla Fatullayev and call on Azerbaijani authorities to take every necessary step to protect our colleague and thoroughly investigate the threats against him,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Given Azerbaijani officials’ long record of harassing critical publications, we view the alleged building violations with great skepticism and urge authorities to allow the journalists to continue their work without further interruption.”

On May 17, an unidentified man called Fatullayev’s mother at home and threatened to kill her son in prison if the two newspapers continued to publish, Realny Azerbaijan reported. In April, Fatullayev was sentenced to 30 months in prison on charges of libeling and insulting Azerbaijanis. Fatullayev said the charges were fabricated, and an appeal is expected to be heard on June 6.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Indonesia's Culture War

Contrary to popular opinion, the majority of Muslims in the world are not Arab. Islam, of course, originated in Arabia, and has often had a streak of Arab supremacy about it. However, according to PBS, only 12% of all Muslims worldwide are Arabs. In fact, the world's largest Muslim nation is not even in the Middle East: it is in Southeast Asia. With an estimated population of 234 million people, over 86% of them Muslim, Indonesia is the world's largest majority-Muslim nation.

Indonesia defies many of the negative stereotypes about Islam. It is both a democracy and home to a tolerant form of Islam that is consistent with local culture and traditions. In short, Saudi Arabia it isn't. Sadly, this state of affairs has begun to change. Calvin Sims, writing in the April 15th New York Times, gives one anecdotal but telling example:

SEVEN years ago, in the pre-9/11 fall of 2000, I was retrieving my luggage at the airport in Jakarta when a tall Indonesian man in a flowing white robe and green scarf accidentally bumped me off my feet.

He apologized and helped me up. Then I noticed he was part of a gang of grim young men stalking the airport with wooden rods.

He said they were from the Islamic Defenders Front and were searching for Israelis to kill. I doubt they found any, but I was shocked. Such bullying and militancy contrasted sharply with the Indonesia I had come to know on previous reporting trips: a model of Islam as a tolerant, compassionate, inclusive and peaceful religion.

(Emphasis added-DD)

As is the case throughout the Muslim world, radical Islamism exported from Saudi Arabia, and backed by Saudi petrodollars, has gained a foothold in Indonesia and proceeded to wage a culture war against anything it deems "un-Islamic". This April 6th article from Der Spiegel gives just one example:

A poster on display at the Jakarta Biennale art festival two years ago -- depicting Jahja in the nude, but in a rather modest pose, with well-known actor Anjasmara -- set off a furor among radical Islamists from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), who stormed the event. They demanded that the "work of pornography" be removed, and threatened to kill Jahja and the actor if their demands were not met. But when Jahja filed a complaint against the radicals, she was the one who was arrested. Only after civil rights groups protested her arrest was she released.

Yes, this is the same Islamic Defenders' Front encountered by Mr. Sims in 2000. From the same article, Der Spiegel provides a look at the FPI and its ideology:

Islamic Defenders Front founder Habib Rizieq, 41, is proud of the actions taken by his supporters. He wears a white turban and a long kaftan, clearly imitating his Saudi teachers; he spent 10 years living in the Saudi capital Riyadh. The only decoration in his sparsely furnished office in eastern Jakarta is a portrait of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Rizieq is convinced that he too is on a holy mission. His struggle, he says, is directed against the Western decadence he insists is inundating "Indonesia's great culture."

The FPI's roughly 3,000 activists, dressed in white, have become almost as audacious in public as Iran's Revolutionary Guards or Malaysia's religious police. The group besieged the offices of Playboy magazine in Jakarta until the publication gave in and moved to Bali, a liberal vacation paradise. Editor-in-chief Erwin Arnada was acquitted on Thursday of disseminating indecent pictures to the public with the court referring to Indonesian media laws passed in the wake of Suharto's downfall.

(Emphasis added-DD)

In an April 17th piece for the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens provided some additional background on Rizieq and the FPI. As with radical Islamist movements in other countries, the organization is aided both by Saudi-funded Islamic "charities" and by local politicians who choose to pander to the Islamists for short-term gain.

Unfortunately, the FPI is just one small part of a much bigger problem. While the former movement is a relative fringe and has settled for thug tactics, the Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) has sought to exploit Indonesia's democratic political system to spread Islamism. Modeling itself on the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots, the PKS enjoys influence well beyond the mere 7% of the vote it received in 2004. Among other things, it works diligently to infiltrate social and educational institutions in true Gramscian style. According to this March 1st Associated Press article their efforts have been remarkably successful (link via Jihad Watch):

More than 50 legislative bodies — from westernmost Sumatra island to Sulawesi further east — have passed laws inspired by the Islamic legal code, or Sharia, to regulate moral behavior.

On a federal level, hard-liners are pushing an anti-pornography bill that calls for prison terms of up to five years for kissing in public and one year for exposure of a woman's "sensual" body parts, though few expect it to pass in its present form.

"I call it creeping Sharia-ization of our society," said Syafi'i Anwar, executive director of the Jakarta-based International Center for Islam and Pluralism, noting that because Muslim groups have done poorly in national elections they are pushing their will through the "back door."

Many people remain silent for fear of being labeled unIslamic, analysts note. Others share concerns of conservatives about moral decay — pointing to girls in miniskirts, Playboy magazines hawked on street corners — albeit in a toned down Indonesian version — and offerings of alcohol on restaurant menus.

And the remainder do not care about the Islamic legislation or fail to see any danger from it.

(Emphasis added-DD)

The censorship efforts of Indonesian Islamists include charging the editor of Indonesia's version of Playboy with publishing illegal pornography (he was acquitted) and trying to regulate the content of popular music.

Such examples may seem relatively silly. However, it is in areas where Islamic Sharia law is now being applied that the totalitarian nature of the Islamist project becomes evident. Der Spiegel, in the article cited above, describes the situation in Banda Aceh, which was ravaged by the horrific 2004 tsunami:

When women refuse to wear headscarves, their heads are shaved in public as punishment. An adulteress has already been stoned. And the boyfriend of a French aid worker who was recently caught kissing her in a car was subjected to the humiliation of a public caning.

Aceh stopped being an exception long ago. More than 60 regional administrative bodies throughout the country have already established their own religious rules. One of them is Padang, a large city in western Sumatra where schoolgirls, female university students and female public servants have been required to wear headscarves for some time. Fauzi Bahar, the city's 44-year-old mayor and a former member of the Indonesian navy, has even barred Christian restaurant owners from opening their businesses in the daytime during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

To be fair, the situation is not entirely bleak. The Islamists are for now a small minority, and the majority of Indonesian Muslims remain opposed to their agenda. Filmmakers, musicians, and even the country's most prominent religious leader have been outspoken in their opposition to the Islamists.

Still, despite these factors, Indonesia's Islamists have been remarkably successful in their culture war against tolerance and pluralism. Even a small minority, when it is organized and motivated in pursuit of a revolutionary political agenda, and enjoys global sources of support, can overcome an apathetic and unorganized majority under the right circumstances. This is why we ignore the spread of radical Islamism at our peril.

Monday, May 21, 2007

RCTV's Impending Closure

On Sunday, the broadcast license of independent Venezuelan television station RCTV expires. The station has been harshly critical of the government of Hugo Chavez, and the Committee to Protect Journalists has described its closure as being "motivated by political considerations to suppress critical coverage."

Fortunately, despite the efforts of Chavez and his supporters, Venezuela is not yet a totalitarian dictatorship along the lines of Fidel Castro's Cuba. This was evident this past weekend, as thousands of Venuzuelans protested against RCTV's impending shotdown. According to the Associated Press:

The protesters set off from four different points of the capital, converging downtown in the biggest show of support yet for Radio Caracas de Television, or RCTV, a network that has been critical of Chavez's government.

RCTV is due to go off the air at midnight May 27, when the government says its license expires. The channel and its supporters argue Chavez is trying to silence criticism, while the government says it will be replaced by a public-service station and that freedom of expression is being respected.

"If (Chavez) shuts down the channel, he's crazy," said Rafael Velasquez, a 27-year-old construction worker who traveled 150 miles from the city of Puerto La Cruz to attend the protest. "I don't think it's fair. He has to ask the people whether they want it or not."

The march was organized by the channel and 26 opposition political parties.

The idea that "freedom of expression is being respected" when an anti-government broadcast network is closed and replaced by a pro-government one is absurd beyond belief.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Explaining Jihadist Ideology

Frontpage Magazine has an interesting interview with Professor Mary Habeck, author of Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror. Professor Habeck's book is a superb analysis of the radical Islamist worldview and is well worth reading. This ideology is ably summarized in the interview:

It's a particular view of Islam, which makes three separate arguments: first, they believe that all other Muslims have fallen away from the real faith and that they, therefore, are the only true believers left in the world. The reason they are the only true believers is because they follow the only authentic definition of "tawhid." For most Muslims, tawhid means that there is one God and only he should be worshiped. Jihadis saw that this definition is incomplete: tawhid requires also that only God should be obeyed. Anyone who is not obeying God's laws, or who is attempting to create "manmade" laws that contradict God's revealed laws, is engaging in polytheism and is no longer a Muslim. This definition of tawhid implies that Muslims must have a state (the Caliphate) that correctly implements God's laws and also that liberalism and democracy are antithetical to "true" Islam.

Second, they believe that the world is controlled by hostile unbelievers who desire the destruction of Islam. By this they mean that the unbelievers are attempting to prevent the "true believers" from setting up an Islamic state (since it is only in the Caliphate that true Islam can be correctly practiced). This is their definition of a "war on Islam."

Thus, Muslims are allowed to fight these unbelievers in a just jihad. Their definition of jihad is quite different from that generally accepted by Muslims today. Most Muslims say that jihad is first and foremost an internal struggle to control one's desires or, if it is about fighting, jihad is a defensive just war. These extremists make jihad into the central tenet of their religion, arguing that it is primarily about fighting both defensively and offensively (to spread the just laws of Islam). They also say that any Muslim who does not participate in their jihad is not a "true believer," and is at most a sinner and at worst an unbeliever and can therefore be killed with impunity.

Among other topics, Professor Habeck explains the obstacles faced by those Muslims who oppose the Islamists:

FP: Why are “moderate” Muslims so silent, in general, in the face of jihadism?

Habeck: There are probably many reasons for this, but I can give at least three. First, many Muslims have spoken out against jihadism, but they have been ignored by Western media. There was, for instance, a huge demonstration against violence carried out in the name of Islam is Morocco not too long ago (late 2005), but I don't remember reading anything about this is in the mainstream media. I read and see many, many moderate Muslims speaking out against these guys every day. Second, in many countries these guys control the public arena and intimidate or even murder anyone who speaks out against them. The intimidation carried out in Western countries recently shows the power that just a few fanatics can have. Finally, there is a peculiar dynamic going on in the Islamic world: most people do not trust their governments or media to be reporting the truth, so they refuse to believe that the jihadis are carrying out these terrible atrocities. It's far more satisfying to believe that the government/US/Zionists are lying about all this rather than to confront the fact that someone has hijacked your religion for their own purposes.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Thoughts of a Syrian Reformer

MEMRI has some excerpts of recent writings by liberal Syrian author Nidhal Na'isa. The following passage in particular explains how an environment of censorship and conformity fosters the growth of Islamist extremism:

When asked about the phenomenon of increasing religiosity in Syria, Na'isa said that it was part of "the spread of the culture of the herd and 'group' thinking, which means the negation of the individual and the individual's importance in creation, development, and originality."

He continued: "Western civilization was founded on unleashing individual initiative and glorification of individual reason - and not collective reason, which is generally emotive and not of sound judgment.

"In our totalitarian societies, the collective 'I' prevails over the individual 'I,' and all become equals under the podiums of the [Islamic] jurisprudents. Leaving [the fold of] collective thought is considered error, heresy, and atheism…"

Na'isa's praise for the West does not, however, extend to current U.S. policy in the region, which he feels has been counterproductive and has fed extremism: "Much of the religiosity in our societies is based on the principle 'not out of love for 'Ali, but in order to spite Mu'awiya,' [i.e.] in order to spite the current regimes, and in order to goad George Bush and the U.S., which acts in a reckless, thoughtless, and foolish manner, and, through its policies, increases the strength of this [fundamentalist] current…

"So long as the [Syrian] nationalist opposition forces remain repressed and banned, and religious activity is the sole [kind of activity] permitted and tolerated, many will see in it a shelter for the expression of… their identities as [people who] reject the Arab constellation of despotism…"

(Emphasis added-DD)

Minding the Campus

Courtesy of Instapundit, here's a link to an interesting new resource "dedicated to the revival of intellectual pluralism and the best traditions of liberal education at America's universities":

Minding the Campus

Friday, May 18, 2007

Web Censorship on the Rise

The BBC has the details:

The level of state-led censorship of the net is growing around the world, a study of so-called internet filtering by the Open Net Initiative suggests.

The study of thousands of websites across 120 Internet Service Providers found 25 of 41 countries surveyed showed evidence of content filtering.

Websites and services such as Skype and Google Maps were blocked, it said.

Such "state-mandated net filtering" was only being carried out in "a couple" of states in 2002, one researcher said.

"In five years we have gone from a couple of states doing state-mandated net filtering to 25," said John Palfrey, at Harvard Law School.

Mr Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, added: "There has also been an increase in the scale, scope and sophistication of internet filtering."

The following is the list of countries surveyed where filtering occurs:

Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Burma/Myanmar, China, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, UAE, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

An Interview with Irshad Manji

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has an interview with self-described "Muslim Refusenik" Irshad Manji. Ms. Manji has been outspoken about the need for Muslims to honestly address the problems of the Muslim world and to take responsibility for solving them. She has also stressed the dangers Muslim reformers face when they try to speak out, as this passage from the RFE/RL interview shows:

RFE/RL: What do you say to those critics who argue that you're just part of a very small minority?

Manji: They may be right for now. I just don't know and we don't know until we really give other Muslims the opportunities to speak their mind more freely. The assumption of that criticism is that there aren't reform-minded Muslims out there; but my own experience shows that this is simply not true.

The problem is [that] the voices of reform-minded Muslims are being muted and are being suppressed; and they're being suppressed by one thing, and that is fear. It is the fear that comes from intimidation, which is why I and a group of reform-minded Muslims have launched a project [called] Ijtihad -- "ijtihad" being Islam's own tradition of critical thinking and debate and dissent. Project Ijtihad aims to build the world's most inclusive network of reform-minded Muslims, and we want to show two points: one, that Islam gives us the permission to be thoughtful and faithful at the same time; and, secondly, the more of us who come out of the shadows and begin to speak and think freely, the more other reform-minded Muslims will see that they are not alone.

Please read the rest.

Update: Ms. Manji will actually be speaking at ALA Annual next month.

Hitchens on Londonistan

Christopher Hitchens has written a superb essay on the growth of radical Islamism in the UK for the June 2007 issue of Vanity Fair. For several decades, Britain has allowed Islamist refugees from the Middle East to come and spread their totalitarian ideology while exploiting the very freedoms they seek to destroy. The situation had become so bad by the 1990s that French intelligence started referring to London as "Londonistan". Hitchens describes the thoroughly chilling results of this process.

In particular, he notes that it is moderate and reformist Muslims who have been the most outspoken in condemning the spread of Islamist radicalism. They have done so in the face of both Islamist threats and intimidation and left-wing British elites content to wallow in multicultural platitudes:

It's interesting that it should be authors from Muslim backgrounds—Salman Rushdie, Hanif Kureishi, Monica Ali, the broadcaster and co-author of the Policy Exchange report Munira Mirza—who are issuing the warnings. For the British mainstream, multiculturalism has been the official civic religion for so long that any criticism of any minority group has become the equivalent of profanity. And Islamic extremists have long understood that they need only suggest a racial bias—or a hint of the newly invented and meaningless term "Islamophobia"—in order to make the British cough and shuffle with embarrassment. Prince Charles himself, the heir to the throne and thus the heir to the headship of the Church of England, has announced his sympathy for Islam and his wish to be the head of all faiths and not just one. This may sound good, if absurd (a chinless prince who becomes head of a church because his mother dies?), but only if you forget that it was Prince Charles who encouraged the late King Fahd, of Saudi Arabia, to contribute more than a million pounds to build … the Finsbury Park Mosque! If you want my opinion, our old district was a lot better off when the crowned heads of the world were busy neglecting it.

Anyway, you can't be multicultural and preach murderous loathing of Jews, Britain's oldest and most successful (and most consistently anti-racist) minority. And you can't be multicultural and preach equally homicidal hatred of India, Britain's most important ally and friend after the United States. My colleague Henry Porter sat me down in his West London home and made me watch a documentary that he thought had received far too little attention when shown on Britain's Channel 4. It is entitled Undercover Mosque, and it shows film shot in quite mainstream Islamic centers in Birmingham and London (you can now find it easily on the Internet). And there it all is: foaming, bearded preachers calling for crucifixion of unbelievers, for homosexuals to be thrown off mountaintops, for disobedient and "deficient" women to be beaten into submission, and for Jewish and Indian property and life to be destroyed. "You have to bomb the Indian businesses, and as for the Jews, you kill them physically," as one sermonizer, calling himself Sheikh al-Faisal, so prettily puts it. This stuff is being inculcated in small children—who are also informed that the age of consent should be nine years old, in honor of the prophet Muhammad's youngest spouse. Again, these were not tin-roof storefront mosques but well-appointed and well-attended places of worship, often the beneficiaries of Saudi Arabian largesse. It's not just the mosques, either. In West London there is a school named for Prince Charles's friend King Fahd, with 650 pupils, funded and run by the government of Saudi Arabia. According to Colin Cook, a British convert to Islam (initially inspired by the former crooner Cat Stevens) who taught there for 19 years, teaching materials said that Jews "engage in witchcraft and sorcery and obey Satan," and incited pupils to list the defects of worthless heresies such as Judaism and Christianity.

(Emphasis added-DD)

In addition, Hitchens ably disposes of the canard that this is all because of Iraq:

What this shows is the utter futility of the soft-centered explanations of the 7/7 bombings and other outrages. It was argued for a while that the 7/7 perpetrators were victims of unemployment and poverty, until their remains were identified and it became clear that most of them came from educated and reasonably well-off backgrounds. The excuses then abruptly switched, and we were asked to believe that it was Tony Blair's policy in Iraq and Afghanistan that motivated the killers. Suppose the latter to be true. It would still be the case that they belong to a movement that hates Jews and Indians and all kuffar, or "unbelievers": a fanatical sect that believes itself entitled to use deadly violence at any time. The roots of violence, that is to say, are in the preaching of it, and the sanctification of it.

(Emphasis added-DD)

During the 1989 controversy over Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, British Muslims publicly burned copies of the book and demanded Rushdie's death. Since then, according to Hitchens, the virus of Islamist intolerance has become even worse:

It's impossible to exaggerate how far and how fast this situation has deteriorated. Even at the time of the Satanic Verses affair, as long ago as 1989, Muslim demonstrations may have demanded Rushdie's death, but they did so, if you like, peacefully. And they confined their lurid rhetorical attacks to Muslims who had become apostate. But at least since the time of the Danish-cartoon furor, threats have been made against non-Muslims as well as ex-Muslims (see photograph), the killing of Shiite Muslim heretics has been applauded and justified, and the general resort to indiscriminate violence has been rationalized in the name of god. Traditional Islamic law says that Muslims who live in non-Muslim societies must obey the law of the majority. But this does not restrain those who now believe that they can proselytize Islam by force, and need not obey kuffar law in the meantime. I find myself haunted by a challenge that was offered on the BBC by a Muslim activist named Anjem Choudary: a man who has praised the 9/11 murders as "magnificent" and proclaimed that "Britain belongs to Allah." When asked if he might prefer to move to a country which practices Shari'a, he replied: "Who says you own Britain anyway?" A question that will have to be answered one way or another.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Does anyone still want to argue that the spread of such an ideology is not a serious threat to intellectual freedom?

Christophobia in Pakistan

This week, representatives of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) met in Islamabad, Pakistan in order to discuss ways of "countering discrimination and intolerance against Muslims and defamation of Islam". The Arab News summarizes the proceedings to date:

Foreign ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) yesterday expressed grave concern at the rising tide of discrimination and intolerance against Muslims, especially in Europe and North America. “It is something that has assumed xenophobic proportions,” they said in unison.

(Link via Jihad Watch)

If the foreign ministers of the OIC member states are truly interested in combating intolerance and xenophobia, they need only start with events a few hundred miles away, in Pakistan's northwest tribal territories. The BBC has the details:

Christians in north-west Pakistan are demanding government protection following threats of bomb attacks if they do not become Muslims.

An unsigned letter received 10 days ago said they had to convert by Thursday.

Militants have been carrying out a sustained campaign to prevent "anti-Islamic" activities in North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Last week they blew up a number of music and video shops in the towns of Charsadda and Tangi.

The Christian community, a tiny minority, received an anonymous letter demanding they convert or face the consequences.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says that while a few families have left, the rest live in fear.

(Emphasis added-DD)

The "militants" in question are the Taliban, who have succeeded in establishing an "Islamic Emirate" in the tribal areas to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. The attempt to compel the Christians of Charsadda to convert to Islam is merely part of their broader effort to impose Islamist totalitarianism in the NWFP. This May 10th piece from the Associated Press provides some additional examples:

Other recent examples are bombings of music stores — including two blasts in Charsadda last week — threats to barbers not to shave customers' beards and pressure for the closure of schools for girls.

Iqbal Khan, another local police official, said a small bomb tied to a motorcycle exploded in Charsadda late Wednesday, damaging several CD shops. He said authorities had yet to make any arrests over the bombings.

As the above shows, the Christians of Charsadda are right to take these threats seriously. Today is the deadline for them to convert or face violence. Meanwhile, the representatives of the OIC are too busy playing victim politics and whining about "Islamophobia" to condemn the actual intolerance and xenophobia in their own backyard.

Land of Tolerance Update

Azerbaijan has sentenced two more journalists to prison. Agence France Presse has the details:

Editor-in-chief Rovsan Kabirli and reporter Yasar Agazada of the opposition newspaper Muxalifet were given prison terms of two-and-a-half years each after being convicted of libel.

Five other journalists have been jailed in Azerbaijan over the past year.

The charges were brought by parliamentarian Jalal Aliyev, the uncle of President Ilham Aliyev, after a February article alleged improper business activities by Aliyev family members.

"This is a very harsh and inadequate decision," the journalists' lawyer, Rasid Hadjili, said, adding that the ruling appeared to have been "ordered" by the authorities.

Azerbaijan's persecution of journalists has been condemned in recent months by the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, the Council of Europe, and the US embassy.

Earlier this month, Azerbaijan said it would no longer cooperate with Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, which has included Ilham Aliyev among its "Press Freedom Predators" and ranked the country 135th out of 168 in its 2006 Press Freedom Index.

Unlike the Rafiq Tagi affair, which was about imprisoning critics of Islam in order to appease Azeri Islamists and their Iranian patrons, this was "merely" a case of a corrupt authoritarian regime trying to silence domestics critics. Unfortunately, in the Islamic world, regimes that practice the latter form of censorship also tend to engage in the former.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Zimbabwe Watch: 5-16-07

Imagine if, in the 1930s, the League of Nations had appointed Nazi Germany to head a hypothetical commission charged with combating anti-Semitism. That is the analogy that comes to mind in light of Zimbabwe's appointment to chair the UN's Commission on Sustainable Development. The Times of London explains:

ZIMBABWE may have left 700,000 of its citizens without accommodation by bulldozing their homes, caused millions more to starve after violent land seizures that destroyed farming and so mismanaged its own economy that it has the world’s highest inflation. But it has been chosen to head a United Nations body charged with promoting economic progress and environmental protection.

Western countries and human rights organisations were outraged yesterday by the choice of Zimbabwe to chair the UN commission on sustainable development. The British government condemned Zimbabwe’s election as “wholly inconsistent” with the body’s aims.

The decision to put Zimbabwe in charge of the commission was made by its fellow African nations. The Christian Science Monitor examines their motivations for this seemingly inexplicable move:

By giving Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe the yearlong chairmanship, Africa has signaled defiance of the West, which has attempted to isolate Zimbabwe for alleged human rights abuses and economic mismanagement.

Many African nations have grown increasingly frustrated by the development policies of Western donors that they see as intrusive and harsh. When Australia cancels a cricket tour to Zimbabwe, as it did this week, or when the European Union refuses to hold an EU-Africa summit, as it has for the past six years, because of Mr. Mugabe, many Africans see the pressure as neocolonial habits that must be broken. For many across the continent, Mugabe's muscular land confiscation from white farmers and talk of social justice still have appeal.

In a recent piece for the New York Sun, Tawanda Mutasah describes exactly what this "talk of social justice" looks like in practice:

I had never seen a combat machine gun in a civilian hospital until the day I went to Harare's Avenues Clinic to visit two women, pro-democracy leaders who had just survived a brutal, methodical beating at the hands of the police.

"We went through unspeakable torture. Each time that night when we heard the sound of boots returning, our bowels loosened," Grace Kwinjeh said of the ordeal she and Sekai Holland, 64, underwent.

Now they were attempting to heal while under armed guard, hearing those same boots approaching their bedsides intermittently throughout the night.

Zimbabwe's "3/11" — the day 50 people set out to attend a prayer meeting but ended up suffering hours of torture by security agents — shocked the world and raised hopes that President Mugabe's impunity might at last be halted.

But barely a month later, the television news cameras are pointing elsewhere, and international leaders are switching off their phones, declining to hear the shrill cries coming out of Zimbabwe. Why?

As Mr. Mutasah notes, it is Zimbabwe's neighbors that have been instrumental in preventing the international community from taking sterner measures to stop Mugabe's atrocities.

Finally, this recent item from Agence France Presse reminds us of the importance the Mugabe regime places on silencing independent media:

A Zimbabwean court has turned down a request to allow two sister newspapers shut down by the government four years ago to resume publishing, media reports said Thursday.


The newspapers were shut down in September 2003 for breaching the country's tough media laws by operating without obtaining a license from a state-appointed commission.

The Media and Information Commission (MIC) has twice refused to grant ANZ a license despite a supreme court ruling in March 2005 that threw out the ban.

Gowora questioned a government delay in appointing an impartial body to deal with ANZ's application after the supreme court declared the MIC biased.

"It is obvious in this case that further delay in dealing with the registration of the applicant will cause prejudice to the applicant and, in an abstract sense, to its readership," the privately-owned Financial Gazette quoted the judge as saying. "The applicant made its application in 2003 and, four years on, it has not been registered."

In its heyday, The Daily News had a circulation of 150,000 and offered an alternative voice to the state media.

In short, most African regimes would rather stick it to The Man than do anything about the monster in their midst. Is it any wonder why so much of that continent is in such horrific shape?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Imam Agrees to Resign

The Imam of the Johnstown (PA) Islamic Center, Fouad ElBayly, has submitted his resignation as requested. ElBayly recently stated that Ayaan Hirsi Ali deserved to be killed for her comments harshly critical of Islam.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The World's Worst Regimes

Freedom House has just released its annual list of the world's most repressive regimes. Middle East Times has a useful summary:

North Korea, Sudan, and Uzbekistan continue to be among the most repressive countries in the world, a Washington-based group said.

According to the democracy advocacy group Freedom House, those countries stood out even among the 17 nations that were found to have the worst record for political rights and civil liberties over the last five years or more.

"Repressive regimes can be incredibly resilient," said Arch Puddington, director of research at the Washington-based group. "Some of the countries on this list are global bullies; others are responsible for unspeakable humanitarian crises. In practically every case, these regimes are resistant to change and are indifferent to their citizens' political rights, civil liberties, and basic human needs."

The other 14 nations that were named in the group's latest annual study on the world's most repressive regimes are: Belarus, Burma, China, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Laos, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Zimbabwe. Also included in the list were three territories: Chechnya, Tibet, and Western Sahara.

The Wrong Remedy

Jorg Luyken has a thought-provoking op-ed in the Jerusalem Post on how to deal with Holocaust denial and other forms of hate speech:

In April, the European Union outlawed racism, xenophobia and the "denial of genocide," though the legislation, known as a "Framework Decision," did not mention anti-Semitism or the Holocaust by name.

The legislation, promoted by Germany, criminalizes "publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivializing crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes."

While at first blush this sounds like a good idea, it actually reinforces a closed-minded attitude promoted by Europe's well-meaning elite. It is a mind-set that is slowly impinging on people's freedom of speech and which - in the long run - may lead to a backlash from the very extremists the legislation aims to silence.

While I don't agree with all his points, I think his essential argument is correct:

HOWEVER, passing restrictive laws seems to be turning a blind eye to the root causes of these tensions. Just as you are not going to convince someone that it is wrong to insult another person's religion by making it illegal to do so, you are not going to convince skeptics that an act of genocide happened by making it illegal to say it did not.

The fact is that legislating what we can and cannot discuss is inherently anti-liberal and goes against the very ethos of an open debate that leads to a better understanding of history. It also shows up governments which claim to care so much for our individual freedoms as being hypocritical.

No matter how well intentioned, allowing governmental authorities to define the terms of speech or debate sets a very dangerous precedent.

Imam Asked to Resign

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Fouad ElBayly, the Johnstown, PA, imam who recently said that Ayaan Hirsi Ali deserves death for her views, has been asked to resign:

ElBayly, who tried to block Hirsi Ali's campus appearance, said her attacks on the Muslim faith were "poisonous." He did not threaten her, but explained that "all of her lies" warrant a death sentence.

"The board and members of the Islamic Center of Johnstown were shocked and regret the comments made by Imam ElBayly regarding the visit of author Ms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The statements regarding the Islamic Center's reaction to her visit were incorrect, unfounded and not the views of its members," Dennis J. Stofko, the center's attorney, said in a letter to the Tribune-Review.

(Link courtesy of Jihad Watch)

The Islamic Center of Johnstown has made the right decision. If Don Imus can lose his job for saying something insulting about female basketball players, then ElBayly should certainly lose his after calling for someone to be killed just because of their ideas. It is important that American Muslims not allow the fanatical intolerance of people like ElBayly to take root in their community.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Persecution of Rafiq Tagi

In late April, the nation of Azerbaijan hosted a special meeting on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Entitled "The Role of Media in the Development of Tolerance and Mutual Understanding", the Jakarta Post described the conference as part of an "effort to curb growing trends of Islamophobia".

At the conference, held from April 26-27, numerous complaints were made about the alleged anti-Muslim bias of the Western media. Of course, little mention was made of the widespread anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism in Muslim media outlets. At the same time, Azerbaijan's foreign minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, described his country as a "land of tolerance".

On May 4th, just a few days after the conference delegates had departed from the "land of tolerance", Azerbaijan showed its commitment to acting against "bias against Islam" in the media. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has the details:

A district court in Baku today sentenced two journalists to jail terms for an article that was deemed to be critical of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

Correspondent Rafik Tagi received a three-year prison sentence, while his editor, Samir Sadagatoglu, received a four-year sentence.

According to RFE/RL, "(t)he scene inside the courtroom was chaotic, with Islamists chanting prayers in an attempt to prevent the lawyer representing Tagi and Sadagatoglu from addressing the court."

The BBC, Reporters Sans Frontieres, and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have additional details on the verdict.

I have blogged about the case of Rafiq Tagi on a number of occasions. After Tagi wrote a November 2006 article critical of Islam's impact on his country's development, he and Sadaqatoglu have become victims not only of official persecution, but of an orchestrated campaign of incitement by Azeri Islamists backed by Iran. In fact, three Iranian clerics have issued fatwas calling for Tagi's murder.

Tagi and Sadaqatoglu are not the only journalists to be subjected to violence or imprisonment by Azerbaijan's authoritarian regime. On April 20th, newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for "defaming" and "insulting" Azeris. A journalist who testified on Fatullayev's behalf was attacked and beaten that same evening. According to the OSCE, Azerbaijan has imprisoned more journalists than any other member state. The situation has become so bad that the CPJ just named Azerbaijan one of its 10 worst "backsliders" on press freedom.

The case of Rafiq Tagi combines many of the elements that threaten intellectual freedom in the Muslim world. You have radical Islamist clerics issuing fatwas calling for the murder of those who express "blasphemous" opinions; a radical Islamist movement waging an organized campaign against the expression of views critical of Islam, as a means of both expanding their power and silencing moderate and reformist Muslims; and finally, a corrupt, brutal, authoritarian regime that censors the media and suppresses "anti-Islamic" viewpoints in a futile effort to appease the Islamists. These all too common conditions have led to the persecution of Tagi, Sadaqatoglu, and countless other freethinkers throughout the Islamic world.

It is incumbent on the US government, the OSCE, and all interested non-governmental organizations to do everything possible to free these two brave men.

Fictition Exposed

The Weekly Standard web site has a highly informative and entertaining review by Louis Wittig of the new documentary Manufacturing Dissent. The film in question is a thorough demolition of the work of Michael Moore, from two left of center Canadian filmmakers:

For Moore's detractors, Manufacturing Dissent offers a freezer full of red meat, although Caine and Melnyk don't dwell on it. Because while Moore may be a less-than-ideal human being, it is his work, not his character, which is uniquely repellant.

For instance, in one old interview featured in Manufacturing Dissent, the Canadian film critic David Gilmour asks Moore to respond to criticism that his 1995 comedy Canadian Bacon wasn't that funny. Instead of laughing it off, Moore glares at Gilmour and calls him a snob. When another film critic asks Moore about the honesty of his slick editing in Roger & Me, Moore accuses him of being a tool of GM. Caine recalls an interview with one of Moore's friends that didn't make the final cut. "He said 'Michael has an almost pathological need to be right. If you look at a lot of what he does in that light, it makes sense."

Again, I renew my (thoroughly hopeless) call for this film to be shown at ALA Annual, just as Fahrenheit 9/11 was.

Scenes from Malaysia's Culture War

Here are two recent developments from Malaysian Islamists' culture war against tolerance, both reported by Middle East Times:

-Authorities in a Malaysian state plan to use exorcists to deal with holders of "deviant" Islamic beliefs:

Kelantan's Islamic Affairs Department director, Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman, said that the exorcists were well-versed in the Koran and would drive out evil spirits from cult followers who follow "deviant" teachings, the Star reported.


"This is where exorcism may be needed to flush out the unhealthy elements through spiritual Islamic teachings," he said.

Mainly Muslim Malaysia is always on the lookout for Islamic cults that it says deviate from traditional teachings and practice.

Abdul Aziz said that authorities had identified 16 cults in the state in the past decade and had jailed, whipped, or fined members found guilty of spreading irregular teachings.

-In an unprecedented verdict, a court awarded custody of the children of a mixed Hindu-Muslim marriage to the Hindu father. Of course, if it wasn't for the Islamists, the couple wouldn't be apart to begin with:

Selangor Islamic authorities last month forcibly separated ethnic Indian P. Marimuthu from his ethnic Indian Muslim wife of 21 years, Raimah Bibi Noordin and six of their seven children.

During a high court hearing west of Kuala Lumpur, Raimah, 39, clad in traditional Malay floor-length attire with a Muslim headscarf, told the judge that she was voluntarily giving up custody of her children.

"I agree to hand over the custody of my children to my husband to be raised as Hindus," Raimah said, before she broke down in tears.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Tragically, while Raimah will have visitation rights, she will continue to be kept apart from her family:

Islamic authorities said that they separated the couple after they recently found out that she was a Muslim.

"I have had discussions with my husband ... with regard to the predicament facing the both of us, and I hereby state that I was born a Muslim and I wish to continue professing the Islamic faith," Raimah said in an affidavit to the court.

Marimuthu has said that Raimah, an ethnic Indian, was adopted by an Indian Muslim family but was a practicing Hindu.

They were married 21 years ago according to Hindu rites and raised their seven children, aged four to 14, as Hindus, he said.

Such a vile display of intolerant fanaticism makes a mockery of the Malaysian constitution's guarantee of religious freedom.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Unique Library Fundraising

Authorities in Vienna, Austria have developed a unique new method of raising funds for renovating the main public library: a "sex hotline". CNN has the details.

I bet it works.

Islamism in Nigeria Update

Middle East Times reports the latest on the imposition of Islamism in northern Nigeria:

Authorities in the most populous state in northern Nigeria have made it compulsory for pupils in all schools in the state to abide by an Islamic dress code.

"All private schools in the state are hereby directed to ensure their ... pupils observe the dress code in accordance with the tradition and beliefs of our people," Kano governor Ibrahim Shekarau said late Thursday in the state capital.

"This is in line with our resolve to bring about a positive change in the attitude of our students and to strengthen their morality," Shekarau told a large crowed of veiled schoolgirls.

"We do not expect any private school in this state to fail in this regard", Shekarau said without giving details about penalties.

State schools in Kano have been obliged to follow a Muslim dress code since 2003 when Shekarau was elected on the strength of his promise to implement a stricter version of the Islamic Sharia legal system.

Under the dress code school girls wear a kaftan and trousers or long skirts with a veil and boys wear a kaftan and trousers with a cap.

Introducing Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Many of you who read this blog will by now be familiar with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. For those of you who have yet to hear her story, the best introduction I can recommend is this Jerusalem Post column by Caroline Glick:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is arguably the bravest and most remarkable woman of our times.

To understand why this 37-year-old woman is extraordinary, she must be assessed in the context of the forces pitted against her in her twin struggles to force the Western world to take note of Islam's divinely ordained enslavement of women, and to force the Islamic world to account for it.

A series of incidents this week placed the forces she battles in stark relief. Sunday Muslims shot up the Omariyah elementary school in Gaza. One man was killed and six were wounded in the onslaught. The murderers attacked because the UN-run school in Rafah had organized a sports day for the children, in which little boys would be playing with little girls.

The idea that that boys and girls might play sports together was too much for the righteous believers. It was an insult to Islam, they said. And so they decided to kill the little boys and girls.

On May 3, in Gujrat, Pakistan, Muslims detonated a bomb at the gate of a girls' school. Their righteous wrath was raised by the notion that girls would learn to read and write. That too, they felt, is an insult to Islam.

On April 28, US soldiers in Iraq discovered detonation wires across the street from the newly built Huda Girls' school in Tarmiya, north of Baghdad. They followed the wire to its source and discovered the school had been built as a deathtrap. The pious Muslims who constructed the school had filled propane tanks with explosives and buried them beneath the floor. They built artillery shells into the ceiling and the floor. To save the world for Allah, they decided to butcher little girls.

And the brutality is not limited to the Middle East. Last month in Oslo, Norway, Norwegian-Somali women's rights activist Kadra was brutally beaten by a crowd of men piously calling out "Allah Akhbar." She was attacked for exposing the fact that inside their mosques in Norway, Norwegian imams praise female genital mutilation in the name of Allah.

Our World: Hirsi Ali's challenge to humanity

Monday, May 07, 2007

School Attack in Gaza

Over the course of the last few months, radical Islamists in the Palestinian Gaza Strip have waged a brutal campaign against any form of expression considered "unislamic". Their efforts have included bombings of literally dozens of Internet cafes and music shops, a Christian library, and the American International School.

On Sunday, the Islamists took their campaign to a new level, launching an armed assault on a school where a sports festival was taking place. CNN has an overview of the incident, while the Jerusalem Post has the most detailed account of Sunday's events:

Witnesses told The Jerusalem Post that at least 70 Muslim fundamentalists participated in the attack on the Omariya School, where UNRWA and PA officials were attending a celebration.

The director of UNRWA operations in the Gaza Strip, John Ging, was inside the school at the time. He was not hurt, as PA policemen whisked him away to a safe location.

"The protesters surrounded the school and began chanting slogans denouncing the event as immoral," said one witness. "Their main argument was that girls and boys were asked to dance together in violation of Islamic teachings. This is a false claim because I didn't see a mixed gathering."

Another witness said the protesters threw a number of hand grenades and opened fire with automatic rifles as participants prepared to leave the school premises.

"It was a large organized attack on the elementary school," he said. "This is something unprecedented. It's a miracle that many people were not killed."

(Emphasis added-DD)

The Post offers additional background on the perpetrators of the incident, who are unsurprisingly identified as Salafists:

Salafism is a branch of Islam that is often referred to as Wahhabi - a derogatory term that many adherents to this tradition avoid using. Salafis believe that Islam declined as a result of foreign innovations (bid'ah) and seek an Islamic revival through the purging of these influences and the emulation of the early generations of Islam.

Unlike Hamas, the Salafis believe that Muslims should not engage in politics. Instead, they argue, Muslims should stick to Islamic activities, particularly jihad, and promote Shari'a rather than an Islamic political program or state.

The Salafis and other al-Qaida-linked groups, including the Righteous Swords of Islam, are believed to be behind a series of attacks on young women, Internet cafes, hair salons, restaurants, schools and foreigners in the Gaza Strip over the past two years.

"These groups have attracted many young men, including high school students, who are disillusioned with Hamas," said a PA security official. "They have killed several women in the Gaza Strip in the past few months after accusing them of being prostitutes."

(Emphasis added-DD)

When Hamas are the moderates, the situation is pretty bleak indeed.

Book Banning Justified in India

The AsiaMedia site has a depressing article from the May 6th Times of India. According to the piece, India's Supreme Court has just issued a decision that justifies the Indian government banning books:

"It is true that forfeiture of a newspaper or book or a document is a serious encroachment on the right of a citizen, but if forfeiture is called for in the public interest it must without a doubt have pre-eminence over any individual interest," a Bench of Justices B P Singh and H S Bedi observed while upholding the Karnataka government's decision to ban a vernacular novel.

The novel Dharmakaarana on 12th century saint Basaveshwara, also known as Basvanna, contained alleged derogatory references to the sage and was banned in 1995 by the state government following a public outcry.

It was banned by invoking section 95 of CrPC under which the government can ban any book or publication that contains objectionable matter that is intended to promote feelings of enmity and hatred between different classes of citizens.

Author P V Narayana and others challenged the ban in the Karnataka High Court, which upheld the government's decision. Following this, an appeal was filed in the Supreme Court.

Elsewher in the article, the court's decision is explained in greater detail:

Rejecting the appeal, Justice Bedi said there could be no doubt that freedom of speech and expression is an important right and should be available to all.

At the same time, while exercising this right one should be careful not to hurt others' feelings. Advocating a compassionate approach towards the minorities, the apex court said: "The weaker section among the vast population must be shown extra care and consideration."

So, in India, essentially any book that offends members of a particular ethnic or religious group can be banned. It beggars belief how such a principle can be considered compatible with free expression.