|Is it Politically Correct to Abuse Islam?|
BY AFIA KHAN (Khaleej Times Editorial) 1 April 2008:
ONCE again the ‘freedom of expression’ bug has smitten the West. Though Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, feminists and even Blacks have managed to inoculate themselves against its abuse, with the Western media becoming more mindful of their sensitivities, Muslims frequently find themselves exposed to its most virulent strain.
Somehow, it has become politically correct and morally commendable in the West to subject Muslims and their religion to the most vulgar and inane insults in the name of this freedom. However, the several simultaneous and sudden attacks by Western media and politicians on Muslims in recent days seem to be as synchronised as they are insidious.
So when the far-right Dutch politician Geerth Wilders, who openly claims to be a Mossad-affiliate, makes an incendiary anti-Islam film and launches it on the Internet, the self-styled champions of freedom of expression come out to defend it, although the movie purportedly seeks to ban a religious book.
Even more curious is the fact that the Netherlands, far from taking any action against Wilders, asks the EU to hold a high-level summit in anticipation of the film sparking violence in the region. For its part, the EU also reportedly assures the Dutch government of supporting it in the cause of ‘freedom of expression.’
Similarly, it is difficult to understand how 17 Danish newspapers recently decided to simultaneously republish highly offensive anti-Islam cartoons, despite having known that these cartoons had sparked worldwide protests and uproar when they were first published by the Jylland Posten newspaper two years ago.
Like Netherlands, the Danish government has also showed its aversion to taking any action against the newspapers. In fact it has said it will itself stand guard over ‘freedom of expression.’
It would be only pertinent to raise the question that if Denmark is such a passionate advocate of freedom of expression, why does it have punishments written down in its penal code against libel and blasphemy. It is important to note that these provisions are not limited to violations against the Christian or Jewish faiths only, but to all people living legally in the country. Thus # 140 of the Danish penal code states:
"Anybody who publicly mocks or insults any in this country legally existing religious community tenets of faith or worship, will be punished by fine or imprisonment for up to 4 months." The Danish government could have also taken action against newspapers over the publication of the offensive cartoons under other sections of its penal code, such as # 266b that states:
"Whoever publicly, or with intention to disseminating in a larger circle makes statements or other pronouncement, by which a group of persons is threatened, derided or degraded because of their race, colour of skin, national or ethnic background, faith or sexual orientation, will be punished by fine or imprisonment for up to 2 years.
Sec 2. When meting out the punishment it shall be considered an especially aggravating circumstance, if the count has the character of propaganda." However, its is highly unlikely that the Danish government or the EU would heed the plea of the Islamic world, even though Muslims have so far not resorted to any unseemly acts of violence in their protests. In the sam vein, Germany may also lack the political will to prevent the staging of a play based on Salman Rushdie’s novel Satanic Verses in Portsdam on Sunday.
Most Muslims believe that such insults and expressions of hate almost certainly would have been treated differently had they been directed against the Jewish community. Europe has strict laws against anti-Semitism, which no votary of freedom of expression could think of violating.
Even noted academicians who have slightly divergent views on the genocide of the Jews during World War II, either in the manner or the extent described by the current Western scholarship, get the tag of ‘Holocaust denier.’ Over a dozen countries in the world, including all the great votaries of freedom of expression, like France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, consider a partial disagreement with the official account of the holocaust fit enough to be deemed a criminal offence for which a person can be jailed for years.
David Irving, Germar Rudolf, Ernst Zundel, Roger Garaudy, Jean Marie Le Pen, Nick Griffin, Ahmed Rami, Pedro Varela, Carlos Porter, Siegfried Verbeke, Jurgen Graf, Hans Schmidt, Erhard Kemper, Ingrid Weckert, are just some of the scholars, politicians and activists who have been victimised, tried, or jailed for holding differing views on the holocaust than the official historical account. These people should have known the fate of Julius Streicher at the trial of German war criminals at Nuremberg. Streicher, the publisher of the anti-Semitic newspaper Der Stürmer, had argued in his defence that he had not killed anyone, but had merely published a newspaper. However, for causing incitement to genocide, Streicher was hanged to death in Nuremberg on 16 October 1946.
Therefore, freedom of expression has almost become the exclusive preserve of Western powers. For example, when religious symbols were recently banned from French public schools mainly to prevent Muslim girls from wearing headscarves in class, an exception was introduced for Jews and Christians that allowed them to wear of crosses and Stars of David. However, in the post-Iraq war scenario the credibility of Western values is eroding rapidly. Even in the US, the so-called trustworthiness of its mainstream media that is virtually owned by four conglomerates has come under severe strain, especially after its role in misleading the country into the Iraq war and their disregard of the 9/11 truth movement. A CBS/New York Times poll conducted in October 2006 found out that 84 per cent of Americans do not think the US government is telling the truth about the 9/11 attacks. An earlier poll conducted by CNN put the number at 89 per cent.
Yet, the mainstream US media does not publish the ‘evidence’ of the alleged cover-up and dismisses members of the 9/11 Truth Movement as loonies. Many members of this movement are noted public figures, scientists, former senior military and government officials, reputed academicians, scholars, TV and radio talk show hosts etc, who have suffered persecution for expressing their views. Therefore, before presenting itself as the proponent of free expression, Western zealots should first take a look at the hollowness of their claims.
For starters, they should understand that the principles of freedom of expression do not extend to hate campaigns, and that it is time to address the offence and not its reaction.