Freedom of Speech does not mean accepting voices of incivility

Robert Spencer. AP photo

Freedom of Speech does not mean accepting voices of incivility


The First Amendment is one of the most cherished hallmarks of America. There is no other nation on earth that has such a robust right for citizens to articulate their thoughts – including scientific discourse, the ability to challenge the government, and even expressions of hatred and bigotry.

Eastern Michigan University recently hosted a debate on Islam in which an anti-Muslim critic named Robert Spencer was the key participant. People ranging from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to prominent rabbis have criticized anti-Muslim intolerance spewed by Spencer and his affiliate organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

I believe that Spencer has the fundamental right to speak hatefully about fellow Americans. I also know that people of goodwill have the right not to engage him in his rhetoric. Moreover, we have the right to challenge his bigotry by not granting him dignified platforms.

Passivity in the face of hate speech has cumulative consequences. Words matter, and discrimination is inspired by those who have loud voices that repeat sweeping false generalizations and stereotypes.

Spencer – and peers like Pam Geller, Pastor Terry Jones et al who seek attention and revenue from their exploits – come to our region to prove a point about Michigan Muslims that denigrates Muslims who have been here over a century. The oldest mosque in America was established in Highland Park in 1921, and the oldest socio-political expression of American Muslims comes from Detroit. America’s first Muslim judge, Adam Shakoor, hails from Detroit, and America’s first Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison, is a Detroit native and Wayne State graduate.

Muslims guided by faith have been overwhelmingly law-abiding, peaceful and productive citizens of Michigan and America in general – counter to Spencer’s narrative.

We don’t have control over the United Kingdom barring Spencer from speaking there, nor do we have influence over other governments and people to force them to live according to American standards. We do, however, have the ability to influence civility. This includes pushing back against those who foment ethnic and religious intolerance such as Spencer and his acolytes. I encourage government officials and interfaith leaders to use their freedom of speech to drown out the speech of Spencer, Westboro Baptist Church and other merchants of vitriol who seek to prosper off of the backs of Michiganians.

Lars Vilks defends decision to join Geller’s hate fest: “If the Ku Klux Klan had invited me, I would have gone”

Your right to draw anything you want, anyway you want it, without fear of violence is a right that must be protected, even if it is offensive.

But should you draw Prophet Mohammed as a dog and then join the hate group SION for an anti-Muslim hate-bash to commemorate 9/11? I believe that says something about where you are coming from in regards to Muslims, and it is not good, but hey I guess Lars so hates the Muslim community now that he would be willing to accept an invitation from the KKK if it was about bashing Muslims.

Lars Vilks defends decision to join Geller’s hate fest

Swedish artist Lars Vilks has defended his decision to speak at an anti-Islamic conference in New York on September 11th, claiming he would also accept an invitation from the Ku Klux Klan.

Vilks, the Swedish artist who enraged Muslim groups with his depictions of the Prophet Muhammad as a dog, agreed earlier this month to speak at a conference organized by the anti-Muslim group Stop Islamization of Nations (SION).

Last week, however, an art gallery in northern Sweden booted him from a planned group exhibition because of his decision to accept the SION invitation. Several of the other participating artists pulled out in solidarity with Vilks, stirring up a debate in Sweden this week about artistic freedom and Islamophobia. The art exhibition, which was due to open on September 30th, has since been cancelled.

In a lengthy interview published in the Aftonbladet newspaper on Thursday, Vilks defended his decision to speak at the SION event. “If the Ku Klux Klan had invited me, I would have gone,” he told the paper.

The Local, 31 August 2012

Fake enlightened liberal democrats making excuses for anti-Muslim bigotry

These are the type of guys that Spencer wants to see an alliance with, they repeat much of the same mantra as it is.

We have detailed a lot of anti-Muslim bigotry on the religious right-wing, but lest anyone think the religious right has a monopoly on Islamophobia, rest assured that some people on the left-wing have their own reasons for stereotyping and scapegoating Muslims. This is what we find in the latest hit piece by Pascal Bruckner, one of the nouveaux (“new”) French philosophers who defends loons like Ayan Hirsi Ali.

A common talking-point ceaselessly echoed in the Islamophobic blogosphere is that the term “Islamophobia” is part of a draconian conspiracy to silence anti-Muslim whistle-blowing. For example, the vitriolic hate site BareNakedIslam has a catch phrase, “It isn’t Islamophobia when they really ARE trying to kill you!” by which they imply that Islam and every Muslim wants to kill you. In this fashion, Bruckner begins with an incredibly sweeping claim:

Islamophobia was invented to silence those Muslims who question the Koran and who demand equality of the sexes.

At the end of the 1970s, Iranian fundamentalists invented the term “Islamophobia” formed in analogy to “xenophobia”. The aim of this word was to declare Islam inviolate. Whoever crosses this border is deemed a racist. This term, which is worthy of totalitarian propaganda, is deliberately unspecific about whether it refers to a religion, a belief system or its faithful adherents around the world.

We imagine a dim room full of bearded Iranian clerics sinisterly plotting to introduce Islamophobia into the Western lexicon to advance their insidious totalitarian agenda. In reality, far from being “deliberately unspecific,” Islamophobia has been defined by Runnymede Trust as “an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in practices of exclusion and discrimination.” It has been accepted by the United Nations and numerous government officials. Countless manifestations of Islamophobia are documented and recognized. But Bruckner dismisses all the stereotypes, prejudice, and hostility being thrown at Muslims as figments of our imagination. That is certainly shocking news to Columbia University Press and victims of the Bosnian Genocide.

Islamophobia was an important driving force behind the latest legally recognized genocide in Europe. According to Dr. Norman Cigar at the Strategic Studies Institute, the Serbians’ Islamophobic propaganda was necessary to justify the genocide:

In particular, these [Serbian] intellectuals have been instrumental in establishing and cementing an in-group/out-group dichotomy between the Muslims and the Serbs based on stereotypes, a fact which has been central to forming the environment and establishing the legitimacy for much of the violence that occurred.

[Qureshi, E., & Sells, M. A. (2003). The new crusades: Constructing the Muslim enemy. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 314]

It is precisely this “in-group/out-group” dichotomy promoted by Islamophobes, anti-Semites, racists, and other bigots that leads to so much civil strife and violence, including genocide. But despite this recent ugly European history, nowhere in his article does Bruckner acknowledge that bigotry against Muslims is a real issue. This is a classic example of Runnymede’s sixth point in their comprehensive definition of Islamophobia: criticism of the West made by Muslims is rejected out of hand.

Nevertheless, Bruckner wants us to believe that everyone who uses the term Islamophobia is simply an agent in the service of Ayatollah Khomeini. Perhaps Bruckner believes former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was secretly working for the Mullahs when he concisely summarized the issue:

When a new word enters the language, it is often the result of a scientific advance or a diverting fad. But when the world is compelled to coin a new term to take account of increasingly widespread bigotry, that is a sad and troubling development. Such is the case with Islamophobia.

In any case, Bruckner hinges his argument on the false premise that Islamophobia targets normal criticism of Islam rather than prejudice and hostility towards Islam. In fact, Muslims largely accept normal criticism of Islam as part of religious freedom. The Quran says:

There is no compulsion in religion. (2:256)

If it had been your Lord’s will, they would all have believed – all who are on earth. Will you then compel mankind, against their will, to believe? (10:99)

Certainly, people who choose not to practice Islam are not Islamophobic. Normal criticism of Islam is acceptable in a modern pluralistic society, as is normal criticism of any religion or ideology. Muslims, like Jews and Christians, have likewise debated and reformed traditional laws on apostasy. However, what is unacceptable in our pluralistic society is spreading hate, intolerance, discrimination, stereotypes, and prejudice. Ignoring this important point, Bruckner pretends the term “Islamophobia” has nothing to do with anti-Muslim hateanti-Muslim violence, or religious discrimination. He sums up his beef:

The term “Islamophobia” serves a number of functions: it denies the reality of an Islamic offensive in Europe all the better to justify it; it attacks secularism by equating it with fundamentalism. Above all, however, it wants to silence all those Muslims who question the Koran, who demand equality of the sexes, who claim the right to renounce religion, and who want to practice their faith freely and without submitting to the dictates of the bearded and doctrinaire. It follows that young girls are stigmatised for not wearing the veil, as are French, German or English citizens of Maghribi, Turkish, African or Algerian origin who demand the right to religious indifference, the right not to believe in God, the right not to fast during Ramadan. Fingers are pointed at these renegades, they are delivered up to the wrath of their religions communities in order to quash all hope of change among the followers of the Prophet.

Let me get the conspiracy theory straight: Islamophobia was invented by Iranian fundamentalists to wage the Eurabia stealth jihad (“Islamic offensive”) and attack secularism, but “above all,” wants to silence any criticism of Islam and prevent any Islamic reform. As we’ve already pointed out, this is completely fabricated nonsense; long on confident presumptuous claims, short on supporting evidence.

Furthermore, Bruckner cares so much about Muslim women being stigmatized for not wearing the veil, but this so-called liberal democrat curiously has no concern for the religious rights of Muslim women who choose to veil out of modesty. It seems the right of people to reject religion is very important to Bruckner, but the right of people to practice religion, not so much. Liberal democracy for you but not for them?

Even the French President has somehow been fooled by the treacherous hidden hand of the Mullahs. He says:

Did not the French president himself, never one to miss a blunder – not compare Islamophobia with Antisemitism? A tragic error.

Of course, the comparison between Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism is perfectly valid. Yet strangely Bruckner, allegedly an enlightened freedom-loving liberal democrat and champion of reason, believes dehumanization of Jews is wrong (and it definitely is) but dehumanization of Muslims is… well, nothing to be concerned about. Rather, we are told Islamophobia is a term meant to “quash all hope of change” instead of protect innocent people from the majority’s bigotry. He concludes:

“Islamophobia” is one of the words that we urgently need to delete from our vocabulary.

Mr. Bruckner, the enlightened liberal democracy I know stands by the human and religious rights of all people with the goal of building a tolerant, pluralistic, fair, and peaceful open society. However, the “enlightenment” you peddle is a poor intellectual articulation of nativist tribalistic (us-versus-them) in-group/out-group populism which thoroughly, and ironically, mirrors the rigid fundamentalism you claim to be against.

In my estimation, you belong in the category of self-serving pseudo-liberal loons like Bill Maher.

Spencer and the Qur’an: Book Burning bad but Book Banning Good

Robert Spencer has a Geert Wilders problem. He is an unabashed supporter of Wilders, citing him as the champion of Western civilization, the only one willing to stand up for our freedoms in the face of the Muslim menace and an individual we should all be supporting.

[I] support Wilders. And so should anyone who holds dear the Western values that are threatened by Islamic supremacists — notably, as I said above, the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, the equality of rights of all people before the law.

But apparently not Freedom of Religion.

Recently Spencer has commented on the Burn a Koran day festivities saying,

I oppose the Qur’an-burning. I don’t like the burning of books…However, these people are free to do what they want to do.

Isn’t Spencer so merciful? Thank you for opposing the burning of books, what a courageous stand for a defender of the West!

But wait Spencer, you oppose burning books but your buddy Geert Wilders has called for the Quran to be banned in the Netherlands.

The Koran must be banned

Pretty unequivocal statement right there. No ifs, ands or buts just plain banning. So when are you going to take a courageous stand and defend Freedom of Speech and Religion by calling your buddy Wilders out for his Nazi like fascistic statement to ban the Quran?

Freedumb of Speech Summit?

Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders

To Freedom of Speech or to Freedumb of Speech?  That is the question. My apologies to Bill Shakespeare but I am actually referring to a real event. Mark your calendars freedom lovers for April 25th — especially if you live near Delray Beach, Florida – for you guys are about to witness a real “love-fest ” in defense of Democracy and Western Civilization.

For $150 you can have the pleasure of listening to one of Europe’s leading Fascists — Geert Wilders – rant about the evils of Islam and Muslims, the need to ban the Koran, its similarities to Hitler’s Mein Kampf and other fun anecdotes.  You’ll also get an opportunity to view his much hyped but universally ignored film Fitna which is just as easily viewable for free online. As you’re passing around the cocktails amongst an audience of the clinically paranoid, wondering what the hell you’re doing there, make sure you at least stay for dinner because for God’s sakes you paid $150 for it.

Bostom Wilders Spencer Geller

Bostom Wilders Spencer Geller

Also on the guest list is Robert Spencer who runs that den of hospitality and enlightened discourse known as JihadWatch. Spencer, known for his selective and misleading mangling of Muslim texts, casting aspersions on all Muslims, and general poor scholarship, is also known for joining a White supremacist group on his personal Facebook account called “Campaign for ‘the Reconquista’ in Anatolia” that states as one of its aims:

the total Reconquest and complete reassymilation of the Anatolia penninsular, eastern Thrace, northern Cyprus, Greater Armenia, The Pontus and Antiochia through the medium of Greek, Armenian, Cypriot, Byzantine, Pontic and Syriac National Sovereignty and on an unconditional basis.

If some of you don’t know why that’s bad, the Anatolian Penninsula is pre-dominantly populated by Turks and Kurds and is 99% Muslim. As of yet, Spencer has not apologized for joining the group or condemned the group’s mission.

Another participant is Brigitte Gabriel, described by the New York Times as a “Radical Islamophobe.” She can’t make up her mind if moderate Muslims exist or not. In a speech given at the conference for Christians United for Israel she stated,

The difference, my friends, between Israel and the Arab world is the difference between civilization and barbarism. It’s the difference between good and evil [applause]…. this is what we’re witnessing in the Arabic world, They have no SOUL !, they are dead set on killing and destruction. And in the name of something they call “Allah” which is very different from the God we believe….[applause] because our God is the God of love.

She also seems to believe as she stated on her Orwellian named organization Act! for America that “Lebanon…is nearly all Islamic.” This is a much needed dose of laughter to go along with her other inanities. Lebanon has a Christian population that is cited as being 39% according to the CIA Factbook while Muslims (including all sects: Shia, Sunni, Druze) account for nearly 60% of the total population. Lebanon is also known for being not only one of the most pluralistic countries in the Middle East but also one of the most Westernized; Beirut itself is known as “the Paris of the Middle East.”

These are just a few of the characters and headliners of this Freedumb of Speech Summit. Sure sounds like fun! A European Fascist hooking up with an American Fascist hooking up with a Lebanese Fascist who believes Arabs have no soul – all in the cause of defending Freedom of Speech and Western Civilization. Birds of a feather flock together couldn’t be a more apt description here.

On the other hand, you might want to skip this Muslim-Bash summit and go over to Disney World. How much are tickets now-a-days? Can’t be any more than $150 and probably would be money better spent.