Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Brief History of the Transatlantic Counterjihad, Part III(b)

Islam over Europe, seen from orbit

This is the fourth of an eight-part history of the Transatlantic Counterjihad. Links to the first three parts are at the bottom of this post. The section on Counterjihad participation at OSCE “Human Dimension” meetings had to be split into two posts, and this is the second of those posts.

A debt of gratitude is owed to the Counterjihad Collective for its efforts in this project.

A Brief History of the Transatlantic Counterjihad
by the Counterjihad Collective

III. The Transatlantic Counterjihad at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (continued)

Speaking in plenary sessions:

Session I:

From Commitments to Implementation: Freedom of Religion or Belief in the OSCE Area

At the beginning of the main session, speakers representing several NGOs made reference to a recent murder in Dresden, Germany, in which a woman of Egyptian descent had been stabbed by a Russian immigrant. They voiced the opinion that OSCE participant countries should be much more assertive in countering any form of racism or anti-Islamic activities. The representative of COJEP (originally rooted in Millî Görüs) reiterated the call for governments to stop racism and anti-Islamic activities everywhere.

More on-topic, several speakers commented on the increase in vandalism against Jewish and Christian buildings, in particular the destruction of some 150 Christian buildings in Kosovo.

Benjamin Bull of the Alliance Defence Fund raised several issues for Christian organisations:

The misapplication of hate speech laws to stifle any religious expression.

The misapplication of anti-discrimination laws to force religious organisations to hire staff with beliefs and viewpoints contrary to that of the organisation.

Revoking tax benefits on basis of the above, or banning Christian organisations from university campuses, thus severely hampering the activities of these organisations.

ICLA fought for — and won — the opportunity to make this comment:

Referring to several speakers, ICLA agrees that the increasing frequency of vandalism against Christian and Jewish interests is a problem. Examples of these incidents are frequent, from relatively benign harassment over desecration to the extensive destruction of cultural heritage in Kosovo, as the Serbian speaker noted. This is a severe problem in upholding genuine freedom of religion. ICLA recommends that OSCE participating states act to protect citizens against such acts of intimidation.

On the other hand, ICLA firmly believes that religions do not need or deserve protection against free speech and criticism.

On a supplementary note: In spite of this being off-topic for this conference, speakers have made reference to the recent brutal murder in Dresden. We have full confidence in the German legal system to handle this criminal act, and emphasize that such events, not matter now evil, should not be used as a pretext for assaulting freedom of expression or implementing draconian legislation.

After the session, the official representative of Denmark approached us, thanking for the fine statement. It is notable, however, that the government representatives paid to be there are not making clear statements defending our civil liberties. Such problems are key reasons that good NGOs need to participate at OSCE, or bad OSCE recommendations may eventually lead to bad national law.

Using printed material

At the conference, the Karl Martell Network representative brought 100 copies of Sam Solomon’s A Proposed Charter for Muslim Understanding. The Charter is a concise proposal for ironing out material differences between the Islamic and the Christian worlds. It was picked up by many, including representatives of the Holy See.

During the break Turkish representatives approached us, lamenting that the Charter text implied that there is some kind of connection between Islam and terrorism, a linkage they found absolutely reprehensible. While terrorism certainly is reprehensible as such, the fact that thousands of terrorists use Islam as a justification for their deeds does need to be addressed, and it should be no problem for moderate Muslims to unconditionally condemn terrorism, be it in the name of Islam or otherwise. The representatives apparently did not find our points of view convincing, so in the next plenary session they talked extensively against the ‘Islamophobic’ Charter and the inappropriateness of talking of any link between Islam and terrorism. Predictably, many more picked up the Charter to see for themselves, and by the end of the day, the stock of printed Charters was almost depleted.

Submitting papers

At the same conference, ICLA submitted a paper about the dangers of Islamic enclaves in the West, where Sharia law is being quietly introduced, the rights of women suppressed, and freedom of belief and expression undermined. This caused COJEP to immediately issue a press release condemning the ‘Islamophobic’ nature of the document. The document is available in the OSCE archive.

At the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Warsaw, 28 September 2009 - 9 October 2009, several more papers were submitted by the Counterjihad activists. For working session 12-13, Freedom of expression, free media and information, a paper entitled “Freedom of Expression: New challenges, new responses” was submitted. It took up issues of intimidation, misuse of “hate speech” legislation and in particular “Libel tourism”. Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, the main opponent of “Libel tourism”, was very helpful addressing this issue at OSCE. The recommendation that libel laws in Britain (specifically England and Wales) be reformed was included in the summary document from the conference, available in an OSCE document.

OSCE Warsaw

Freedom House has had libel tourism on the agenda for several years, and it was brought up at a side event “Freedom on the Internet”. That led to a heated debate with an English lawyer who did not like the pressure to change their libel laws, in spite of the abuse the laws were open to.

The consolidated pressure, however, led the British government to introduce the needed reforms less than half a year later. See the report from The Guardian.

The moves against libel tourism were applauded by the OSCE media freedom representative.

Doing something really controversial:

Speaking out against religiously sanctioned domestic violence

These participations and contributions may rattle a few nerves among those not committed to free speech and civil liberties as known in the West, but the OSCE also presents opportunities to bring seriously controversial material on the table. At the conference Gender Equality, 5-6 November 2009 (Warsaw), religiously sanctioned violence against women was taken up in the plenary session. By quoting scripture (Quran 4:34) used as justification to beat disobedient wives, the Counterjihad representative caused the room to enter pin-drop silence. The exact intervention was:

Thank you for a very powerful presentation. You mentioned the strain of migration in your report. Here in Europe we also face a huge influx of migrants, including many of the Muslim faith.

One issue that has been left out until now, it seems to me, is violence against women that is backed by principles of the Muslim faith. I do not have to tell you about the honor killings in Germany, Denmark, and the United Kingdom, among other countries; as well as forced marriages, in addition to the Koranic verse 4:34, which says — and I quote:

You have rights over your wives and they have rights over you. You have the right that they should not defile your bed and that they should not behave with open unseemliness. If they do, God allows you to put them in separate rooms and to beat them but not with severity. If they refrain from these things, they have the right to their food and clothing with kindness. Lay injunctions on women kindly, for they are prisoners with you having no control of their own persons. (Guillaume’s translation, p. 651) (Ibn Ishaq)

Why are not discussing this issue here and at other occasions in a depth that does justice to this problem?

I therefore recommend that ODIHR urgently start a working group on violence against women in Islam in order to find out how to best approach this in the context of the OSCE human dimension.

Predictably, this caused a series of reactions, in particular from people and organisations who thought this should not be debated at all. COJEP pointed out that this came from the same people who demanded that Islam distances itself from terrorism, and called the intervention “hate speech”. This accusation was strongly countered by the country representative of Austria, who said:

I object to a certain debate culture which is employed more and more often by a certain group of participants. Disagreement with someone else’s opinion is immediately denounced as hate speech. The accusation of hate speech is a serious one. We have been dealing intensively with this phenomenon in these human dimension meetings for many years. We take part in these human dimension meetings precisely because we need to find solutions to the current grave problems. The localization and identification of the problems and their implications are an important prerequisite to finding a solution.

Now if a certain negative social behaviour — and here I am alluding to this meeting’s topic — such as FGM and forced marriages, is manifested only in very specific religious and ethnic migrant groups, it must be possible to identify this group. This is not stereotyping, but a fact, and definitely not hate speech.

To conclude, educating female milk farmers in [the Austrian state of] Styria on the dangers of FGM will not be helpful.

See the full report from the conference.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

After the bulk of this report was composed, representatives of ICLA and BPE attended another series of OSCE “Human Dimension” meetings in late October and early November of 2011. These were particularly important events to attend, since the official title of these sessions was the “Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Prevention of Racism, Xenophobia and Hate Crimes Through Educational Awareness Raising Initiatives”. Needless to say, standing against “Islamophobia” was the sine qua non of this meeting, which was heavily attended by proxies for the OIC.

Gerhard Engelmayer, ESW, and Bruce Lieske

Extensive reports on the sessions may be found in the following articles:

Below is a comprehensive list of reports from earlier OSCE conferences:

List of papers submitted to the OSCE:

Next: Part IV, The Rosetta Stone Projects


2011 Nov 24 Part I, Introduction
    25 Part II, Conferences
    26 Part III(a), The Transatlantic Counterjihad at the OSCE