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By Mark Steyn
On August 3, 1914, on the eve of the First World War, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey stood at the window of his office in the summer dusk and observed, "The lamps are going out all over Europe." Today, the lights are going out on liberty all over the Western world, but in a more subtle and profound way.
Much of the West is far too comfortable with state regulation of speech and expression, which puts freedom itself at risk. Let me cite some examples: The response of the European Union Commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security to the crisis over the Danish cartoons that sparked Muslim violence was to propose that newspapers exercise "prudence" on certain controversial subjects involving religions beginning with the letter "I." At the end of her life, the Italian writer Oriana Fallaci-after writing of the contradiction between Islam and the Western tradition of liberty-was being sued in France, Italy, Switzerland, and most other European jurisdictions by groups who believed her opinions were not merely offensive, but criminal. In France, author Michel Houellebecq was sued by Muslim and other "anti-racist groups" who believed the opinions of a fictional character in one of his novels were likewise criminal.
In Canada, the official complaint about my own so-called "flagrant Islamophobia"-filed by the Canadian Islamic Congress-attributes to me the following "assertions":
America will be an Islamic Republic by 2040. There will be a break for Muslim prayers during the Super Bowl. There will be a religious police enforcing Islamic norms. The USS Ronald Reagan will be renamed after Osama bin Laden. Females will not be allowed to be cheerleaders. Popular American radio and TV hosts will be replaced by Imams.
In fact, I didn't "assert" any of these things. They are plot twists I cited in my review of Robert Ferrigno's novel, Prayers for the Assassin. It's customary in reviewing novels to cite aspects of the plot. For example, a review of Moby Dick will usually mention the whale. These days, apparently, the Canadian Islamic Congress and the government's human rights investigators (who have taken up the case) believe that describing the plot of a novel should be illegal.
You may recall that Margaret Atwood, some years back, wrote a novel about her own dystopian theocratic fantasy, in which America was a Christian tyranny named the Republic of Gilead. What's to stop a Christian group from dragging a doting reviewer of Margaret Atwood's book in front of a Canadian human rights court? As it happens, Christian groups tend not to do that, which is just as well, because otherwise there wouldn't be a lot to write about.
These are small parts of a very big picture. After the London Tube bombings and the French riots a few years back, commentators lined up behind the idea that Western Muslims are insufficiently assimilated. But in their mastery of legalisms and the language of victimology, they're superbly assimilated. Since these are the principal means of discourse in multicultural societies, they've mastered all they need to know. Every day of the week, somewhere in the West, a Muslim lobbying group is engaging in an action similar to what I'm facing in Canada. Meanwhile, in London, masked men marched through the streets with signs reading "Behead the Enemies of Islam" and promising another 9/11 and another Holocaust, all while being protected by a phalanx of London policemen.
Thus we see that today's multicultural societies tolerate the explicitly intolerant and avowedly unicultural, while refusing to tolerate anyone pointing out that intolerance. It's been that way for 20 years now, ever since Valentine's Day 1989, when the Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa against the novelist Salman Rushdie, a British subject, and shortly thereafter large numbers of British Muslims marched through English cities openly calling for Rushdie to be killed. A reader in Bradford wrote to me recalling asking a West Yorkshire policeman on the street that day why the various "Muslim community leaders" weren't being arrested for incitement to murder. The officer said they'd been told to "play it cool." The calls for blood got more raucous. My correspondent asked his question again. The policeman told him to "Push off" (he expressed the sentiment rather more Anglo-Saxonly, but let that pass) "or I'll arrest you." Mr. Rushdie was infuriated when the then Archbishop of Canterbury lapsed into root-cause mode. "I well understand the devout Muslims' reaction, wounded by what they hold most dear and would themselves die for," said His Grace. Rushdie replied tersely: "There is only one person around here who is in any danger of dying."
And that's the way it's gone ever since. For all the talk about rampant "Islamophobia," it's usually only the other party who is "in any danger of dying."
War on the Homefront
I wrote my book America Alone because I wanted to reframe how we thought about the War on Terror-an insufficient and evasive designation that has long since outlasted whatever usefulness it may once have had. It remains true that we are good at military campaigns, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our tanks and ships are better, and our bombs and soldiers are smarter. But these are not ultimately the most important battlefronts. We do indeed face what the strategists call asymmetric warfare, but it is not in the Sunni triangle or the Hindu Kush. We face it right here in the Western world.
Norman Podhoretz, among others, has argued that we are engaged in a second Cold War. But it might be truer to call it a Cold Civil War, by which I mean a war within the West, a war waged in our major cities. We now have Muslim "honor killings," for instance, not just in tribal Pakistan and Yemen, but in Germany and the Netherlands, in Toronto and Dallas. And even if there were no battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, and if no one was flying planes into tall buildings in New York City or blowing up trains, buses, and nightclubs in Madrid, London, and Bali, we would still be in danger of losing this war without a shot being fired.
The British government recently announced that it would be issuing Sharia-compliant Islamic bonds-that is, bonds compliant with Islamic law and practice as prescribed in the Koran. This is another reason to be in favor of small government: The bigger government gets, the more it must look for funding in some pretty unusual places-in this case wealthy Saudis. As The Mail on Sunday put it, this innovation marks "one of the most significant economic advances of Sharia law in the non-Muslim world."
At about the same time, The Times of London reported that "Knorbert the piglet has been dropped as the mascot of Fortis Bank, after it decided to stop giving piggy banks to children for fear of offending Muslims." Now, I'm no Islamic scholar, but Mohammed expressed no view regarding Knorbert the piglet. There's not a single sura about it. The Koran, an otherwise exhaustive text, is silent on the matter of anthropomorphic porcine representation.
I started keeping a file on pig controversies a couple of years ago, and you would be surprised at how routine they have become. Recently, for instance, a local government council prohibited its workers from having knickknacks on their desks representing Winnie the Pooh's sidekick Piglet. As Pastor Martin Niemoller might have said, "First they came for Piglet and I did not speak out because I was not a Disney character, and if I was, I'd be more of an Eeyore. Then they came for the Three Little Pigs and Babe, and by the time I realized the Western world had turned into a 24/7 Looney Tunes, it was too late, because there was no Porky Pig to stammer, 'Th-th-th-that's all folks!', and bring the nightmare to an end."
What all these stories have in common is excessive deference to-and in fact fear of-Islam. If the story of the Three Little Pigs is forbidden when Muslims still comprise less than ten percent of Europe's population, what else will be on the black list when they comprise 20 percent? In small but telling ways, non-Muslim communities are being persuaded that a kind of uber-Islamic law now applies to all. And if you don't remember the Three Little Pigs, by the way, one builds a house of straw, another of sticks, and both get blown down by the Big Bad Wolf. Western Civilization is a mighty house of bricks, but you don't need a Big Bad Wolf when the pig is so eager to demolish the house himself.
I would argue that these incremental concessions to Islam are ultimately a bigger threat than terrorism. What matters is not what the lads in the Afghan cave-the "extremists"-believe, but what the non-extremists believe, what people who are for the most part law-abiding taxpayers of functioning democracies believe. For example, a recent poll found that 36 percent of Muslims between the ages of 16 and 24 believe that those who convert to another religion should be punished by death. That's not 36 percent of young Muslims in Waziristan or Yemen or Sudan, but 36 percent of young Muslims in the United Kingdom. Forty percent of British Muslims would like to live under Sharia-in Britain. Twenty percent have sympathy for the July 7 Tube bombers. And, given that Islam is the principal source of population growth in every city down the spine of England from Manchester to Sheffield to Birmingham to London, and in every major Western European city, these statistics are not without significance for the future.
Because I discussed these facts in print, my publisher is now being sued before three Canadian human rights commissions. The plaintiff in my case is Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, a man who announced on Canadian TV that he approves of the murder of all Israeli civilians over the age of 18. He is thus an objective supporter of terrorism. I don't begrudge him the right to his opinions, but I wish he felt the same about mine. Far from that, posing as a leader of the "anti-hate" movement in Canada, he is using the squeamishness of a politically correct society to squash freedom.
As the famous saying goes, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. What the Canadian Islamic Congress and similar groups in the West are trying to do is criminalize vigilance. They want to use the legal system to circumscribe debate on one of the great questions of the age: the relationship between Islam and the West and the increasing Islamization of much of the Western world, in what the United Nations itself calls the fastest population transformation in history.
Our democratic governments today preside over multicultural societies that have less and less glue holding them together. They've grown comfortable with the idea of the state as the mediator between interest groups. And confronted by growing and restive Muslim populations, they're increasingly at ease with the idea of regulating freedom in the interests of social harmony.
It's a different situation in America, which has the First Amendment and a social consensus that increasingly does not exist in Europe. Europe's consensus seems to be that Danish cartoonists should be able to draw what they like, but not if it sparks Islamic violence. It is certainly odd that the requirement of self-restraint should only apply to one party.
Last month, in a characteristically clotted speech followed by a rather more careless BBC interview, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that it was dangerous to have one law for everyone and that the introduction of Sharia to the United Kingdom was "inevitable." Within days of His Grace's remarks, the British and Ontario governments both confirmed that thousands of polygamous men in their jurisdictions are receiving welfare payments for each of their wives. Kipling wrote that East is East and West is West, and ne'er the twain shall meet. But when the twain do meet, you often wind up with the worst of both worlds. Say what you like about a polygamist in Waziristan or Somalia, but he has to do it on his own dime. To collect a welfare check for each spouse, he has to move to London or Toronto. Government-subsidized polygamy is an innovation of the Western world.
If you need another reason to be opposed to socialized health care, one reason is because it fosters the insouciant attitude to basic hygiene procedures that has led to the rise of deadly "superbugs." I see British Muslim nurses in public hospitals riddled with C. difficile are refusing to comply with hygiene procedures on the grounds that scrubbing requires them to bare their arms, which is un-Islamic. Which is a thought to ponder just before you go under the anaesthetic. I mentioned to some of Hillsdale's students in class that gay-bashing is on the rise in the most famously "tolerant" cities in Europe. As Der Spiegel reported, "With the number of homophobic attacks rising in the Dutch metropolis, Amsterdam officials are commissioning a study to determine why Moroccan men are targeting the city's gays."
Gee, whiz. That's a toughie. Wonder what the reason could be. But don't worry, the brain trust at the University of Amsterdam is on top of things: "Half of the crimes were committed by men of Moroccan origin and researchers believe they felt stigmatized by society and responded by attacking people they felt were lower on the social ladder. Another working theory is that the attackers may be struggling with their own sexual identity."
Bingo! Telling young Moroccan men they're closeted homosexuals seems certain to lessen tensions in the city! While you're at it, a lot of those Turks seem a bit light in their loafers, don't you think?
Our Suicidal Urge
So don't worry, nothing's happening. Just a few gay Muslims frustrated at the lack of gay Muslim nightclubs. Sharia in Britain? Taxpayer-subsidized polygamy in Toronto? Yawn. Nothing to see here. True, if you'd suggested such things on September 10, 2001, most Britons and Canadians would have said you were nuts. But a few years on and it doesn't seem such a big deal, nor will the next concession, or the one after that.
The assumption that you can hop on the Sharia Express and just ride a couple of stops is one almighty leap of faith. More to the point, who are you relying on to "hold the line"? Influential figures like the Archbishop of Canterbury? The politically correct bureaucrats at Canada's Human Rights Commissions? The geniuses who run Harvard, and who've just introduced gender-segregated swimming and gym sessions at the behest of Harvard's Islamic Society? (Would they have done that for Amish or Mennonite students?) The Western world is not run by fellows noted for their line-holding: Look at what they're conceding now and then try to figure out what they'll be conceding in five years' time. The idea that the West's multicultural establishment can hold the line would be more plausible if it was clear they had any idea where the line is, or even gave any indication of believing in one.
My book, supposedly Islamaphobic, isn't even really about Islam. The single most important line in it is the profound observation, by historian Arnold Toynbee, that "Civilizations die from suicide, not murder." One manifestation of that suicidal urge is illiberal notions harnessed in the cause of liberalism. In calling for the introduction of Sharia, the Archbishop of Canterbury joins a long list of Western appeasers, including a Dutch cabinet minister who said if the country were to vote to introduce Islamic law that would be fine by him, and the Swedish cabinet minister who said we should be nice to Muslims now so that Muslims will be nice to us when they're in the majority.
Ultimately, our crisis is not about Islam. It's not about fire-breathing Imams or polygamists whooping it up on welfare. It's not about them. It's about us. And by us I mean the culture that shaped the modern world, and established the global networks, legal systems, and trading relationships on which the planet depends.
To reprise Sir Edward Grey, the lamps are going out all over the world, and an awful lot of the map will look an awful lot darker by the time many Americans realize the scale of this struggle.
By Daniel Pipes
Aafia Siddiqui, 36, is a Pakistani mother of three, an alumna of MIT, and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Brandeis University. She is also accused of working for Al-Qaeda and was charged last week in New York City with attempting to kill American soldiers.
Her arrest serves to remind how invisibly most Islamist infiltration proceeds. In particular, an estimated forty Al-Qaeda sympathizers or operatives have sought to penetrate U.S. intelligence agencies.
Such a well-placed infiltrator can wreck great damage explains a former CIA chief of counterintelligence, Michael Sulick: "In the war on terrorism, intelligence has replaced the Cold War's tanks and fighter planes as the primary weapon against an unseen enemy." Islamist moles, he argues, "could inflict far more damage to national security than Soviet spies," for the U.S. and Soviet Union never actually fought each other, whereas now, "our nation is at war."
Here are some American cases of attempted infiltration since 2001 that have been made public:
Three other cases are less clear. The Transportation Security Administration fired Bassam Khalaf, 21, a Texan of Christian Palestinian origins, as an airport baggage screener because lyrics on his music CD, Terror Alert, applaud the 9/11 attacks. FBI Special Agent Gamal Abdel-Hafiz "showed a pattern of pro-Islamist behavior," according to author Paul Sperry, that may have helped acquit Sami Al-Arian of terrorism charges. The Pentagon cleared Hesham Islam, an Egyptian immigrant, former U.S. Navy commander, and special assistant to the deputy secretary of defense, but major questions remain about his biography and his outlook.
- The Air Force discharged Sadeq Naji Ahmed, a Yemeni immigrant, when his superiors learned of his pro-Al-Qaeda statements. Ahmed subsequently became a baggage screener at Detroit's Metro Airport, which terminated him for hiding his earlier discharge from the Air Force. He was convicted of making false statements and sentenced to eighteen months in jail.
- The Chicago Police Department fired Patricia Eng-Hussain just three days into her training on learning that her husband, Mohammad Azam Hussain, was arrested for being an active member of Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi (MQM-H), a Pakistani terrorist group.
- The Chicago Police Department also fired Arif Sulejmanovski, a supervising janitor at its 25th District station after it learned his name was on a federal terrorist watch list of international terrorism suspects.
- Mohammad Alavi, an engineer at the Palo Verde nuclear power plant, was arrested as he arrived on a flight from Iran, accused of taking computer access codes and software to Iran that provide details on the plant's control rooms and plant layout. He subsequently pleaded guilty to transporting stolen property.
- Nada Nadim Prouty, a Lebanese immigrant who worked for both the FBI and CIA, pleaded guilty to charges of: fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship; accessing a federal computer system to unlawfully query information about her relatives and the terrorist organization Hizballah; and engaging in conspiracy to defraud the United States.
- Waheeda Tehseen, a Pakistani immigrant who filled a sensitive toxicologist position with the Environmental Protection Agency, pleaded guilty to fraud and was deported. World Net Daily explains that "investigators suspect espionage is probable, as she produced highly sensitive health-hazard documents for toxic compounds and chemical pesticides. Tehseen also was an expert in parasitology as it relates to public water systems."
- Weiss Rasool, 31, a Fairfax County police sergeant and Afghan immigrant, pleaded guilty for checking police databases without authorization, thereby jeopardizing at least one federal terrorism investigation.
- Nadire P. Zenelaj, 32, a 911 emergency operator of Albanian origins, was charged with 232 felony counts of computer trespass for illegally searching New York State databases, including at least one person on the FBI's terrorist watch list.
Other Western countries too - Australia, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom - have been subject to infiltration efforts. (For details, see my weblog entry, "Islamists Penetrate Western Security.")
This record prompts one to wonder what catastrophe must occur before government agencies, some of which have banished the words "Islam" and "jihad," seriously confront their internal threat?
Westerners are indebted to Muslim agents like Fred Ghussin and "Kamil Pasha" who have been critical to fighting terrorism. That said, I stand by my 2003 statement that "There is no escaping the unfortunate fact that Muslim government employees in law enforcement, the military and the diplomatic corps need to be watched for connections to terrorism."
By Dean Godson
July 15, 2008
It is increasingly hard to draw a line between the agendas of the violent and non-violent.
Who says that Islamists can't learn a trick or two from the West when they have to? Take a glance at the glossy brochure of Islam Expo - billed as Europe's "biggest Islamic cultural festival" - which ended at Olympia yesterday. You could be forgiven for thinking that you were looking at the catalogue for the forthcoming Boden sale that comes to the venerable London exhibition centre in a few weeks' time.
Visitors to Islam Expo would have witnessed such innocent activities as an Islamic arts and crafts workshop for under 12s, live Islamic storytelling performances and lute-playing and poetry recitals in the pomegranate and date gardens.
The old Comintern would have instantly recognised the first rate tradecraft involved in organising all this. Just as Moscow and its allies knew how to organise a "popular front" to draw non-communist progressives and liberals into their orbit of influence, so some Islamists have honed a keen sense of how to present a non-threatening face to the West and to the many hundreds of decent, apolitical Muslims who turned up for a family day out.
But behind the cultural soft power of Islam Expo, there is political hard power, and some of it comes in quite raw, unpalatable forms. The organisers gave floor space in the exhibition section to the genocidal regime in Sudan (festooned with pictures of happy-looking black Africans) and to the "Cultural Section" of the Iranian Embassy (representing an aspirant genocidal regime) and the Algerian junta (no spring picnic on human rights).
This perhaps becomes less surprising when one examines some of the directors of Islam Expo. All oppose al-Qaeda violence, but they are anything but moderate Muslims. They include Azzam Tamimi, a supporter of Hamas suicide bombings in Israel and an admirer of Ayatollah Khomeini.
Consider also the views of one of the expo's speakers: "Prof Zaghloul al Naggar, professor of geology and director of the London-based Markfield Institute of Higher Education has rightly told IslamOnline that many Westerners - some of them homosexual - convert to Islam in order to appeal to Islamic communities and spread sinful behaviour among Muslims, thus shaking their belief," according to the allaahuakbar.net website.
No wonder Hazel Blears, the feisty Secretary of State for Communities, decided last week that this was not a place where any minister should be seen. Most of her Muslim colleagues in the Labour Party backed her, including the MPs Sadiq Khan and Khalid Mahmood.
But another minister, Shahid Malik, MP for Dewsbury, had other ideas and sought to attend in a personal capacity. He was persuaded not to attend Islam Expo only with the greatest difficulty - after heavy pressure from his departmental chief at International Development, Douglas Alexander, the Chief Whip and the Cabinet Secretary, who invoked Cabinet Office guidelines on engagement with Islamic groups.
Ms Blears is probably the member of the Cabinet readiest to uphold a strict interpretation of those criteria. She has also dealt vigorously with senior officials whom she believes have been naive in their approach to Islamist-friendly groups.
But policing the boundaries of respectable discourse is hard work. While ministers were forbidden to go, the Foreign Office-funded British Satellite News was publicising an entirely positive image of Islam Expo for overseas consumption.
This time the Government has had a narrow escape from the political Islamists of Islam Expo.
Its relief must be compounded by what has happened over the past 48 hours to Alex Salmond. Scotland's First Minister has landed himself in serious trouble over a grant of £215,000 given to the Scottish Islamic Foundation, which is headed by one of his advisers, Osama Saeed. Other Muslim groups in Scotland are upset by what they see as favouritism to the best-known political Islamist in the Scottish National Party.
Mr Saeed, an SNP parliamentary candidate and also a speaker at Islam Expo, has described Hamas suicide attacks as "martyrdom operations" and has supported the creation of a modern caliphate, or pan-Islamic state. The row could cost the SNP victory in the Glasgow East by-election next week.
The fashionable take on deradicalising angry young Muslim men is that only political Islamists, such as Mr Saeed, have the credibility to stop them going over the deep end. This reasoning is doubtful. The opposition of political Islamists to al-Qaeda violence in the West does not mean that they are actually friends of the West. Rather, they know that there is more than one way to skin a cat.
The boundaries between violent and non-violent Islamists deserve greater exploration. Are non-violent political Islamists part of the solution or, as figures such as Hazel Blears and David Cameron increasingly suspect, part of the problem?
Dean Godson is research director of Policy Exchange think tank.
By Robert Spencer
June 28 2008
The war against free speech is advancing rapidly: Associated Press reported Thursday that “Muslim countries have won a battle to prevent Islam from being criticised during debates by the UN Human Rights Council.” Council President Doru-Romulus Costea explained that religious issues can be “very complex, very sensitive and very intense…This council is not prepared to discuss religious matters in depth, consequently we should not do it.” Henceforth only religious scholars would be permitted to broach them.
“While Costea’s ban applies to all religions,” AP explained, “it was prompted by Muslim countries complaining about references to Islam.” The ban came after a heated session on Monday, when the representative of the Association for World Education (AWE), in a joint statement with the International Humanist and Ethical Union, denounced female genital mutilation, the penalty of stoning for adultery and child marriage as sanctioned by Islamic law. Egypt, Pakistan and Iran angrily protested, interrupting the AWE speaker, David Littman, with no less than 16 points of order, and succeeding in getting the Council’s proceedings suspended for over half an hour. In the course of this contentious discussion, the representatives from the Islamic countries made numerous revealing statements – statements that are well worth examining as Islamic nations and organizations call with increasing insistence for restrictions on free speech in the West.
Imran Ahmed Siddiqui, the representative from Pakistan, echoed the ever-echoing refrain of all Islamic apologists in the West, when he complained that Littman’s initiative on genital mutilation, stoning and child marriage amounted to an “out-of-context, selective discussion on the Sharia law.” He asked that Littman not be allowed to speak: “I would therefore request the president to exercise his judgment and authority and request the speaker not to touch issues which have already been debarred from discussion in this Council.” The representative from Slovenia then protested mildly against this attempt to silence Littman: “Any NGO representative,” he reminded Siddiqui, “has the right to make a statement within the merits of the agenda item under discussion. We see the statement being made pertaining within the purview of the agenda item and we don’t see grounds for any restricting censorship in that respect.”
The representative from Egypt thereupon responded: “I would humbly and kindly ask my colleague from Slovenia to reconsider.” He warned: “We will not take this lightly….This is not about NGOs and their participation in the Council. This is about the Sharia law.” Pakistan’s Siddiqui added: “I would like to state again that this is not the forum to discuss religious sensitivity.” Why not? Again sounding notes that are increasingly familiar in any discussion of the elements of Islam that jihadists and Sharia supremacists use to justify oppression, Siddiqui explained: “It will amount to spreading hatred against certain members of the Council. I mean, it has happened before also that selective discussions were raised in the Council to demonize a particular group.” He addressed Costea: “So we would again request you to please use your authority to bar any such discussion again, at the Council.”
After more discussion, a recess, and another warning from the representative from Egypt, Littman was finally allowed to proceed. After noting that “almost 90% of the female population in the north of Sudan undergo FGM which, in many cases, is practiced in its most extreme form known as infibulation,” Littman declared: “We believe that only a fatwa from Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Sayyed Tantawi – replacing the ambiguous fatwas of 1949, 1951 and 1981 – will change this barbaric, criminal practice, which is now growing even in Europe.”
At this point Egypt interrupted, complaining that “this is an attempt to raise a bad traditional practice to Islam. Sheikh Al-Azhar [Sayyed Tantawi] is the president of the largest and the biggest and the oldest Islamic university in the world.” He exclaimed: “My point is that Islam will not be crucified in this Council. That’s why we are challenging this ruling” – that is, Costea’s decision to allow Littman to deliver his address.
The representative from Germany asked: “Mr. President, I would kindly, through you, ask the Egyptian delegation and its representative if I did understand in his last intervention…he seemed to have said, and I quote, and I apologize if I did not understand this correctly – my understanding was, quote: “Islam will not be crucified in this Council”. And I would like this statement confirmed and if it is confirmed I would ask you, Mr. President, whether you consider this appropriate with regard to the question of mentioning religion and its symbols?” But Egypt ignored this question, and said: “I would ask to delete any references to the fatwa of Sheikh Al-Azhar [Grand Sheikh Sayyad Tantawi] and to delete all references to Sheikh Al-Azhar from this paragraph and from the official records of the meeting.”
Yet an Islamic legal manual endorsed by Al-Azhar states that circumcision is required “for both men and women” (‘Umdat al-Salik, e4.3). And Tantawi himself has said, according to Geneive Abdo, author of No God But God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam, that female circumcision is “a laudable practice that [does] honor to women.”
Littman continued, noting that “the stoning of women for alleged adultery still occurs regularly in Iran, Sudan and other countries. In Iran, they are buried up to their waists in pits and blunt stones are used thereby increasing their agony in death.” Soon thereafter he was interrupted by the Iranian delegate, who declared: “The statement and the references made by this speaker in this statement is false and has nothing to do with the realities in my country. I just wanted, for the record… he said that…‘the stoning of women for adultery still occurs regularly in Iran’ – it’s not true, it is completely false, and is out of the question.”
Yet as of September 2007, eight women in Iran were awaiting stoning for adultery charges.
In sum, then, what Littman was saying was accurate, and the Egyptian, Pakistani and Iranian representatives consistently characterized these truthful statements as insults to Islam, and moved to have them suppressed. Not only does this shameful episode bode ill for the human rights of women in the Islamic world; it also represents another victory in the war against free speech that Islamic supremacists have been pursuing with particular energy lately, calling on Western authorities to prosecute Dutch politician Geert Wilders for his film Fitna and Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard for his drawing of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban, and in general to outlaw what they perceive as insults to Islam.
They have won at the UN Human Rights Council. That will not be the only battle of this war. But it remains to be seen whether any governing official in the West has the courage and the clear-sightedness to stand up to this challenge before it’s too late -- before we are required by law to stand by as mute witnesses to our own conquest and Islamization.