Warning! The OIC Wants to Silence Free Speech Around the Globe

by Jerry Gordon (November 2011)

Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide
by Nina Shea and Paul Marshall
Oxford University Press (2011)

480 pp.


Jyllands-Posten. It was a gift for an interview I did with the feisty Westergaard when he was in North America in the fall of 2009. We had arranged an event for him in Manhattan. Westergaard’s cartoon had spurred riots, massive property damage to Danish Embassies and more than 200 deaths across the Muslim Ummah in 2006. Many believe those riots were orchestrated by the 57 member nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (renamed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in June, 2011). Westergaard’s caricature of a terrorist Muhammad caused the second great arc of Islamic outrage over artistic license and alleged blasphemy.

Salman Rushdie, British author of The Satanic Verses. Like the Westergaard Muhammad cartoon controversy, what followed in the wake of Rushdie’s alleged blasphemy was murder, terror bombing and multiple deaths that circled the globe from the Muslim Ummah to the West reaching the UK, and even the US. Rushdie went into 24/7 witness protection under the UK Home Secretary that lasted for more than a decade. Khomeini, the author of the death fatwa, died within four months of issuing this Islamic theocratic diktat in June, 1989. The legacy of Khomeini’s death fatwa lived on in competing developments by Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan to impose Islamic anti-blasphemy and apostasy laws on the West.

Theo Van Gogh, whose collaborator on the short film Submission was prominent Dutch Somali apostate, politician and author Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She was placed under 24/7 protection of the Royal Protective Service. Ali is currently a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC and a fearless advocate of women’s and human rights. Van Gogh’s murderer, Dutch Moroccan, Mohammed Bouyeri declared, “From now on this will be punishment for anyone in this land who challenges and insults Allah and messengers.” The next person in the dock in Holland was the Hon. Geert Wilders, leader of the PVV (Freedom Party) in the Hague parliament. His short film Fitna (chaos in Arabic) critical of Islam was released online in 2008. That defiant act of Wilders' resulted in an Interpol warrant for his arrest issued by a Jordanian court and his prosecution in a Dutch court started in January, 2010 on charges of incitement to hate of a religion, Islam. His acquittal of all charges by an Amsterdam District court in June 2011 was one of the few victories against the spread of anti-blasphemy codes in the EU under pressure from the OIC.

Hon. Geert Wilders of The Netherlands, journalist historian Lars Hedegaard in Denmark, Swedish artist Lars Vilks (the target of the ‘Jihad Jane’ assassination plot that originated in the US with Irish accomplices) and activist Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff in Austria. The common thread for Wilders, Hedegaard and Wolff was alleged violation of hate speech laws against a designated religion, Islam. The outcomes of their trials were symptomatic of the plague of blasphemy in EU courts. Wilders was acquitted of all charges instigated by a leftist-Muslim alliance that played out dramatically in an Amsterdam district courtroom. However, Hedegaard and Sabaditsch-Wolff were convicted and fined on “racism’ and religious hate charges against Islam in matters brought by leftist media in municipal courts in Copenhagen and Vienna. This may have been facilitated by EU adoption of religious hate speech conventions, some believe under pressure brought by the OIC, with the willing assistance of elitist groups. Bat Ye’or has discussed that in our interview and review of her latest book, Europe, Globalization and the Coming Universal Caliphate.

Silenced: How Apostasy & Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide. It is a powerful indictment of the Saudi-based OIC that strives, as the authors say “ostensibly to protect Islam from criticism but also serves the purpose of shielding from criticism those who claim the right to rule in the name of Islam. [It is] intended to demand that Western governments punish all those within their borders who have purported insulted Islam.”

Shea is also a Commissioner at the Congressionally-chartered US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Silenced will be the subject of an important Capitol Hill conference on November 4th, 2011 sponsored by The Federalist Society with presentations by the authors and international experts on religious persecution and dhimmitude, including representatives of heterodox and reformist Muslim groups.  

Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam  based on Sharia Islamic law. Then starting in 1999, the OIC and other major members introduced 12 resolutions annually at both the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council. Those resolutions sought criminalization of any criticism of Islam using the same “vague and subjective” standards of OIC member countries. This penetration of Western human and civil rights laws with anti-blasphemy and apostasy codes by the OIC was propelled by notable Salafist theologians like Egyptian Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who, as the authors note,  held: “that henceforth, those living in non-Muslim jurisdictions, whether Muslim or not, can or should be controlled by amorphous and arbitrarily applied apostasy and blasphemy rules.” The authors quote Pakistan’s envoy to the UN Human Rights Council, Marghoob Saleem Butt, stating the intent of the initiatives was to end “the unrestricted disrespect and disrespectful enjoyment of freedom of expression.” They went on to say, “whether called defamation, hate speech, incitement to hostility, or Islamophobia, the essential issue is criticism against or within Islam.”

UK, France and Germany.  The authors note the adoption in 2008 of new hate speech guidelines by the Council of Europe (CoE):

Maclean’s Magazine columnist and noted author), to veritable star chamber proceedings brought before the Canadian Human Rights Commission by the extremist Canadian Islamic Congress. Allegations that ultimately were discharged. That didn’t help, as Levant noted, “The real punishment is the process.”  Then we have the example, as cited by the authors, of two Australian pastors who lectured about Islam in a private class and were convicted of defaming Islam and sentenced to a lifetime gag order.

US Complicity under the Obama Administration

That speech had a little noticed statement to the effect that he was going to do everything he could as President to fight against negative stereotyping of Islam wherever they appear: not just against Muslims, but against Islam.

“New Beginnings Speech” also contained the comment about loosening the bonds of Federal counter-terrorism laws that have allegedly intimidated American Muslims from performing the obligation of Zakat. 


capitulation by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to demands of Muslim advocacy groups for self censorship. That is reflected in the deracination of any criticism of Islam from official lexicons, banning training materials and acknowledged experts in Jihad doctrine and terrorism assessment from courses providing training in counter-terrorism. Muslim advocacy groups in the US have even tried to rationalize access to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act  for possible criminal prosecution of Islam criticism given allegations of “racism” committed against a religion, Islam. In December, the State Department will hold a summit with the executive director of the OIC, which had been given special envoy status under the Bush Administration. This conference will be a furtherance of declarations made by Secretary Hillary Clinton at an international conference in Istanbul about implementing measures adopted in March 2011 at the UNHRC about “discrimination on the basis of religious belief”– a code word for Islamic blasphemy. This comes dangerously close to threatening free speech, including criticism of religion, considered protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution and reflected in a number of Supreme Court rulings.

The Victims in the Ummah and the West

Baha’is and Ahmadiyyas. The second are non-Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and other religions. The third are apostates-converts who have left Islam by choice. The fourth are minority Muslim communities like the minority Shia in predominately Sunni lands like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, or vice versa, minority Sunni and Sufis in predominately Shia countries like Iraq and the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Alevi community in Turkey. The final category is Islamic reformers and political dissidents.  

Iran has less than 25,000 Jews, while Yemen has less than 350. Both groups are subject to restrictions and, many have fled to Israel and the West.

Boko Haram (for whom Western Culture is forbidden) is indiscriminate in its murderous acts. It kills both Christians and those who simply disagree with its aims. In Somalia, the al-Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab seeks to make the country Christiantrein by killing, often beheading Christians, including children. The Silenced authors noted one recent grisly example of extra-judicial assault on Christians in Pakistan:

On August 1, 2009, about 1000 people believed to be connected to the Taliban linked Sipah-e-Sahaba militant group, attacked local Christians in Gojra, Pakistan. Over 40 homes were razed, and at least seven Christians were killed, six of whom, including two children were burned alive.

The Coptic Winter: What Does the Massacre at Maspero Mean for Egypt's Christians?” the status of the roughly 8 to 10 million Copts is complicated by the rise of vigilantism of Muslim mobs inspired by Salafist preachers who call for jihad against the West. This is complicated by the breakdown of justice under a fractured, post-Mubarak regime. Youssef Sidhom, the editor of the Christian newspaper, Watani (Homeland) in Egypt, was “stunned by the emergence of the extremist Salafists.”  He noted, “they announced that their role is to defend ‘real Islam’ and that the tool they would use is the early Islamic penal code.” 

The Copts are in a double bind. If they protest against the abuses brought upon their heads by the dhimma system, they are treated as rebels, and the value of their blood and possessions discounted accordingly: the more they protest, the less right they have under Islamic law even to exist. On the other hand, the more they acquiesce, the more voracious and emboldened their persecutors will become. This is what happened in Elmarinab: after the Christians made major concessions, their radical Muslim neighbors just demanded further concessions.

Ahmadi mosques were attacked in Lahore, Pakistan in May, 2010. The massacre was perpetrated by the Pakistan Taliban with resulting destruction and mass casualties. Human Rights Watch reported the toll:

Ahmadi world leader Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad is not above criticizing critics of the orthodox Islamists that seek his Muslim sect’s destruction. During a trip to the Netherlands he issued a press release criticizing the Hon. Geert Wilders.

objections raised by the USCIRF, which offered limited religious freedom, while imposing the Hanafi Islamic penalty of death for apostasy. 

Both of these apostasy cases in the Ummah conflict with the provisions of Article 18 of the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights that guarantees the rights of individuals to change their religious beliefs.

, Former Muslims United (FMU), to champion the civil and human rights of those who elected to leave Islam. Over the course of the past three years, FMU has conducted a campaign to bring to the attention of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division in the US to the public threats to apostates. FMU has developed information on the virtual silence of American Muslim leaders to requests that the latter abjure death threats and corporeal punishments for apostates under Sharia. That was dramatically demonstrated in the results of two waves of mailings of the Freedom Pledge sent to more than 163 Muslim leaders and Imams requesting they execute a pledge against Shariah punishment for apostasy. Only two positive responses were received. One from M. Zhudi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for and Democracy and  another from Dr. Ali Ayami of the Washington, DC-based Center for Democracy for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia. Among those who chose to remain silent when presented with the FMU pledge were Dalia Mogahed, an adviser to the Obama White House on Muslim outreach matters and the controversial Ground Zero Mosque Imam Abdul Feisal Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, as well as the leadership of Muslim advocacy groups, CAIR and ISNA

death threat was sent via email from Sri Lanka the original home of both her and her émigré Muslim family saying that “the Christian bitch must die.” In August, 2010, an Ohio juvenile court granted her freedom to remain here, just days before she reached her majority. The matter has not ended as far as CAIR and Ms. Bary’s aggrieved parents are concerned. They launched a $10 million lawsuit for defamation against a prominent defender of Ms. Bary, counter-Jihad blogger and activist, Ms. Pamela Geller, which they withdrew in September, 2011.

The Peculiar Status of Muslim Critics of Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes

Warnings and Prescriptions

The authors at the conclusion of Silenced issue four critical warnings:

  • Religious speech controls exacerbate social comity and may encourage violence.

They offer four prescriptions:

  • The West must defend religious freedom and debate of religious views.

To comment on this book review, please click here.


If you have enjoyed this article and want to read more by Jerry Gordon, please click here.

Jerry Gordon is a also regular contributor to our community blog. To read his entries, please click here.