The Strange Views of Mr. Quraishi and their Disturbing Implications for Free Speech
by Andrew Harrod • Feb 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to an earlier blog post about him, Bashy Qurashi has left comments on several websites, including MEF's. Former Legal Project Law Clerk, Andrew Harrod, has written another piece to directly reply to Qurashi's new comments. Here it is:
The recent Legal Project (LP) blog post The OSCE: Yet Another Avenue for Islamists to Control Speech coauthored by Adam Turner and me has prompted a response from Bashy Quraishi himself following considerable linking by various websites in Europe and North America. On the Canadian website BlazingCatFur, Quraishy responded to the posting of the LP piece with the sentiment of being a "bit disappointed that you brought a very selected part of my presentation in your blog." Quraishy's reiterated "main thrust of my argument" was that "criticism of an individual, a group or even a religion is legitimate but it should be for an objective purpose and not to demonize an entire religion." Quraishy protested again that "Muslims do not ask for any special protection" but merely the "same protection…given to other minorities, for example to Jewish communities or Homosexual groups."
More extensive examination of Quraishy's views on the website of his Strasbourg/Copenhagen-based European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion (EMISCO), though, confirms the thesis of the original blog post and reveals a rather unsettling understanding of "equal protection." Under the title "Recent Discussions" (even though the latest postings on the website date from 2010) Quraishy decries discussions in Europe over Islam creating an "atmosphere where freedom of expression is misused to vent abusive opinions and hate speech," thereby having "in turn given rise to Islamophobia and cultural racism." Media coverage of Islam, according to Quraishi, "focuses either on crime or social problems" and "[f]requently" was "not only exaggerated and distorted, but also filled with lies." "Islamophobia" was "now a reality and not a fiction" given that "Islam is often presented as fanatical, barbarian, uncivilised, and medieval" and "is constantly attacked with racial slurs, similar to the way Jews were attacked in the 1930's."
As a motive for such "Islamophobia" Quraishy offers the "qualified guess" that "after the fall of the Soviet Empire, the only remaining ideology or system, which stood in the way of the total Western dominance—commercial, political and to some extent religious, is Islam and the Muslim communities." In addition to historical Christian-Muslim hostility, the "Islamic world has 67% of the world's oil and gas resources." Thus, "in order to physically occupy, oil rich Middle East [sic] or to start any future confrontation, between Christianity and Islam, demonizing Islam and its followers would be a useful tool in the hands of political forces" seeking "majority public support in the West" for a "clash of civilizations."
Elaborating on his 1930's Jewish analogy, Quraishy found "[s]imilarities between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism" and an "echo" of "anti-Semitic attitudes prevalent in early 20th century Europe." Therefore Quraishy considered the 2005 Jyllands-Posten Mohammad caricatures (available online here) as a "crossing [of] the invisible line of accepted norms" that could "no longer be dismissed as mere experiments in libertarian freedom of speech." Rather the "caricature depicting a bearded Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban" was "suspiciously similar" to a caricature not specifically identified by Quraishy of a Jew in Adolf Hitler's official Nazi party newspaper Der Stürmer. Both Muhammad and the Jew were "bearded" and wore "religious headgear," and were "depicted as icons of evil in contemporary society." Consequently, "Muslim communities in non-Islamic countries have come to fear the very pogroms, which targeted the Jews in 1930s Europe." Quraishy expressed a "strong feeling that Europe in particular has not learnt any lessons from its history—past and even recent when millions of Jews, Roma and other minorities were exterminated."
Yet in contrast to Quraishy's conspiracy-based assessment of Muslims as the new Jews, hate crimes against Jews in the United States far outnumber similar crimes against Muslims by several multiples, while many European Jews fear growing anti-Semitism among Muslim immigrant communities there. The latest Europol statistics (2010) on terrorism in the European Union, meanwhile, do not suggest that rightwing-terrorism is a greater threat than Islamic terrorism.
Undeterred by such facts, Quraishy advocates restrictions on speech critical of Islam and Muslims. In light of the "collective brain washing of German people by Nazi statements" and their "dire consequences," Quraishy concludes that "[f]ree speech has its limits—moral, legal, and societal. No individual or a group should be above law and society's well being as well as harmony." Quraishy finds many criticisms of Islam such as comparisons with totalitarian movements to be "very insulting, derogatory and provocative to most Muslim communities." While expressing a vague Muslim willingness to "welcome criticism of individuals, groups or even whole societies, where Islam is the major religion," Quraishy draws an undefined "line between Freedom of speech and Freedom of hate speech."
For a more appropriate treatment of Islam under his conception of proper "freedom of speech", Quraishy recommends a "closer look at the terminology used by the media in its coverage of Islam, and Muslims in general and terrorism in particular." With respect to these issues, Quraishy rather arbitrarily demands a "[d]e-linking of Islam and terrorism or militancy in media," irrespective of Islamist ideology as a source of worldwide religious violence. For furtherance of these goals, Quraishy advocates "ongoing dialogue with the media as how to balance freedom of speech [emphasis added], covering events without prejudice and being sensitive to the rights of minorities," thereby opening the door to more politically correct pressure for Islamophile manipulation of the media already manifest in the United States. In the public sector, Quraishy advocates "[c]lear guidelines against Islamophobia from internationally respected organs, like UN, OSCE, ODIHR, EU, Council of Europe" as well as "[s]trong legislation against hate speech, incitement to religious hatred and propaganda."
Quraishy's goals and reasoning are of a piece with the views expressed by him and others at the originally cited OSCE meeting that Muslims figure most prominently around the world as victims and not perpetrators. In this vision Islam is a benign religion such that "[b]oth Islam and Christianity wish to fulfill spiritual void in one's life [sic]" and "[e]very one must choose his/her own ways." Simply overlooking the years following the September 11, 2001, attacks that will surely not enter history as a decade of Islamic Peace, Quraishy blithely declares that "violence, death threats, force is un-Islamic." Indeed, in "marked contrast to Christian attitudes to Islam, Muslims have historically respected Christianity as a sister religion that shares the same prophets and many of the same moral values." According to Quraishy, "Muslims would welcome a rapprochement that heralded an end to Islamophobia," but this would require that "most people in the Western societies…shed their racism and face up to the realities of past and recent encounters between Muslims and Christians."
Quraishy's colleague, EMISCO president and former United Nations special rapporteur for racism, Doudou Diene, meanwhile, expressed similar positive feelings towards Islam during a February 2011 symposium with Quraishy and others in Turkey. Speaking of the then beginning Arab Spring now feared by many as an Islamist Winter, Diene praised these upheavals for "leading the region towards democracy." Despite concerns about growing Islamist authoritarianism in Turkey, Diene also "emphasized that the success of Turkey shows how Islam is compatible with democracy and human rights." EMISCO's "hear no evil, see no evil" understanding of Muslims as perpetual victims apparently has no room for recognizing Islamic sharia norms such as punishments, including death, for apostasy and blasphemy and second-class dhimmi status for non-Muslims like Christians, as well as Islam's doctrine of jihad religious warfare advancing sharia.
Thus the threat to a desperately needed intellectual inquiry into, and interchange about, Islam, something Quraishy himself concedes "is not a nationality or ethnicity but the youngest religion after Judaism and Christianity," from the likes of EMISCO is clear. Quraishy's contrived narrative of victimized Muslims as the new Jews will suppress criticism of Islam and its implications as an idea with analogies to legally condemned Third Reich propagandists and neo-Nazis like Julius Streicher. Individuals such as the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard who seek to discuss themes like violence in Islam with a cartoon of Muhammad wearing a bomb in his turban will face legal sanction and social isolation, even as real Islamic suicide bombers, among other things, place bombs in their turbans. Democratic traditions of free speech and international discussions about the dangers within Islam will be the true, ultimate victims.
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