Is 'Islamophobia' a Worldwide Free Speech Threat?

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Freedom of speech around the world has been a hallmark of Christian civilization, but today there is less and less freedom to criticize Islam.

In Denmark, a 15-year-old Danish boy faces prison time for distributing leaflets warning that the country could someday become a Muslim nation and that he thinks that is a bad thing. A Danish prosecutor called the leaflets "hate speech."

Yet, across the water in Sweden, it was not hate speech when a leading national newspaper printed an article a few weeks ago claiming that Israeli soldiers harvest and sell organs from dead Palestinians. Some say that claim amounts to the anti-Semitic Jewish blood libel, that Jews commit human sacrifice on non-Jews. 

The Swedish government, which defended the newspaper, said it was free speech.

Free Speech vs. Hate Speech

Welcome to Europe, where many say the difference between free speech and hate speech is dictated by left-wing political correctness and fear of Islam. 

"Free speech is coming under increasing pressure by the day," Lars Hedegaard, head of the International Free Press Society, told CBN News.

It does not matter if the criticism is factual.

For instance, Islam teaches that when Mohammed was 52, he consummated his marriage to a 9-year-old girl. But when Austrian politician Susanne Winter said that, in today's world, Mohammed would be considered a child molester, she was convicted of hate speech.

Dutch Parliament member Geert Wilders is awaiting trial on the charge of "inciting hatred and discrimination." In Wilders' short film about Islamic violence "Fitna," he simply reprinted violent verses from the Koran itself and added video of radical sermons and photos of Islamic terrorism.

"He's being accused of hate speech for repeating in a film what radical imams and religious leaders have been saying about their own motives and their beliefs," Hedegaard said. "They're not being prosecuted for hate speech. He's being prosecuted for repeating it."

The censorship of criticism of Islam is also in America as well.

A new book about the 2005 Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy, The Cartoons that Shook the World, contains no pictures of the Mohammed cartoons. The American publisher Yale University Press decided it would be too offensive to Muslims to actually show the cartoons.

The 'Collective' Muslim's Voice

But there is another force behind the push to censor critics of Islam -- the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference. Only the United Nations is larger.

"In 2008, the Organization of the Islamic Conference laid out a 10-year plan for suppression of free speech and for the introduction of laws that would prevent criticisms of religions and the reading of Islam," Hedegaard explained.

The OIC calls itself the collective voice of the world-wide Muslim "ummah," or nation. It has its own declaration of human rights, called the Cairo Declaration.

The document states "All rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari'ah," which is strict Islamic law.

Marshall Sana, an Islamic expert at Barnabas Fund, said the OIC "actually wields an enormous amount of influence."

"That's been evident the last few years with perhaps its number one agenda item, which is combating 'Islamophobia' as they call it, or the defamation of religion," he added.

The OIC calls Islamophobia "the worst form of terrorism" and a threat to world peace.

"That has been a project under construction by the OIC, to develop the concept of 'Islamophobia' as any criticism upon Mohammed, the Koran, the fundamentals of Islam, but now it's being coupled with racism," Sana said.

'Defamation of Religion'

The Organization of the Islamic conference is now a major force in the United Nations. For four straight years, the U.N. has adopted a non-binding OIC resolution banning the defamation of religion.

Observers say the ultimate goal of the OIC is to get a U.N. law criminalizing criticism or blasphemy of religion, even though Wilders said that in the Muslim world, respect for religion only goes in one direction.

"Look at how Christians today are treated in countries where Islam is dominant," he said. "Try buying a Bible in Saudi Arabia. Try to visit a church in Iran. Try to do anything Christian in an Islamic country. There is no room for it. They are intolerant."

Some opponents of Wilders have compared his attacks on Islam to yelling fire in a crowded theatre, and say it is not protected speech.

"You can cry fire if the theatre is on fire, is burning and unfortunately our societies our burning," Wilders said in response. "Islamization is, unfortunately, very strong."

Free Speech on Trial?

Supporters of Wilders said free speech itself is on trial, and if Wilders loses, it will be the ultimate religious, political, and cultural capitulation by the Dutch government to Islam.

The Wilders case is just a small part of a growing worldwide phenomenon-- the censorship of any speech that criticizes Islam.

"You'd better care because this is a road circus that's coming your way," Hedegaard warned Americans.

Wilders agreed, saying, "Don't think this won't happen to you. Don't think it won't happen to the United States."

*Original Broadcast Date: September 11, 2009.

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Dale Hurd

Dale Hurd

CBN News Sr. Reporter

A CBN News veteran, Dale Hurd has reported extensively from Western Europe, as well as China, Russia, and Central and South America.  Since 9/11, Dale has reported in depth on various aspects of the global war on terror in the United States and Europe.  Follow Dale on Twitter @HurdontheWeb and "like" him at Facebook.com/DaleHurdNews.