Last week’s terror attack targeting French magazine Charlie Hebdo‘s office in Paris has sparked a global conversation about the nature of free speech, with the “Je Suis Charlie” hashtag in support of the murdered Charlie Hebdo staff going viral and becoming the most used hashtag in the history of Twitter.
But this afternoon, the UN representative for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ufuk Gokcen, was expressing another view with respect to free speech.
The OIC is comprised of the 57 Muslim-majority nations and the Palestinian Authority. They are the largest bloc at the UN, and when they meet on the head-of-state level, they literally speak for the Muslim world.
So it is noteworthy that after the Charlie Hebdo attack, Gokcen is now calling for more implementation of the OIC-sponsored UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 and the follow-up Rabat Plan of Action that would criminalize the very type of speech that Charlie Hebdo engaged in:
The timing of Gokcen’s call couldn’t be more perfect.
Today, University of Tennessee law professor Robert Blitt (a colleague of our own Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds) had an oped published in USA Today calling out the OIC for its retrograde views on free speech and how they fuel Islamic extremism:
The OIC, whose member states range from moderate U.S. allies such as Jordan to adversaries such as Iran, describes itself as the world’s largest international body after the United Nations. For more than a decade, “the collective voice of the Muslim world” has spread the belief that any insult directed against the Muslim faith or its prophet demands absolute suppression. Quashing “defamation of Islam” is enshrined as a chief objective in the organization’s charter.
With countless internal resolutions, relentless lobbying of the international community and block voting on resolutions advocating a prohibition on defamation of religion at the U.N., the OIC continuously pushes to silence criticism of Islam.
Translated into practice inside Islamic nations and increasingly elsewhere, this toxic vision breeds contempt for freedom of religion and expression, justifies the killing of Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and casts a pall of self-censorship over academia and the arts.
By building the expectation that dissent or insult merits suppression, groups such as the OIC and the Arab League have emboldened extremists to take protection of Islam to the next level. With the most authoritative Muslim voices prepared to denounce violence but not to combat the idea that Islam should be immune from criticism, a meaningful response to counteract the resulting violence continues to be glaringly absent.
An OIC statement released after a 2011 Charlie Hebdo issue “guest-edited” by the prophet Mohammed typifies this troubling position: “Publication of the insulting cartoon … was an outrageous act of incitement and hatred and abuse of freedom of expression. … The publishers and editors of the Charlie Hebdo magazine must assume full responsibility for their … incitement of religious intolerance.”
As Professor Blitt notes in his oped, the OIC has been the international driving force behind the passage of Resolution 16/18, which was co-sponsored by Pakistan and the United States and passed in December 2011.
When passed, Resolution 16/18 was billed by the Obama administration as an improvement over previous “defamation of religion” resolutions. But the effort immediately came under fire from religious liberties and free speech experts:
In the view of veteran international religious liberty analyst and advocate Elizabeth Kendal resolution 16/18, “far from being a breakthrough for free speech … is actually more dangerous than” the religious defamation resolutions.
“Indeed, the strategic shift from defamation to incitement actually advances the OIC’s primary goal: the criminalization of criticism of Islam,” she wrote.
The OIC’s push to criminalize “defamation of Islam” goes back to the OIC’s 10 Year Plan of Action adopted in 2005. Under the section “Countering Islamophobia” (VII), the plan says:
3. Endeavor to have the United Nations adopt an international resolution to counter Islamophobia, and call upon all States to enact laws to counter it, including deterrent punishments.
In their published implementation plan for their 10 Year Plan of Action, they are more clear that combating “defamation of religion” is not what they were after, but rather criminalizing “Islamophobia”:
Which is effectively what they’ve accomplished with the generous assistance of the Obama administration. Just two months before the passage of Resolution 16/18, senior Justice Department officials were meeting with U.S. Islamic groups discussing that very thing.
In fact, in my annual “National Security ‘Not Top 10’ of 2011” (no. 7) here at PJ Media, I noted the active cooperation of Hillary Clinton and the State Department in working with the OIC as part of their “Istanbul Process” to that end.
And in November 2012, when I reported here that U.S. Embassy in Jeddah Consul General Anne Casper was going to be addressing the OIC’s symposium on “defamation of Islam,” the OIC quickly scrubbed any reference to her appearance.
My colleague Stephen Coughlin has posted a video lecture outlining how the OIC’s efforts with respect to Resolution 16/18 are really rooted in Islamic law’s codes prohibiting blasphemy:
It’s hardly surprising that even after the Charlie Hebdo attack the OIC is not content to abandon their decade-long effort to criminalize “Islamophobia.” But, much as Professor Blitt has warned in his oped today, by doing so they are pushing the global Islamic community further away from the rest of the world.