The Lawfare Project Voices Concern over Continued State Department Engagement with the OIC to Restrict Free Speech
For more information and to schedule an interview, contact:
Brooke Goldstein – Brooke@TheLawfareProject.org – (212) 922-1672 ext. 302
Benjamin Ryberg – Ben@TheLawfareProject.org – (212) 922-1672 ext. 305
Supna Zaidi – Supna@TheLawfareProject.org – (212) 922-1672 ext. 306
December 13, 2011 – NEW YORK – A multinational conference is being held this week from December 12-14 in Washington DC to build “muscles of respect and empathy and tolerance” between Muslim-majority states and the West with regard to free speech and discussions of Islam.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will join Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), after meetings the two held earlier this year to discuss the March 2011 passage of UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 on “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping . . . against, persons based on religion or belief,” a Resolution the United States co-sponsored with Egypt. The OIC is a 57-member voting block of Muslim-majority nations at the United Nations, which purports to represent Muslim interests globally and is a major proponent of lawfare against free speech. Over the past 10 years, the OIC has repeatedly lobbied for “anti-blasphemy” or “defamation against Islam” (later changed to “religion”) resolutions to censor what it deems offensive speech against Islam.
The Resolution itself is troubling for a variety of reasons: not only does it directly challenge basic tenets of liberal democracy and contradict the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, it also counters the U.S. position on free speech, as stated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself on December 8, 2011 at The Hague’s conference on Internet Freedom. There, as keynote speaker, Clinton said the U.S. ardently supports unfettered free speech without government censorship on the Internet. Resolution 16/18, conversely, encourages governments to decide what constitutes permissible and impermissible speech where religion is concerned. A central tenet of liberal democracy is the right to speak publicly and critically about government and religion, and any government-imposed censorship of the latter should be of the utmost concern. The resolution also comes at a time when free speech about the threat of militant Islam, terrorism and their sources of financing are under attack by lawfare lawsuits designed to punish and silence anyone brave enough to speak on such matters, as detailed in the new book Lawfare: The War Against Free Speech.
There is also criticism that a U.S. government-led self-censorship movement has already begun, as many media sources report that the Obama administration is unilaterally reviewing counter-terrorism training manuals and purging them of any references to Islam. While concerns over discriminatory or bigoted text against Muslims is legitimate and warrants review, the wholesale whitewashing of Islamist extremism from law enforcement training is dishonest and harmful. There is already a blacklist of individuals who will no longer be permitted to train, including seasoned members of the FBI’s training division. This is consistent with the OIC’s push to criminalize references to Islam or Muslims in relation to terrorism, regardless of the fact that many terrorist groups are self-described Islamists. It is critical to monitor U.S. engagement with the OIC to ensure it is consistent with the values and protections enumerated in the U.S. Constitution, especially with regard to freedom of speech.
The Lawfare Project Conference Call on the White House Purge of References to Islam can be heard here.