In April 2007, the Council of Europe Counter-Terrorism Task Force conducted a comprehensive conference aimed at addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. The Why Terrorism conference reinforced the efforts of the Council of Europe’s convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, the initiative of the Alliance of Civilizations, and the Club of Madrid’s counter-terrorism agenda. The outcome document called for the international community to:
- rapidly conclude the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism;
- strengthen regional organizations to combat terrorism; and
- conduct the global war on terror within the framework of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (otherwise known as “shared universal values”).
As I’ve covered in previous blog posts, the EU presents itself as the gravitational point in the system of world government. By enshrining human rights into the framework of its foreign policy, the Union believes it can export its interpretation of human rights values without legal constraint. This far-reaching policy compounded with a unique interpretation of human rights has most dangerous consequences--for we have seen that the Alliance of Civilizations’ initiative is the global implementation of the EU’s social cohesion policy. The EU’s rotational president Danilo Türk addressed this at the recent Alliance of Civilizations Madrid Forum.
Alliance of Civilizations High Representative Jorge Sampaio describes this policy as the global governance of culture
As we have seen, the Alliance of Civilizations social cohesion policy is the core component of the United Nations’ global counter-terrorism strategy. The strategy places a great deal of emphasis on regional organizations for they are key in the implementation of AoC objectives. An example of AoC-regional organization cooperation is the Tripartite-Plus agreement in which the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the Council of Europe have united to combat “extremist” ideology. States that have bound themselves by treaty to these regional organizations are politically bound to abide by the organization’s decisions. For example, the United States as an OSCE signatory state is expected to implement OSCE decisions bypassing the approval of our national legislature. In its document The Role of Religion and Belief in the Fight Against Terrorism, pertaining to restrictions on religion or belief, the OSCE tells us:
- "Let us restrain to affirm that: ‘The legal binding force of these documents is not seriously doubted…A commitment does not have to be legally binding in order to have binding force; the distinction between legal and non-legal binding force resides in the legal consequences attached to the binding force, not in the binding force as such.’"
Similarly, Russia and its former satellite (eastern block) countries are bound to Council of Europe decisions. Stanford University’s Europeanisation as a Gravity Model of Democratisation notes that:
- “For democracy and human rights the Council of Europe is important as a norm setting organization and codifier of law, Membership of the Council of Europe requires adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms…”
Stanford University later explained that it is probable that these countries did not realize what they were getting themselves into when they bound themselves to the Council of Europe. Note the significance of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR is modeled after the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is said to be the cornerstone of every counter-terrorism strategy we have examined thus far. Article 29 states:
- (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
- (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
- (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
The limitations as determined by international law and the purposes and principles of the United Nations are of particular interest to me for they are companions to the social cohesion policy. In this context, human rights are based upon the adherence to a set of common beliefs and values having the intent to ensure social inclusion. This theory is seriously flawed for it introduces governance in which thought and belief become strictly controlled thereby negating the very diversity they claim to protect. The quest to build a new common civilization further contradicts the notion of diversity and a free society. Take, for example, the inter-religious dialogue aspect of the social cohesion policy which recognizes that all religions’ gods are equal. If an individual’s belief system requires they reject this premise, their belief system then becomes a violation of another person’s human rights where they further stand accused of exhibiting an ideology of hate or one that contributes to social exclusion. Worse yet, that individual’s belief system categorically becomes one associated with violent radicalization and terrorism. Article 5 of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Terrorism addresses the public provocation to commit a terrorist offence as such:
- “For the purposes of this Convention, "public provocation to commit a terrorist offence” means the distribution, or otherwise making available, of a message to the public, with the intent to incite the commission of a terrorist offence, where such conduct, whether or not directly advocating terrorist offences, causes a danger that one or more such offences may be committed.”
The Council of Europe has provided legal analysis for article 5:
- “The Committee therefore focused on the recruitment of terrorists and the creation of new terrorist groups; the instigation of ethnic and religious tensions which can provide a basis for terrorism; the dissemination of "hate speech" and the promotion of ideologies favourable to terrorism, while paying particular attention to the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights concerning the application of Article 10, paragraph 2 of the ECHR, and to the experience of States in the implementation of their national provisions on "apologie du terrorisme" and/or "incitement to terrorism" in order to carefully analyse the potential risk of a restriction of fundamental freedoms.”
There are many documents within the European Union that identify religious ideologies considered to be hate speech and conducive to the spread of terrorism. Among them are the ideological foundations of Europe: unity in diversity which warns us that we must embrace redefined humanistic versions of our faiths:
- “…The fundamentalist, let him be Christian, Israelite, Muslim is the follower of his own truth, regards those belonging to his group as good and everybody else as bad or evil. He is not willing to learn and not able to conduct a dialogue. Fanatic violence is born from fundamentalism, which wants to force his own “truth” upon others. The shallow nihilism feeds the spread of such fundamentalism very effectively. Hence the danger that it would proliferate, entailing the rejection of the essential elements of the European heritage. Thus, we have to look for another solution. The Christian humanism and Christly humanity, which basically reformulate the Christian and Greek elements of the European intellectual heritage.”
Not only is religious belief attributed to violent radicalization but also political dissent. How could one possibly oppose globalization without adoption of an “extremist” ideology? In communication from the European Commission to the Parliament and the Council, the final paragraph of Terrorist recruitment: addressing the factors contributing to violent radicalization states:
- “…Individuals, particularly young people from poorer, or excluded backgrounds, may feel a strong attraction for the “certainties” of extreme (or antiglobalisation) ideologies, although of course it is not only individuals in these categories who are found to have turned to violent radicalisation.”
The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), article 10, paragraph 2, modeled after the United Nations’ human rights declaration, establishes a framework which would place restrictions on individuals accused of advocating “extremist” ideologies:
- “The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”
Now let’s back up to article 9 of the ECHR which pertains to religious freedom. Here we read similar language where restrictions may be imposed on religious freedom:
- “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
In its conference The Role of Religion and Belief in the Fight Against Terrorism, the Organization for Security and Co-Operation of Europe provides interpretation of plausible restrictions.
- "…it recognizes that in democratic societies, in which several religions coexist within one and the same population, it may be necessary to place restrictions on this freedom in order to reconcile the interest of various groups and ensure that everyone's beliefs are respected. Indeed, the fact that the freedom of religion is an element of a democratic and pluralistic society entails the placing of limitations thereupon in order to protect everyone's rights. Nevertheless, unlike Article 18 of the ICCPR, Article 9 is not included among the rights that cannot be derogated from in times of war or public emergency that threatens the life of the nation, arroding to Article 15 of the ECHR. But this may be done only to "the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation."
Note that the commentary indicates that if the state believes that others’ religious beliefs are not respected, restrictions on religion are permissible. Recall that religious fundamentalists have been described as those who reject another’s belief system as being equally valid. By definition, this constitutes disrespect. Additional clarification may be found in the Council of Europe’s counterterrorism document written by UNESCO’s Rosa Guerreiro, program specialist for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue. Guerreiro warns that religious fundamentalism constitutes disrespect and violates article 4 of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity thereby violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
- “UNESCO promotes respect for all dimensions of cultural diversity since it is the very fabric of humankind and the “common heritage of humanity”, as stipulated in the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, unanimously adopted in 2001. The Declaration furthermore aims at preserving cultural diversity as a living, and thus renewable treasure that must not be perceived as static but rather as a process guaranteeing the survival of humanity. At the same time, the Declaration is dedicated to preventing segregation and fundamentalism which, in the name of cultural differences, could sanctify those differences and in doing so, counter the message of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is extremely important to stimulate the respect of all cultures including religions. As we can read in the article 4 of UNESCO’s Declaration on Cultural Diversity: “the defence of cultural diversity is an ethical imperative, inseparable for human dignity. It implies a commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms…..No one may invoke cultural diversity to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law, nor to limit their scope.””
To further combat religious fundamentalism is the United Nations’ Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. The declaration provides for restrictions on proselytization as well as introduces constraints on what a child may be taught in their religious education as we see in article 5, paragraph 5:
- “Practices of a religion or beliefs in which a child is brought up must not be injurious to his physical or mental health or to his full development, taking into account article 1, paragraph 3, of the present Declaration.”
Article 1, paragraph 3:
- “Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.”
In addressing what contributes to violations of the fundamental rights of others, the United Nations’ definition is consistent with that of the European Union’s. The special rappateur on the implementation of the Declaration tells us that religious man and women who reject another’s religion as being equal have an extremist belief system:
- “It is a fact that freedom of religion does not seem to have won over the minds of all men and women. Each religion tends to believe that it is sole guardian of the truth and that it has a duty to make everyone bear witness to that truth. That does not always contribute to tolerance among religions. Moreover, each religion may be tempted to fight what it may consider to be deviance within its own ranks or around it. That does not always contribute to tolerance within religions, especially tolerance of religious minorities…”
- “Moreover, the fact is that religious extremism is not yet in retreat and seems set to continue to pose a threat, sometimes to entire regions. The major religions are no strangers to extremism and are sometimes exposed to these terrorist manifestations, which spare neither Governments nor the governed. It is vital to combat this religious extremism by taking action against both its causes and its effects and by getting States to define a minimum set of common rules of conduct and behaviour with regard to it.”
Even the OSCE’s counter-terrorism report recognizes problems with the Declaration, problems I’m sure will be ironed out.
- "Restrictions upon proselytizing, which would be permissible under the Declaration to protect the rights of those targeted by the proselytizing activities, may conflict with the freedom of expression guaranteed in Article 19 of the ICCPR.
Closer to home, we are now witnessing similar legislation within the United States. Legislation intended to combat violent radicalization has passed the House of Representatives. H.R. 1955: Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 has disturbing similarities to the European anti-radicalization legislation as such:
- “(2) VIOLENT RADICALIZATION – The term ‘violent radicalization’ means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.”
This legislation creates a commission which will report on the root causes of violent radicalization. I rather suspect we will see definitions consistent with those provided by the United Nations and European Union. Our military counter-terrorism experts already echo what I’ve written here. James Forest, Director of Terrorism Studies at West Point Academy perhaps provides us with a hint of what we may expect. In The Final Act: Ideologies of Catastrophic Terror Forest reports that religious adherents who believe in an apocalypse are prone to violent radicalization. Additionally, pertaining to religious beliefs, Forest writes:
- “As British terror expert JP Larsson has observed, religious ideologies are often theologically supremacist—meaning that all believers assume superiority over non-believers, who are not privy to the truth of the religion.3 Second, most are exclusivist—believers are a chosen people, or their territory is a holy land. Third, many are absolutist; in other words, it is not possible to be half-hearted believer, and you are either totally within the system, or totally without it. Further only the true believers are guaranteed salvation and victory, whereas the enemies and the unbelievers—as well as those who have taken no stance whatsoever—are condemned to some sort of eternal punishment or damnation, as well as death. Overall, religious ideologies can foster polarizing values in terms of right and wrong, good and evil, light and dark—values which can be co-opted by terrorist organizations to convert a “seeker” into a lethal killer. “
- “Regardless of the underlying monotheistic faith, groups that adhere to an apocalyptic ideology see their mission in two general ways: they either want to accelerate the end of time (e.g., Aum Shinrikyo) or take action to ensure that they survive the millennium (e.g., the Branch Davidians). Overall, groups which embrace this unique “end of times” form of catastrophic ideology represent a worst-case scenario type of terrorist threat, although to date there have been relatively few groups at this end of the spectrum (and apocalyptic groups have historically had very limited appeal to a broader population).”
James Forest correctly recognizes that the Nazis had terrorist ideologies. I would encourage him to conduct an in-depth analysis of the new age writings and earnestly question what could cause a Christian to believe the foretold apocalypse is nearing. He may start by considering the following writings:
- New Age Almanac credits the foundational writings of the modern new age movement to Helena Blavatsky and Alice Bailey. Hitler, an occult initiate, followed Blavatsky’s writings.
- The writings of Alice Bailey which contains threats to bomb the Vatican and elimination of the monotheistic faiths.
- Threats from New Age visionary Barbara Marx Hubbard telling us that the new system of global governance expects to kill half of the population who refuses to receive a mark of liberation, i.e., 666.
- The threatening writings of Barbara Hand Clow that instructs us we must accept that Lucifer lives within us. If we do not accept this belief we will not make it to the New Age cosmic party.
- The writings of New Age visionary David Spangler telling us we have the choice of receiving a Luciferic initiation or death.
Clearly, these writings are intended to terrorize and would naturally lead one to believe in an approaching apocalypse. Even so, speaking on behalf of Christians to reject Mr. Forest’s conclusions that we desire to accelerate the apocalypse, Revelation 12:11 tells us:
- "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death"
As for the Alliance of Civilizations, when one looks at a web site such as the World Commission on Global Consciousness & Spirituality and notes Desmond Tutu along side Barbara Marx Hubbard it becomes more clear that the intent is not to counter extremist, rather religious beliefs that do not adhere to the new civilization. It is the Alliance of Civilizations itself that is institutionalized extremism.