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September 26, 2016

Interfaith Dialogue in Practice

King Abdullah II of Jordan plays a key role in Alliance of Civilizations’ and related interfaith dialogue initiatives. These initiatives have a global reach.  They come with a heavy price for it involves “finding the balance between free speech and religious freedom”.   In practice, free speech is always sacrificed.  This recent headline perfectly illustrates this balance. 

The Jordanian government clearly had no interest in protecting this man and it’s subsequent condemnation of the killing rings hollow.

The fact that this writer’s free speech is criminalized perfectly illustrates what free nations should come to expect as the United Nations’ governmental structures attempt to reconcile Islam with the West through its Alliance of Civilizations and related social cohesion initiatives.   President Obama joined the United States to the initiative in 2009.  The AoC initiative is a key component of the U.S. global counter-terrorism strategy.

Note that Mr. Hattar was charged with inciting sectarian strife and insulting Islam.  In 2005, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said during the launch of the Alliance of Civilizations initiative that no one should have the right to criticize Islam.   The UN Human Rights Council promptly introduced the Defamation of Religion resolution intended to criminalize such free speech.  Western nations rejected that proposal then and every time it was subsequently re-introduced.  The Council changed strategy and reintroduced the resolution, this time on steroids, with a different name:  Resolution 16/18.  The face given the Resolution is the Istanbul Process.  The Process was launched by the Organization of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) for the Islamic world, Hillary Clinton for the U.S., and High Representative Catherine Ashton for the European Union.

This is what is envisioned for the West as penned by the OIC:  “The OIC has always upheld its unwavering commitment to freedom of expression but has never held back in expressing caution and concern of its misuse and abuse.  Like all other rights, the right of freedom of expression is not absolute and that cannot be exploited to infringe on the rights of others or to incite violence and hatred to endanger human lives by engaging in blatant insult, denigration and mockery of the deep seated religious beliefs and symbols and personalities sacred to religions and their followers.”  (See Fifth OIC Observatory Report on Islamophobia)

“Any depiction of God is prohibited in Islam” and could “incite” violence.

So while the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the burning of a flag is an expression of free speech, we have yet to see whether a new Court shall follow the recommendations of the OIC and Hillary Clinton that the burning of Koran is not protected speech.  I personally view actions as disgusting.  Nevertheless, relinquishing our free speech rights to accommodate Islamic law or those who are thin skinned does not serve the best interests of the western world.


September 19, 2010

Fanning the Flames

These past weeks have proven productive for those who seek gain from a good crisis. Seemingly unrelated events appear more interconnected as I trace their origins and those who will ultimately benefit from the crisis. Amidst the Cordoba Mosque controversy, a new crisis has added fuel to the fire. The accelerant: the global media attention which focused on a church in Gainesville Florida and its 30-50 member congregation who planned to burn Korans on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

While the press remains perplexed how it
lost control of the Koran burning story, inquiry should guide them to the conclusion that they were manipulated. United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon blames Pastor Terry Jones as the one who “hijacked” the media. But it was not Jones who kept feeding the media frenzy; it was those sympathetic to the Alliance of Civilizations continually added fuel to the flames. How could an event having next to nothing for financial resources­­—one which promoted itself on YouTube—have gained worldwide attention? Hmm, “I wonder when there will be a Koran burning event” is hardly something I would ever have imagined people tying into their YouTube search engines. It is worth taking a closer look at those fanning the flames of this crisis.

None of us would have known anything about the Dove World Outreach Center’s plans until the September 6 online edition of the Wall Street Journal quoted General Petraeus as saying that the Koran burnings would endanger U.S. troops. Incidentally, Petraeus is now defending himself against Pentagon officials who charge he crossed the civilian-military line. The very next day following the Journal’s report, the International Crisis Group posted a media alert on the Alliance of Civilizations’ Global Expert Finder web site. The International Crisis Group functions as a crisis management tool within the AoC network. The purpose of the Global Expert Finder is to provide journalists with information on how to report on issues surrounding cross-cultural and inter-religious tensions.

Petraeus’ statements have consequently generated debate on whether free speech needs to be balanced against safety concerns for U.S. military personnel. I could not help but remember the Alliance of Civilizations’ High Representative’s speech that our rights need to be balanced to achieve global social cohesion.

"…to build inclusive and cohesive societies we need to find the right balance between the rights of cultural communities and the need to maintain social cohesion respecting the principles of human rights that bind together all countries worldwide.
And if Petraeus hadn’t already drawn international attention to Terry Jones, the attention directed towards them by Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and President Obama was certain to destine this as an international crisis. Considering that the Obama Administration has incorporated the Alliance of Civilizations into the United States’ political landscape, the spontaneity of this controversy started to resemble the cartoon crisis. This prompted me to take a closer look at you know who and, not surprisingly, their signature is there.

Could it be merely a coincidence that Akbar Ahmed who serves as an advisor to Petraeus published a piece in CNN International which directed the world’s attention to “Burn Koran Dayor that Ahmed is active with the Dialogue Among Civilizations which is the framework the Alliance of Civilizations used for its launch? Akbar Ahmed and the Ground Zero Mosque Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf are both involved with the Daniel Pearl Foundation’s interfaith dialogue. Ahmed is also a Bookings Institute Senior Fellow for the global governance think tank.

I believe the Pearl family is sincere in their dialogue efforts to combat the extremist ideology which led to the murder of their son. And while I do not wish to cause the Pearl family any additional pain, I’ve noticed that they have become integrated with Alliance of Civilizations’ personalities. Whether they understand and share the Alliance’s ideology I cannot say for sure, but I strongly urge them to closely examine the interfaith objectives and how the Alliance’s definition of extremism slates countless innocent people as terrorists.

Imam Rauf claims himself as a moderate as he can profess to be Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. One of the best critical assessments I’ve read on this statement and interfaith dialogue is written by an atheist. Rauf is able to make this claim because his belief system teaches that Jews and Christians are, in fact, Muslims who have not yet realized who they are. But when these faiths reject this belief system, according to the Koran and the Alliance of Civilizations, they become “exclusivist” extremists against whom they intend to conduct a war.

The Alliance of Civilizations and the Organization for Islamic Conference are politically partnered organizations who jointly call for restrictions on free speech. This past April, the OIC-Alliance action plan for combating Islamophobia cited Terry Jones’ as an example of one whose speech incites violence and discrimination against Muslims. The OIC envisions legislation such to Ireland’s anti-defamation law as a model for combating Islamophobia. Per the report:

“On July 10, 2009, Ireland passed the Defamation Bill. One of the aspects of this bill would make it illegal to criticize religion, any religion under penalty of fines up to 25,000 Euros. It was a most important development in conformity with OIC’s call for effective normative and legal frameworks to deal with the grave threat posed by Islamophobia. The following are some excerpts from the Blasphemy Clause:

(1) A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000[Amended to €25,000]

(2) For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if (a) he or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion, and (b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.

The Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue issued a statement on Terry Jones which reiterates this position on free speech: “We believe that all laws protect freedom of expression unless it constitutes to an act of insult, and abuse of others.”

While I believe book burnings is disgusting, I do believe it to be consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that flag burning is a constitutionally protected form of speech. If a burning were to take place outside a place of worship or its intent one of intimidation, I would view that differently. It is clear, though, that to make Islamic culture socially cohesive with the West, the Alliance seeks to adjust our freedoms to accommodate Sharia law. At this year’s Cordoba conference on religious freedom, the Alliance indicated it is watching to see which will win out: the Protestantisation of religion or Islamisation of Christianity? For they conclude that Protestantization of religion will let secularization prevail while Islamization of Christianity will create a totally new agenda.

As with the Ground Zero Mosque controversy, the Koran burning crisis is being used to instigate a “clash of civilizations” which ultimately serves the Alliance of Civilizations’ political agenda. And as a tool they are using the First Amendment as a double-edged sword.

Terry Jones, agent provocateur or unwitting dupe? I suspect the latter. Either way, Jones’ actions has served the interests of the Alliance of Civilizations in labeling Christians as extremists and emboldened others to identify Christianity with terrorism. Once again, as in the cartoon crisis, the benefactor of this controversy is the Alliance of Civilizations.