Last week, I reported that Oskar Freysinger, the prominent member of the Swiss People's Party who led the successful and model campaign to ban minaret construction in Switzerland (and whom I interviewed here), had been invited to Brussels to speak about Islam in Europe only to have two hotels cancel venues out from under him in dhimmi-deference to sharia dictates against criticizing Islam. Filip Dewinter, the prominent Vlaams Belang politician known for his campaigns to halt Islamization in Belgium and to liberate Flanders from Belgium (and whom I have interviewed and written about here), offered Freysinger what I call "asylum from sharia" inside the Flemish parliament in Brussels. There, Freysinger delivered his planned address in French. We are fortunate that Gates of Vienna has called on the services of French correspondent l’échappée belle, who delivered the fine translation below.
Oskar Freysinger's address in Brussels, October 9, 2010
To preface, allow me to note that at the end of this first decade of the 21st century, questions and debate have become a challenge in the EU.
First, the Diamant Conference Center in Schaerbeek closed its doors to me under pressure from the mayor and the police on the leaseholder of the room, and then it was the turn of the Crowne Plaza Hotel to deny me a room. Its owner had at least the elegance, after having first accepted and then rejected the conference, to meet us, Marcel Castermans and me, to express his embarrassment of being unable to fulfill his commitment. “However,” he advised during this interview, “The Crowne Plaza is no exception as to its rejection. Currently, you will not find any hotel room in Brussels prepared to welcome you, as political pressures are too great. You see, I am a businessman, and cannot go against the system “. The manager of the Crowne Plaza didn’t know how right he was, because the owner of a third venue, who originally gave his approval, recanted just this morning.
This is why Europe is running adrift: Not because of fanatics who occupy the land, but because of cowards who let them do it.
I am, however, happy with the outcome of this matter, which sees me now speaking in French in a Flemish parliament hall. Thanks to Filip Dewinter, the only person this morning to support free speech in this city of Brussels which has been placed under the wet blanket of an anti-liberty clique.
Intolerance and censorship are now the preserve of those who have only the words “openness” and “tolerance” on their lips. Paradoxically, our fight for freedom, is also conducted for them and their children, despite the fact they are trying to muzzle us.
For now, I’ll try to summarize in three quarters of an hour the argument that prevailed when we, Switzerland, decided to give a strong signal to Islam by banning the construction of minarets. Is Islam a threat? If yes, in which areas and in which ways? These are questions I will try to answer without any animosity toward Muslims as individuals, because they are often the first victims of a pitiless dogma leaving them little choice in managing their lives.
1. All religions on an equal footing
At the beginning of this reflection we should ask ourselves how any rule of law protects the religious peace within the state. This can be accomplished via a secular legal regime that places itself above religious dogma and which guarantees equal treatment to all faiths. The protector must be placed above the protected so that its protection is effective and granted in the same way to all.
Religious faith is inherently unprovable and therefore beyond any checks. That means for a legislator ensuring equal treatment to all religions, that faith X and faith Y are necessarily at the same level, and that men are free to choose their religion, so as to be able to move from one religion to another. Religious freedom is also the oldest fundamental right of any modern constitutional state.
However, once religious faith is politicized, the dogmatization of policy threatens. One religion then influences policy to the point that it eventually bans, isolates or oppresses all other religious beliefs (see Iran, Afghanistan, etc.), while at the same time imposing a dogma (unprovable and unchanging).
Let me point out some instructive cases related to the blasphemy law introduced some time ago in Pakistan, which presents itself as a democracy:
- The family of a 26-year-old woman from the Punjab, Rubina Bibi, the mother of three children, who was charged and imprisoned on false charges of blasphemy. Due to her desperation, she now believes she has come to an agreement with her accusers: the withdrawal of charges, and thus freedom, in exchange for her conversion to Islam. In March 2010, Rubina was accused by a Muslim trader following a discussion on the sale of a food product. Court hearings took place under heavy pressure from Islamic extremist groups. To reach an out-of-court settlement, the court told the Rubina family that charges would be dropped if she converted to Islam.
- In February 2010, Qamar David, a Christian from Lahore, in prison since 2006, was sentenced to life imprisonment for blasphemy. For three years his family and his lawyer have been subjected to threats and intimidation. “The conviction is based solely on the statements and testimony created artificially, the fruits of hatred and prejudice,” says the lawyer Parvez Choudry.
- In January 2010, Imran Masih, 26, from Faisalabad, was sentenced to life imprisonment for blasphemy. A neighbor accused him of burning a copy of the Koran. The young man was the victim of a trap: while cleaning his shop, he wanted to get rid of some books written in Arabic (a language he does not understand) and asked the advice of one of his neighbors who first authorized him to do so and then accused him of blasphemy.
- In early July 2010, the Christian Zahid Masih of Model Town, not far from Lahore, was forced to flee and hide with his family after being accused of blasphemy earlier in the month by the Muslim Manat Ali, who stirred up a fundamentalist lynch mob. Zahid is alleged to have used as a bathmat a panel on which are inscribed some verses from the Koran.
Recognizing this, the problem that Islam poses to Western democracies is not primarily theological in nature, but above all political and legal.
2. Competing conceptions of law
In Switzerland, as in any democracy worthy of the name, every law is democratically legitimized. This means that our laws can change, unlike Islamic religious law, which is irreversible and autonomous because it is considered of divine origin: it is given once and for all, and is not accountable to anyone. Sharia is based on the Koran, which was given to the prophet Muhammad in a state of mystical ecstasy. The Koran exists as an uncreated law in heaven and was made accessible to humans by Mohammed. Sharia law is based on yet another source, the hadith, which by their source value are placed at the same level as the Koran and comprise information and actions taken from the prophet’s life. There are, according to Koranic schools, various viewpoints at this level. Certain hadith are accepted by some and rejected by others. Within the religious texts a great variety is found which leads to opposing views and practices.
Finally, all contradictions in the Koran as well as areas that are not resolved are set by the Ijma which represents a consensus of self-appointed lawyers (the scholars) who makes fatwa (legal rulings). The problem is that the alim (scholars, plural) are said to be the ones who “know”, and are therefore knowledgeable when it comes to scientific matters of faith. Thus we understand why faith is regarded as knowledge in Islam, that is, a scientifically verifiable area. This view is hardly reconcilable with our idea of faith, and leads to serious consequences in practical life. As opposed to the inhabitants of the 57 member countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference, the Swiss people may, under our conception of law, broadly participate in the political process through the instruments of direct democracy. We could, for example, delete the reference to the Almighty in the Federal Constitution. In contrast, the populations of the Islamic countries mentioned above do not have the right to challenge Sharia, which in these countries is equal to immutable scientific knowledge, equivalent to the Swiss admitting the fact that earth is round and revolves around the sun. The time when the church tried to ban this knowledge is gone; Galileo virtually represents the beginning of the emancipation of modern science from religion.
The Turkish Constitutional Court has come to a decision, upheld by the European Court of Human Rights, that Sharia is the antithesis of democracy and intends to usurp the state’s role as guarantor of individual rights and freedoms. In this context, the following statement by Dalil Boubaker, former president of the French Council of the Muslim community, is remarkable: “Islam is simultaneously religious, community, law and civilization.” The Organization of the Islamic Conference of States — which as mentioned, includes 57 states — has made a similar observation: “Islam is religion, state, and complete organization of life.” Under this principle, the Organization of the Islamic Conference of States accepts the General Declaration of Human Rights only to the extent that it does not conflict with Sharia.
It is precisely this tendency of Islam to control both private life and the public organization of society, and thus its overall influence on the design of people’s lives, which distinguishes Islam from other religions.
Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. practice religion primarily as an individual conception of life without a significant legal and political component. They respect politics and the law, but also the sciences and the arts as autonomous “systems”, while writers and artists who criticize Islam should expect violent reactions from the guards of the Islamic religion. Remember the death sentence against Salman Rushdie by the Iranian head of state, Ayatollah Khomeini, in 1989, or the destruction of Danish property in Muslim states after the publication of the Muhammad cartoons in 2006.
Kurt Westergaard, a Danish cartoonist, lives in hiding under the threat of a fatwa. Having survived three attacks, he often changes his town and country, never leaves home without armed escort and turned his home into a fortress. This hell has lasted five years. Enough to discourage other practitioners of “misplaced” humor.
3. Historical roots of Islamic law
The religious texts of Islam are not only ethical and moral, but also seek to influence the formation of the state. The Koran was compiled and written after 800 AD when the conquests of Islam spread to Spain. This expansion required the establishment of a set of normative legal rules to organize clans and tribes, which at that time did not qualify as Muslims, but rather Saracens. Contrary to what is commonly thought, mosques are not comparable to our churches, they are more civil registries because they deal mostly with legal proceedings and civil law.
There is a special relationship between the Muslim and Allah through Sharia, Islamic norms. In Islam, morality is based on the law while in our conception of law is the law based on morality. An example to illustrate this: here, a moral principle decrees that it is wrong to kill, but the law resulting from this moral principle must take into consideration that, in the case of self defense, a human may kill another without being punished afterwards. It is still wrong to kill, but the legislator admits legitimacy in certain emergency situations. It is quite different in Islam. Sharia rules define precisely when, under what conditions, and exactly how some people may be killed or not. Morality simply requires that this catalog is followed; conversely, it is immoral to ignore this code. Morality is derived from the statutory standard, so comes after the law, which is logical in the conception of Islam as the law is divine and is therefore not created by man; it is immutable.
When a Muslim recites the Quran, he recites a text that is somewhat similar to our Civil Code. The difference is that the laws of Islam are of divine origin and therefore immutable. It is therefore hardly surprising that the Muslim who renounces his faith is subject to the death penalty and that 94% of the sins that the Koran punishes by hell concern doubt or criticism of Muhammad or Islam.
By themselves, these contradictory conceptions of the origin of law show how the coexistence of both views is difficult and almost impossible to achieve in practice.
4. Territorial problems
If compatibility problems between Islamic and Western culture are not religious, but legal, it is because Sharia precedes the formation of the state and is essentially the foundation on which an existing state is built (the Islamic nomocracy). Islam distinguishes three territorial situations: in the Dar al Islam (land of peace), Islam has triumphed and reigns supreme; in the Dar el Harb (land of war), the infidels are in power; and in the Dar el Suhl (which can be translated as land of armistice), Islam is still a minority and therefore must adapt, but every Muslim who lives there must do everything possible to make his religion triumphant someday. In this understanding, minarets, separate cemeteries, as well as Koranic schools and mosques become small extraterritorial regions in impure land, beachheads of Islam in the territory which, even if modest, only Islamic law applies.
In Dar es Islam, the holy land where Islam has previously been established, no law competing with Sharia — for example, our criminal and civil law — is allowed. This “holy land” of Islam in Europe now includes many urban neighborhoods in France, Great Britain and Germany. Muslims there are the majority, they have their own cemeteries, their mosques and their Koranic schools. These places are spread throughout the West and grow in number and size. The minarets are furthermore symbols of this penetration, in the image of the little flags that generals stick on their maps to mark the progress of their troops. The word minaret comes from “Al Manar”, the lighthouse. However, these “lighthouses of jihad” or the “bayonets of Islam,” in the words of the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, are not required by the Koran and play no role in the religious ritual of Islam. The muezzin was invented much later, but his presence is often justified by a questionable parallel with the bells of Christian churches. In fact, the minaret is the foremost symbol of a conspicuous total submission to a doctrine and related intolerance — even if the latter is controversial among different Islamic currents. If we tolerate the construction of minarets on Swiss territory, the conflicts that take place in the East, for example between the Ottoman and Alawite Muslims will happen here. Instead of encouraging mutual tolerance and religious harmony, we stir up conflicts in the great doctrinaire diversity of Islam. Indeed, for the Alawi or secular Muslims, the minarets are an affront and a sign that a certain expression of Islam seeks to position itself as the only representation of this religion in Switzerland.
In the universal design of radical Islam, all the world regions that were once Muslim should be Muslim again. The way to achieve this goal is jihad, which in 97% of instances where it appears in the Koran, means “holy war against infidels”, whereas in only 3% of cases may this word be understood as an “internal battle, a “spiritual cleansing” or “research”. Every place where a minaret is visible and each region which can be seen from a minaret must become Islamic. Faced with this demand, we understand that this building, frequently underestimated by the Europeans, plays a much bigger role than is commonly attributed to it.
A 21-meter-high minaret is currently under construction in Poitiers, a city where Charles Martel put the Saracens to flight in 732. Speakers will be installed. But they have promised the public that they will remain silent. So why have they been installed? The fact is that in many places where the construction of a minaret was authorized, the voice of the muezzin sounds now several times a day. This applies, for example, in Grenada, Bosnia, Oxford, London, New Delhi, and even in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. Resistance occurs elsewhere, and for understandable reasons: the purpose of this movement is to install Islamic norms worldwide, and the minarets are only the visible — and often loud — manifestation of this invasion. The Islamic Council of Great Britain made clear in March 2008: “The call to prayer will become an integral part of life in Britain and Europe.” But this call announces the following principle five times a day: “Allah is greatest. I testify that there is no God but Allah. I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Come to prayer. Come to felicity. Allah is greatest. There is no other true God but Allah “. Alongside this profession of faith, the bells of our churches are remarkably neutral — especially since they serve mainly to indicate the time.
5. The practice of religion is not an absolute right
The free exercise of religious practices — such as the ritual slaughter — are only permitted in national and international law within the limits of the law. Restrictions are quite possible. Article 9 para. 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 29 para. 2 of the Charter of Human Rights the UN and Article 36 of the Federal Constitution permit a limitation of religious freedom if this restriction is in the public interest and is appropriate to the situation. For this reason, the [Swiss] Federal Council and Parliament were forced to admit that the initiative against minarets is not against the law and should therefore be submitted to the people.
However, we now find that the government cares little for the clearly expressed will of citizens in the vote that followed, as it did not intend to oppose the construction of a minaret in Langenthal under the false pretext that the building application was filed before November 29, 2009. Yet on the evening of the vote, the Minister of Justice said out loud that the people’s will would be respected and that minarets will no longer built in Switzerland. Even worse: In the government’s response to the European Court of Human Rights on 15 September 2010, the Federal Council indulged in a reckless disregard of the concept of sovereignty and ignored the will expressed by popular vote to affirm that “the recent decisions of the Federal Court are examples admitting the primacy of international treaties (and a federal law) against a provision of the Constitution.” And a little further: “This law could be applied to the relationship between international and constitutional standards, particularly since that article 190 Cst. does not mention the Constitution as the relevant law.” Thus, direct democracy and universal suffrage are giving way to a “democracy of judges” whose democratic legitimacy is much less, since they are co-opted by the system. In this way, the system can silence the people by declaring democracy undemocratic and the political process illegal wherever they contradict the orthodoxy of globalization.
6. Dhimmitude and integration
Because the U.S. state of Michigan no longer requires that veiled women uncover themselves during identity checks, it has created a competing legal situation on its own territory. On behalf of postmodern legal pluralism and tolerance, the territorial legal regime is gradually diluted. The same thing occurred in a school in the Oise, which allows teens to take their final exams covered with a full veil (Le Figaro, 19 June 2010). The Appeals Committee with regard to an asylum case decided that “Swiss law could not hold itself higher than a foreign law”; based on this statement, it accepted a marriage concluded with a minor in the absence of the husband. A particularly striking example of legal pluralism: in Germany, a judge refused to grant a divorce “because in Islam, the corporal punishment of the wife is permitted.” These examples show that Western democracies are now ready to tolerate on their territory a different and competing legal system to the detriment of their own regime.
Respect for ourselves and caution should encourage us to prevent the spread of laws in our land which are opposed to the Swiss legal system and based on a totally different conception of human rights. As noted by the European Court of Human Rights, Sharia is incompatible with our conception of law particularly in the areas of marriage law, human rights and criminal law. The acceptance of the veil by Muslim teachers or segregated swimming lessons for Muslim children are examples of concessions justified by the tolerance of foreign cultures, which seem unimportant, but in fact open Pandora’s Box in terms of law. These apparently modest changes of laws and rules are intended to recognize a parallel right in Switzerland which is totally alien to ours. Regarding such arranged marriages of minors, it is recognized that fundamental rights (the right to marry) will be violated on behalf of other humanitarian rights (the right to religious freedom).
But a society where the fashionable practice of dhimmitude – this sensitive prophylactic servility to keep the wrath of Allah off our backs – is not encumbered by reflections on the scope of our concessions to Islam. Have we not seen Mr. Delanoë, the Mayor of Paris, congratulating Muslims for Ramadan and the National Councilor Hugh Hiltpold do the same in Geneva? Never have we heard these same people congratulating the Christians for Lent. And we never will we see them congratulate the participants of a “sausage-plonk” street party!
However, this “dhimmitude” (submission by the “infidels” to Islamic demands) is not only the reality in European countries. So when I heard (Le Temps, 28 May 2010) that Morocco has intensified the expulsion of foreign Christians, I can not help but think that this exercise is a concession by the king to the Islamists, whose influence is growing. After these concessions, he too, as kingly and Moroccan as he is, may find a caliphate in place of the nation state. It is not in pretending to be more Islamic than the Islamists, that he will succeeds in curbing their growth, because the fanatics do not care about gestures; they are blinded by the demands of dogma.
7. Cultural ghettos, individualistic society and clan system
This paralleling of two different legal systems in the same state is particularly dangerous because of the increasing isolation of certain ethno-religious groups in ghettos. Since the Enlightenment our society has been built on the principle of individualism; society is therefore not prepared to welcome and integrate groups that function as quasi-inaccessible enclaves. Individualism encourages the free formation of opinions, and thus the innovative force characteristic of Western societies. Meanwhile, it slows nepotism by weakening the clan system. Individualism, in freeing the individual from the grasp of his clan, allows each person to approach another who would previously have been considered foreign. The ultimate consequence is that the general interest, the well-being of all citizens, is placed above the interests of clans. But this system only works in a more or less homogeneous society whose members know and respect the general rules. In addition, the state must be ready to impose these rules. The problem is that most non-European societies operate on a completely different principle, the interests of clans and families are placed above the general interest, which is an abstract concept in such a framework.
The higher the number of immigrants coming from countries with a pronounced clan structure, the more problems our society has. For example, it is shocking that we therefore allow, under the pretext of “family reunification”, which refers to the core of the European family, not only the wife and children, but also brothers, sisters, grandparents and cousins to join the EU area. The biggest problem of modern European states is the fact that uncontrolled immigration and the weakening, even removal of external borders causes the emergence of many internal borders, sometimes invisible.
If we refuse to seek answers to such problems, if we make them taboo in order not to deal with them, the EU, a promising area of freedom, is likely to become a region of societies in conflict. Switzerland is no exception to this trend, because the cumulative impact of Schengen/Dublin, the free movement of persons and the influx of asylum seekers barely allows us to control our border crossings.
This has resulted in the importation of behavior that is difficult to assimilate and is protected by regrouped clans.
That’s how polygamy has reappeared almost everywhere in Europe. I recall here the emblematic case of Lies Hebbadj, who made the headlines April 23, 2010, for having publicly challenged the ticket given to one of his companions for driving while wearing the niqab. On June 9, Lies Hebbadj was indicted for welfare benefit fraud — “de facto polygamy” allowing him to benefit from unfair state aid — fraud and unreported employment. Since then, he was again indicted for aggravated rape. Stay tuned.
In hospitals too, fundamentalist customs are appearing: husbands refusing to let their wives be treated by male doctors, refusal of treatment etc. This leads to absurd situations. In Liberation on July 7, 2010, Isabelle Levy recounts the case of a patient who was never examined during her pregnancy and who went to the emergency room because she had contractions. She refused to be examined by male doctors, and she left with her ongoing contractions. Suddenly, the staff heard screams. The woman was giving birth on the lawn. The nurse told her: “You refused to be examined by a man, but you have just given birth in front of a hundred people!”
Yet the list does not stop there. The social and cultural conflict can take even more dramatic forms. What about the tragic case of young Swera, 16, a Swiss citizen of Pakistani descent who speaks “Schwyzerdütsch” like her classmates, killed by her father for stealing cigarettes, which he felt to be his duty to cleanse with blood, according to his religious beliefs? The blood of his blood? To uphold honor, to avenge the insult. But behind this terrible incident, how many girls are muzzled, put under guardianship, beaten? The code of silence reigning in the clan environment is total. Transgression is lethal.
Based on these findings, I would like to conclude this presentation by making the following recommendations:
||Our state law has a duty to require immigrants to be in full compliance with our legal system and to avoid any concessions, however modest they may appear, which could encourage, if only vaguely, the establishment of parallel legal systems. Recognizing that the segregation of groups, particularly the Islamic population, through exceptional rights such as separate cemeteries, general exemptions from swimming lessons, and forced marriages, we prevent them from experiencing our cultural heritage, such that the vaunted integration is nothing more than useless posturing.
||Although we may risk interfering with residential freedom, we must prevent the formation of ethnic ghettos, and thus the emergence of parallel societies indifferent to each other. The parallel lives of ethnic groups have nothing to do with integration.
||We must prevent fanatical religious leaders from getting their hooks in certain ethnic groups by speaking more harshly against these extremist leaders.
||We must endeavor to limit the flow of immigration, to welcome immigrants in lower numbers, but to integrate them better.
Finally, it is hoped that Islam may reform itself in the years to come and that it goes through a sort of Enlightenment, which puts a definitive end to fanatical Islamism. As this is not yet the case, we have a duty to protect our state against all forms of subversion. It is not acceptable that our liberal principles of rule of law are being used as the instruments for its disintegration, and ultimately its destruction. This also concerns the freedom and security of Muslims themselves, especially those who truly seek to integrate with us. Let me remind you of the sad fate of the imam of Drancy Chalgoumi Hassan, who has spoken publicly for banning the full veil in France. Since then, all the prayers he leads are disrupted. The 43 believers he had collected in 2009 at the conference of imams in France to promote “dual cultural and Republican mission of the imams” exempted themselves one after the other. Now Chalgoumi is increasingly isolated and lives under state protection, threatened for a few words spoken against fundamentalism and anti-Semitism. To fight against the excesses of Islam in Christian lands is perhaps above all to protect the Muslims from their “brothers”.
— Oskar Freysinger