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Apr 2

Written by: Diana West
Wednesday, April 02, 2008 6:24 AM has the whole story, which concerns not only Geert Wilders' freedom of expression, but also yours and mine:

The government of the world's most populous Islamic state says YouTube has two days to take down a Dutch lawmaker's provocative film on the Koran or it will block access to the popular video-sharing Web site....

YouTube--of course, obviously, naturally--should say, Forget you. Go bully someone else. But will it?

In Indonesia, a former Dutch colony, Information Minister Mohammad Nuh told a press briefing in Jakarta Tuesday he had sent a letter to YouTube demanding the film, "Fitna," be removed. If it did not comply, he said, the government in cooperation with Internet service providers would block the site...

So, block it, Mr. Censor--I mean, Mr. Information Minister.

In response to queries, a YouTube spokesperson said the site allows people "to express themselves and to communicate with a global audience.
The diversity of the world in which we live -- spanning the vast dimensions of ethnicity, religion, nationality, language, political opinion, gender, and sexual orientation, to name a few -- means that some of the beliefs and views of some individuals may offend others," she said.

So far, so good. What is not so good--in fact, what is constricting, if not downright strangling--are moves against freedom of speech now underway at the international level. In wrapping up on Indonesians' responses either to kill or officially ban Wilders, bar Fitna or YouTube, or demand larger and deeper bows from the Holland's government, CNSNews notes: 

But Indonesia's Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), a party with strong Islamic credentials that supports Yudhoyono, said that unless the Netherlands apologizes to the world's Islamic countries, Muslims everywhere should boycott Dutch products (similar calls have been made in neighboring Malaysia and other Muslim countries.)

PKS lawmaker Al Muzzammil Yusuf also said the Indonesian government should take a more proactive role in efforts at the U.N. to set up a convention outlawing harassment of a religion.

Ah, the U.N.

Moves towards that goal, lent impetus by the 2006 uproar over the publication of newspaper cartoons satirizing Mohammed, are being led in the world body by the OIC.

Ah, the OIC.

Last December the 57-member Islamic bloc succeeded in getting the U.N. General Assembly to pass a first-ever resolution on the "defamation" of religion.

And last week in Geneva, as Fitna hit the Internet, the U.N.'s Human Rights Council passed an OIC-led resolution expressing concern about attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, and urging countries to pass anti-defamation laws to protect Muslims.

Ah, the U.N. "Human Rights" Council.

Even more controversially, the council on Friday also amended the mandate of a special investigator on the freedom of expression, requiring him now also to report on cases "in which the abuse of the right of freedom of expression constitutes an act of racial or religious discrimination."

Here we see "creeping sharia" in action (a phenomenon I go into at length in The Death of the Grown-Up): the imposition of the Islamic dicate against criticism of Islam in the guise of anti-discrimination. continues:

Further, it adopted another amendment to the mandate -- put forward by Cuba -- referring to the importance of media reporting information "in a fair and impartial manner."

And Cuba, with its long experience with government censorship, is a perfectly marvelous judge of fairness and impartiality!

As the council ended its month-long session on Tuesday, the issue again exposed sharp differences between Islamic member states and Western ones, which had abstained in last week's vote.


U.S. envoy Warren Tichenor -- speaking as an observer, as the U.S. is not a member -- said in a closing statement that the resolution changing the investigator's role would have the effect of criminalizing free expression.

"It is a sad day when the Human Rights Council turns from protecting rights to eroding them," he said.

A "sad" day? Isn't it actually a great day to walk out on the whole bankrupt enterprise? Sadly, no.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the OIC, said the resolution was an attempt to require people to exercise free speech responsibly. He denied that it would curtail freedom of expression.

The U.N.'s freedom of expression investigator is a Kenyan jurist, Ambeyi Ligabo.

The change to his mandate came two weeks after he delivered a report to the 47-member council in which he voiced concern about attempts to expand the scope of defamation laws beyond the protection of individuals, for instance to cover religion.

Good for Ligabo. Although it seems he was overruled.

At the time, some Islamic member states reprimanded Ligabo, suggesting that he was not taking the religion issue sufficiently seriously.

The council's amendments to the freedom of expression mandate drew strong criticism from several NGOs.

Press freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders called the changes "dramatic" and said the growing influence of the OIC in the Human Rights Council was "disturbing."

"All of the council's decisions are nowadays determined by the interests of the Muslim countries or powerful states such as China or Russia that know how to surround themselves with allies," it said.

The free speech non-governmental organization Article 19 joined with an Egypt-based rights group, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, in a joint statement saying the council process was being repeatedly misused "to push for an agenda that has nothing to do with strengthening human rights and everything to do with protecting autocracies and political point scoring."

"For the first time in the 60 year history of U.N. human rights bodies, a fundamental human right has been limited simply because of the possible violent reaction by the enemies of human rights," said Roy Brown of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

And Human Rights Watch said the changes to the mandate "clearly calls into question the very essence of media freedom and independence."

The OIC and its allies effectively dominate the Human Rights Council, as 26 of the 47 seats are earmarked for African and Asian countries.

BTW: As part of George W. Bush's increasingly inglorious legacy, he may claim the appointment of the first US representative to the OIC. Just last month, as Andrew Bostom noted, US special envoy to the OIC Sada Cumber had this to say, according to AFP, on reviewing the OIC's ten-year plan:

" `I thought oh my goodness I think the Muslim values that they are aspiring here are exactly in sync' with American values."

Oh my goodness why am I not convinced?

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