Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Should There Be Religious Freedom for Groups Trying to Take Away Religious Freedom?

At what point should people who wish to take away the religious freedom of others be prevented from doing so? Clearly, some forms of religion should be prohibited in a liberal democracy - human sacrifice, wife-abuse, Jew-killing and slavery for example. If your religion permits or commands such things you should not have religious freedom to do them no matter how loud the appeals to "tolerance" or "cultural relativism" and no matter what threats are made against the State or individuals. Compulsion is in order and the State should be firm about protecting fundamental rights of all citizens.

Here is the website for a group called Former Muslims United (FMU). They sent a letter to 165 Muslim groups asking them to sign the following pledge of religious liberty:

To support the civil rights of former Muslims, also known as apostates from Islam, I sign “The Muslim Pledge for Religious Freedom and Safety from Harm for Former Muslims”:

I renounce, repudiate and oppose any physical intimidation, or worldly and corporal punishment, of apostates from Islam, in whatever way that punishment may be determined or carried out by myself or any other Muslim including the family of the apostate, community, Mosque leaders, Shariah court or judge, and Muslim government or regime.

This seems like a clear, unambiguous statement of religious freedom and I, as a Westerner, would be confident that any Muslim organization that signed it would have committed itself to abide by the rule of law and the freedom of religion that are basic to Western culture.

Unfortunately, out of 165 Muslim organizations and individuals that received this request, a grand total of 2 individuals replied affirmatively. CAIR (the Council of American Islam Relations) did not. MSA (the Muslim Students Association) did not. Yet these organizations (see the whole list here) are considered "moderate Muslim voices" by the American government. It seems to me that no Muslim organization that refuses to wholeheartedly endorse such a clear and simple statement can be considered "moderate."

Nonie Darwish describes in her article "Muslim Groups Attack FMU with Doublespeak" what they did instead. She describes the campaign of disinformation mounted by Muslim groups unwilling to deny the Muslim teaching that apostates should be killed and yet wanting to lure the Western public into thinking that tyranny is not creeping into the West. :

On Nov. 19, 2009 Sheila Musaji, editor of The American Muslim, wrote an article attacking Former Muslims United (FMU). Ms. Musaji stated “This FMU pledge is simply another attempt to create propaganda. Thus, she [Darwish] planted the idea that American Muslims have not taken a position against punishments for apostasy and attempted to make it seem as if only former Muslims can stand for what is right, and frankly to attempt to increase the visibility of the FMU at the expense of the Muslim community. This is shameful behavior (although typical of members of this group who go beyond denouncing Islamic radicalism to denouncing all of Islam) and is simply another example of attempting to marginalize the Muslim community."
But if Muslim groups have already taken a stand against punishments for apostasy, they should expect to be asked about their position every time there is another well publicized case of Muslim violence or threats of violence in the name of Islam. This is too bad for them, but it is not the fault of those asking the questions. They should blame the radicals. How does it marginalize the Muslim community for Muslim groups to affirm religious freedom? Why is it shameful to ask Muslim leaders to re-affirm what they already claim to have affirmed? Why blame the messenger?

If you go on You Tube and search for "Hamas" and "demonstrations" you will see disturbing clips of anti-Israel and anti-American demonstrations will calls to "Nuke Israel" and comparisons of Israel and George Bush to Nazi Germany. This sort of thing is increasing and it does not inspire confidence, to put it mildly.

Darwish goes on to describe how Islamic governments, sensing the disapproval of the West, try to disguise what they are doing:
Muslim apologists often speak from both sides of their mouths. On the one hand, they assure Americans that Islam has nothing in it that condemns apostates to death. On the other hand, they state that announcing publicly that one has left Islam and stating the reasons for leaving, are grounds for charges of treason. After world condemnation of Islamic tyranny, many Muslim countries are working around the law of apostasy by still killing apostates but for a different stated reason. If a Muslim declares publicly that he has left Islam and why, that in itself is considered treason, and thus governments can arrest apostates, torture, imprison and kill him, but they officially state that it is due to treason, as if the person had committed espionage or some other crime against national security.
Now, in my opinion, to take this tact is to turn Islam into a totalitarian political ideology similar to Fascism - one that is incompatible with the West and which the West must eradicate from its lands. We cannot tolerate totalitarian acts on our soil. They can have freedom of speech because sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me. But if they issue threats against specific individuals or take actions to hurt former Muslims they should feel the wrath of the law. And any Muslims who support this barbaric practice should be publicly shamed and shunned so that they find life here difficult and unpleasant.

To speak as if there was no problem of killing apostates is just ridiculous. Well-known cases like those of Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hrisi Ali are all around us. The Danish cartoon violence is well-documented, as is the large number of terrorist attacks - some very recent and others narrowly averted - against the West. You can't blame Westerners for wanting reassurance.

So much for the "religion of peace." If it really wants to be a religion of peace it can start by unambiguously affirming religious toleration for former Muslims. Any Muslim group that will not do so clearly, unambiguously and in writing should be considered as extreme and Islamist.

I would have no problem with "moderate" Islam. I have no problem with Muslim individuals coming to Canada. But I do have a problem with Muslims coming to Canada who will not accept the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and apply the freedom of religion principle to former Muslims. As far as I'm concerned this is a deal-breaker. If we can't get Muslims to agree to freedom of religion then they should be prohibited from entering Canada. Those already here should be stripped of their citizenship and deported at the first sign of persecution of former Muslims. If they see we are serious they will either stay away or accept our deeply-held and hard-won convictions in this matter.

No comments: