March 8, 2006 -- The moral premises shared by any group tells you whether it's a society seeking mutual benefits for members based on respect and voluntary exchanges or a criminal gang. The message from the 200 politicians from 16 countries in the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union -- a message that screams like Islamic mobs protesting the Danish cartoons of Mohammad -- is that their organization, the governments they represent and the cultures on which they are based still remain beyond the bounds of civilized principles. Those politicians have called on “Arab and Muslim governments to spare no effort to pressure the UN to issue a resolution banning the slandering of religions.” They want legal action against those who violate such a ban.
This is the latest attempt by Islamic religious fanatics to foist their dictatorial and anti-individualist standards on others.
Let’s explore the moral implications of this call for an international ban on freedom of expression. To begin with, the things that these politicians did not call for at that meeting speak volumes. They did not call for the United Nations to force dictatorial governments like Saudi Arabia or Iran to allow their citizens freedom of speech, freedom of worship and the right to be ruled by objective and secular rather than arbitrary and religious-based law. They did not call on the UN to overthrow the governments of Syria, Iran and the Palestinian territories that sponsor terrorism. They did not call on the UN to do everything possible to stop violence, kidnappings, bombings and beheadings -- most in the name of Islam -- in Iraq and elsewhere. Of course they didn’t; these politicians are the agents of those governments.
When these politicians called for a ban on religious slander, they clearly did not mean, for example, that the Egyptian government’s television station should no longer broadcast the 41-part series on “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” based on an infamous anti-Semitic forgery that shows Jews engaged in ritual torture and murders. They did not mean that commentators on the government-controlled TV stations in Saudi Arabia should stop calling Jews "pigs and monkeys." Perhaps those commentators would argue that they're simply practicing their religion, since they say this is a quote from the Koran -- which says something about their religion.
The governments of most Arab and Islamic countries would make censorship of whatever offends their prejudices a worldwide standard.
Given the moral premises of the governments represented by the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union, it's most appropriate that they turn to the UN. This is a case of like attracting like. After all, that bell-weather of moral misfits, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, at the beginning of the cartoon controversy appealed to Muslims to give up violence and “to accept the apology that has been offered.” There really weren't strong apologies offered by the Danish cartoonists or government or by Western world leaders, although, sadly, there was a lot of embarrassed foot-shuffling and muttering about "It's unfortunate that some were offended and we should be sensitive to others."
But what kind of contrition could Kofi contemplate? That the Danish cartoonists apologize for exercising their right to free speech and for demonstrating beyond their wildest dreams that fear of Muslim violence threatens freedom in Europe? That Western governments apologize for not repressing the speech of their own citizens the way the governments in most Islamic countries repress theirs? That all thinking people apologize for not treating with respect the profoundly irrational and immoral prejudices of many Muslims that hold that any depiction of their prophet Mohammad justifies riots, arson, death threats and murder?
The declaration of Arab and Muslim politicians should make clear -- as if it weren't clear already -- that we face not just the unruly mobs that are protesting the Mohammad cartoons but also the governments of most Arab and Islamic countries that would make censorship of whatever offends their prejudices a worldwide standard. Those who hold to the civilized principle that individuals should be free to do, say and live as they please as long as they don't initiate force against others must boldly exercise those freedoms in defense of freedom lest intimidation from those who oppose our freedoms further erode them.