On August 9, the SPEECH Act became the law of our land. This Act protects American authors from having foreign libel judgments against them enforced in America—especially when they have criticized Islam or documented the funding sources for jihadic terrorism.
The Act was a bipartisan Senate accomplishment, but one driven by the fearless and determined Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, the Director of the American Center for Democracy. Ehrenfeld is the force (and the name) behind “Rachel’s Law” which became law in 2008 in New York State and in six other states.
This Act is an important first step in the West’s battle against “lawfare.” At stake is nothing less than the American and Western right to speak freely and truthfully on any subject, including religion, culture, and war. If we are kept uninformed about Islam and jihad, we will not be able to understand our options or defend ourselves. It is as simple as that.
We are used to free speech. If we are offended by what someone has written, we say so; we do not usually sue or kill the offender. Freedom of speech and a free press do not exist in the Islamic world where political and religious censorship is the norm. Muslims know that if they criticize their leaders, they—and their families--will be jailed, tortured, and possibly murdered.
This barbaric value system is headed our way. Actually, it’s been here for some time. Both Muslim civil rights organizations and their politically correct “anti-racist” western speech codes and commissions routinely launch—or threaten to launch--costly lawsuits as a way of intimidating and silencing Islam’s critics.
The West’s own doctrines of religious tolerance and anti-racism are now being used to chill free speech.
While many Muslims are supersensitive to criticism about Islam, they do not hesitate to persecute, subordinate, murder and exile infidels, and destroy their shrines and houses of worship.
As Orwell said, not all pigs are equal.
In 1988, the London-based author, Salman Rushdie, published a novel which Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini found offensive. In 1989, Khomeini issued a death warrant and Rushie went into police-protected hiding for a decade.
In 2002, the Italian journalist, Oriana Fallaci, was sued in Switzerland for “racist writing” by the Islamic Center. In 2005, Fallaci was sued in Italy and France for writing which was considered “racist and offensive to Islam.” In 2006, while dying of cancer, Fallaci secretly returned to Italy in order to die at home.
After 9/11, more Westerners began to study terrorism, (looking into its nature, who funds terrorist activities and more), and to scrutinize the Islamic mistreatment of Muslim women, dissidents, homosexuals, infidels—and each other. Westerners investigated mosque activities. Like Rushdie and Fallaci, many were condemned as “racists” and “Islamophobes,” threatened, and sued.
In 2004, Dutch artist Theo van Gogh and Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali, made a film about Islam and women. That same year, Van Gogh was murdered by Mohammed Bouyeri, (for insulting Islam), and Hirsi Ali went into hiding with police protection, which she still requires.
In 2005, Dr. Ehrenfeld was sued in London for having named specific terrorist financiers, including a Saudi billionaire sheikh who sued her. She chose not to defend herself in England, (a notorious center for “libel tourism”), but instead, fought for the rights of American authors, publishers, and media to remain “judgement proof” in America.
In 2005, Lars Vilks penned the infamous “Danish” cartoons. In 2006, global, choregraphed Muslim riots ensued, people died, newspapers boycotted the cartoons.
Since 2007, Vilks has lived with police protection.
Publishers and authors began self-censoring, changing or backing out of contracts in order to avoid expensive lawsuits. Or worse.
In 2006, Palgrave-Macmillan reneged on its promise to publish "Quran: A Reformist Translation."
In 2007, the Cambridge University Press published "Alms for Jihad" but then immediately pulled books off the shelves to avoid a libel action lawsuit filed by the same sheikh who had sued Ehrenfeld.
In 2007, Canadian author Mark Steyn and his magazine, MacLeans, were summoned before the Canadian Human Rights Commission on charges that Steyn had “subjected Canadian-Muslims to hatred and contempt” and for “being flagrantly Islamophobic.”
Eventually, the Commission condemned Steyn but dismissed the charges for jurisdictional reasons. However, legal costs still had to be paid.
In 2008, Random House reneged on its contract to publish "The Jewel of Medina," a novel about Mohammed’s wife Aisha—and all because a single professor suggested via e-mail that the book “might lead to violence.”
Also, in 2008, Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, made a documentary, "Fitna," (translation: Strife), about Islam and anti-Western terrorism. Although Wilders’ just won a great electoral victory, he is currently facing government charges as a “racist” and purveyor of “hate speech.”
In 2009, ironically, Yale University Press published a book about the Danish cartoon controversy—but omitted the cartoons themselves without telling the author.
In 2010, the American author, Bruce Bawer and his Norwegian colleagues were accused of “racism” and “Islamophobia” by Norwegian leftists and Islamists; in June, 2010, the Norwegian government de-funded their excellent online website Human Rights Service which published work about Islam and women’s rights.
Finally, in June, 2010, the Public Prosecutor for Copenhagen charged the International Free Press Society and its president, Lars Hedegaard, with “racism.” Hedegaard dared to critique certain Muslim practices.
It is urgent that the West revamp our understanding of “hate speech” and “racism.” If we fail to do so, we will lose our right to free speech, and will, sooner rather than later, become the United States of Arabia.
Phyllis Chesler is emerita professor of psychology and the author of thirteen books including "Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman," and, "The New Anti-Semitism." The author may be reached through her website www.phyllis-chesler.com.
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Dr. Phyllis Chesler is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies. She is the author of 4 studies about honor killings and 16 books.