Freedom of speech in Europe and North America is increasingly under threat because of a growing confusion among Western leaders over how to define "human rights." The problem is being compounded by politically correct Western governments, which seek to enforce multicultural compliance with Islamic Sharia law as a way to appease Muslim lobby groups.
These and other political and societal "drifts" were catapulted to center stage by a well-organized and highly articulate group of free-speech activists who attended the Human Dimension Implementation Meetings [HDIM], a major international conference on human rights -- this year held in Warsaw, Poland from September 24 to October 5 -- and sponsored annually by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe [OSCE].
In recent years, the Human Dimension Implementation Meetings and the OSCE have been the focus of an intense lobbying campaign by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc of 57 Muslim countries that are aggressively pressuring Western countries to make it an international crime to criticize Islam.
In August 1990, the Muslim member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation officially adopted the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, an alternative document to the 1948 United Nations' document, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Cairo Declaration states that people have "freedom and right to a dignified life in accordance with Islamic Sharia law.
The Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa [BPE], in a written submission to the Human Dimensions Implementation Meetings' Working Session on Fundamental Freedoms, pointed out that today the term "human rights" has two incompatible meanings. In the non-Muslim world, "human rights" refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affirms that all people -- men and women -- are guaranteed individual rights.
By contrast, in the Muslim world, "human rights" are defined according to the Cairo Declaration, which holds that men and women are not equal and that it is the duty of men and women to follow the will of Allah. Dignity is granted only to those who submit to Allah's will. The Cairo Declaration divides all human beings into two separate legal persons within its defined categories, namely men and women, believers and non-believers. Any rights or freedoms are binding commandments from Allah as delivered through Mohammed, the Muslim prophet.
The BPE asked the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to clarify which definition of human rights is being referred to during discussions at the Conference. The statement says: "When BPE discusses the plight of young girls and women with respect to forced marriages, violence, and/or FGM [female genital mutilation], BPE always refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whereas the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation refer exclusively to the Cairo Declaration, which has ramifications on the status of the girl or woman. OSCE participating states that are also member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation thus refer to a different set of human rights at the HDIM. It follows that within the Human Dimension of the OSCE there are two diametrically opposed sets of human rights."
The International Civil Liberties Alliance, in a written statement to the Human Dimensions Implementation Meetings' Working Session on Freedom of Thought, Conscience, Religion or Belief, said: "Since the Organization of Islamic Cooperation created the Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, commonly known as the Cairo Declaration, we have witnessed a distortion of the concepts of human rights and religious freedom. This declaration has created a new and secondary standard in human rights based on Sharia Law, which is entirely incompatible with OSCE's human rights standards, inspired as they were by the declaration of 1948."
The International Civil Liberties Alliance statement continues: "Sharia law is a system of religious and political regulations destructive of all the principles promoted through the OSCE, i.e. democracy, human rights, freedom of religion and belief, etc. Sharia Law has been defined by the European Court of Human Rights on February 2003, as 'incompatible with democratic principles…'"
The International Civil Liberties Alliance concludes: "Therefore, OSCE's commitments and works done by its various departments are devoid of sense if all the partners, state-members, NGOs or other contributors are not using the same definition of Human Rights. A definition is required that clearly rejects any interpretation originating in the Cairo Declaration."
In a report entitled, "The Battle Has Begun," Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, a Viennese advocate for free speech, summarized her impressions of the Human Dimension's 2012 conference: "This is one of the important observations we made: The tide has shifted. The freedom lovers are no longer on the defensive; the opposite is true. The OIC side was isolated; the Counterjihad received many supportive thumbs-up gestures. We made new allies."
She also wrote, however: "Lastly, I was more than surprised to see a member of MPAC [Muslim Public Affairs Council, a Los Angeles-based lobbying group] take the floor on behalf of the US delegation. Since when has MPAC represented the U.S. government? And with diplomatic status! This is wrong and an outrage. We ask our friends in the U.S. House of Representatives to weigh in."
She was referring to Salam al-Marayati, a radical Muslim whom the Obama Administration named as its official representative to the OSCE's premier conference on human rights. Al-Marayati is the controversial founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
According to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, MPAC is closely allied with the Muslim Brotherhood and has been a staunch defender of Islamic terrorist groups. Among other initiatives, MPAC has asked the US government to remove Hamas and Hezbollah from the list of US-designated terrorist groups. Al-Marayati, a vociferous critic of Israel, has also blamed Israel for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (See here for the full 81-page analysis of MPAC.)
The State Department defended its selection of al-Marayati, praising him as "valued and highly credible." It added: "He was invited to participate in this year's HDIM as a reflection of the wide diversity of backgrounds of the American people."
In another conference submission, the Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa also drew attention to the plight of Muslim immigrants in Europe who want to leave Islam and convert to another faith. Islamic Sharia law calls for the death penalty for those who voluntarily "apostatize" from Islam.
The text states: "One case in point is a Bangladeshi man and his wife who is currently imprisoned in the United Kingdom after claiming asylum and being detained after officially renouncing Islam. Their asylum application was denied and they are now awaiting deportation to Bangladesh, where they will be killed according to Islamic Law for apostatizing."
OSCE member states were also urged to join the Brussels Process, an initiative launched by the International Civil Liberties Alliance in July 2012, in the European Parliament. The Brussels Process aims to "assist governments and civil society in protecting civil liberties and freedoms, and more specifically to defend the freedom of belief against attempts to implement Sharia regulations."
In a separate statement, the International Civil Liberties Alliance also expressed "concern over the repetitive use of imprecise, confusing and ambiguous concepts and words in OSCE forums and working materials," namely the term "Islamophobia," even though this expression has no precise meaning nor internationally accepted definition. The OSCE was asked to provide a precise definition of the term.
The BPE called on the OSCE to "protect apostates, supporting their right to change their belief without the threat of death."
The OSCE, the world's largest security-oriented inter-governmental organization, is based in Vienna. Its 56 member states are located in Europe, the former Soviet Union and North America, and cover most of the northern hemisphere. The OSCE, created during the Cold War era as an East-West forum, has, among its as its mandates, issues such as arms control and the promotion of human rights, freedom of the press and fair elections.
The Human Dimension Implementation Meetings, Europe's largest annual human rights and democracy conference, is a platform for OSCE member countries, civil society groups and international organizations. The Human Dimension Implementation Meetings is significant because of the high status the OSCE extends to civil society groups, which are on equal footing with participating nation states. In practice, this means they have the right to speak in the plenary, a status not granted by other international organizations.
Among the hundreds of conference participants this year's Human Dimension Meetings was a group of seven freedom-of-speech activists from Austria, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany and the United States. They represented civil society groups Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa, the International Civil Liberties Alliance, the Stresemann Foundation and ACT! for America. Their primary objective was to draw attention to (and confront) the growing Islamization of the West.
Many OSCE member countries, which lack First Amendment protections for freedom of speech like those in the United States, have already enacted hate-speech laws that effectively serve as proxies for the all-encompassing blasphemy legislation the Organization of Islamic Cooperation is seeking to impose on the West as a whole.
Consider Austria, where an appellate court recently upheld the politically correct conviction of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, for "denigrating religious beliefs" after she gave a series of seminars about the dangers of radical Islam. The ruling showed that while Judaism and Christianity can be disparaged with impunity in postmodern multicultural Austria, speaking the truth about Islam is subject to swift and hefty legal penalties.
Sabaditsch-Wolff represented the civil liberties group Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa at this year's Human Dimensions Implementation Meeting. On the second day of the conference, the BPE provided conference participants with a history lesson about the greatest achievement of the OSCE (previously known as the CSCE), which occurred at the height of the Cold War during the Helsinki Process, when the Soviet Union was cajoled into accepting the term "human rights" for the first time.
The inclusion of the humanitarian dimension (respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief) in the East-West dialogue was a major victory for the West and paved the way for the demise of the Communist bloc.
The BPE reminded the OSCE that during the Cold War there was never any doubt to what the term "human rights" referred, namely the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed and ratified by almost all member countries of the United Nations.
Saudi Arabia, however, refused to sign the Universal Declaration, arguing that it violated Islamic Sharia law. In 1981, the Iranian representative to the United Nations said the Universal Declaration represented "a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition," which could not be implemented by Muslims without violating Sharia law.
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.