What do you have to do to get thrown out of a Free Speech & Sensitivity Fest like the one we hosted this week to further implementation of the "Istanbul Process" on religious tolerance?
That's what the Traditional Values Coalition is asking the State Department after its observer was removed from a reception on the closing day of the Istanbul Process Conference, purportedly because of an anonymous report that she posed a threat to SecState Hillary Clinton.
I don't know any details of the incident, but that strikes me as a remarkably inept way to handle a critic.
The Traditional Values Coalition had asked for observer status at the conference. I don't know whether their request was granted, but other critical outside observers were allowed in. One of them - Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom - wrote about the conference proceedings in a New York Post piece:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday ended the “Istanbul Process,” a three-day, closed-door international conference hosted by the State Department on measures to combat religious “intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization.”
The conference was intended to “implement” last March’s UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18, on the same subject. Notwithstanding Clinton’s final speech defending freedoms of religion and speech, the gathering was folly.
Resolution 16/18 was adopted in the place of one that endorsed the dangerous idea that “defamation of religion” should be punished criminally worldwide. That call for a universal blasphemy law had been pushed relentlessly for 12 years by the Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an essentially religious body chartered to “combat defamation of Islam.” It issues fatwas and other directives to punish public expression of apostasy from Islam and “Islamophobia.”
Leading OIC states behind this campaign — Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt and Pakistan — imprison and/or sentence to death “blasphemers.”
Resolution 16/18 deplores religious intolerance but doesn’t limit speech — the result of a deft State Department maneuver. The administration should have let matters rest there.
- snip -
While the Washington conference ended inconclusively, it should not have been held because:
* It offered a transnational venue for the OIC to reintroduce its anti-defamation push, just as the issue had been laid to rest at the United Nations. The administration erred in viewing resolution 16/18 as a meeting of minds between the OIC and America on freedoms of religion and speech.
- snip -
* By standing “united” (as the OIC head put it in a Turkish Daily op-ed) with the OIC on these issues, America appears to validate the OIC agenda, thus demoralizing the legions of women’s rights and human-rights advocates, bloggers, journalists, minorities, converts, reformers and others in OIC states who look to the United States for support against oppression.
* It raises expectations that America can and will regulate speech on behalf of Islam, as has happened in Western Europe, Canada and Australia.
The European Union mandated religious-hate-speech codes after global riots and other similar violence erupted in 2006 over a Danish newspaper’s publication of caricatures of Mohammad. America is facing pressure to conform to this new global “best practice”; this will only intensify it.
-- snip --
US diplomats should stop the “Istanbul Process” and begin to energetically and confidently promote the virtues of our First Amendment freedoms. They should be thoroughly briefed about the OIC’s intractable position on blasphemy laws and the extent of atrocities associated with them. They must end signaling that there is common ground on these issues between us and the OIC.
So, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation finally gave up its 12 year-long fight for a U.N. resolution that would proscribe criticism of Islam, and accepted the "Istanbul Process" to promote religious tolerance as a consolation prize. That sounds like progress to me.
But then, instead of defending our First Amendment rights and explaining them to the OIC, we promised to unleash the Political Correctness Police on our domestic critics of Islam. To subject them to peer pressure and shaming, in the words of our SecState.
I guess the Nanny State will finger-wag and shush those troublemakers, and maybe send them to their rooms without dinner.
We missed an opportunity to teach the OIC about our Constitutionally-protected tradition of mutual tolerance, which holds that the solution to offensive speech is more speech, not suppression of speakers. Of course, that tradition is only suitable when you treat your fellow citizens as adults.
A video of the conference's opening remarks has been released. You can view it below but, speaking freely, I don't recommend that since it's 40-something minutes long and a paralyzing snore monger.