The noted blogger Fjordman is filing this report via Gates of Vienna.
For a complete Fjordman blogography, see The Fjordman Files.
Respect for individuals and human rights are frequently — and rightfully — quoted as crucial factors separating Western civilization from Islam. Ohmyrus, one of the pundits at Iranian ex-Muslim Ali Sina’s website www.faithfreedom.org, explains important differences between the Western and the Islamic views of human rights:
“In August of 1990, representatives of 54 Muslim countries met in Cairo and signed the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam. What then are Islamic Human Rights and how do they differ from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)?
The Cairo Declaration allows stoning as punishment, prohibits Muslims from changing their religion, prohibits usury, does not give women equal rights and divides the world between Muslims and infidels. It makes it clear that Muslims are the “best nation” whose duty it is to make you become like them. The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam is a harsh document that comes from a harsh faith.”
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Human rights are thus an important component of our defense against sharia. However, is it also possible that the concept of human rights can be pushed too far, and become a self-defeating idea? Is there such as thing as human rights fundamentalism?
In Britain, a West Yorkshire hospital has banned visitors from cooing at new-born babies over fears their human rights are being breached. Debbie Lawson, neo-natal manager at the hospital’s special care baby unit, said: “Cooing should be a thing of the past because these are little people with the same rights as you or me.”
Norwegian medical doctor Ståle Fredriksen thinks that giving homework to school children violates their human rights. He refers to article 24 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stating that: “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours.” Dr. Fredriksen believes school children in Norway don’t have this right.
These examples are, admittedly, rather extreme, and look silly more than anything else. But this mentality may have less than funny consequences in other circumstances. Traditional Islamic law prescribes the death penalty for Muslims who want to leave Islam, as well as for persons who “insult” Muhammad or Islam with blasphemous statements. How will people who are afraid that cooing at babies or giving homework to children might violate their human rights fare against people who think that those who insult Muhammad should have their heads cut off?
In August 2006, Dennis Parker of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told a news conference: “The price to pay for racial profiling is too high. All people should be treated in the same way regardless of their race, their ethnicity or their religion.” The news conference, convened by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, highlighted the case of an Iraqi-born U.S. family, whose members said they were held for six hours, questioned and searched at John F. Kennedy Airport, only days after Britain foiled a plot by Islamic terrorists to bomb multiple U.S.-bound planes.
In the old days, people used to talk about “death before dishonor.” In our age, this has become “death before discrimination.” Westerners would rather get killed by Islamic terrorists than do profiling of Muslims, because this would be “racism,” which has thus quite literally become a mortal sin, perhaps the only sin left in a world where there is no good or bad and everything is permissible and “equal.”
The ideological sickness of the West could be called Egalitarianism, of which Multiculturalism, but also radical Feminism and sometimes economic Marxism, is a part. Everybody should be equal, not just before the law, but their choices should be equally valid, too. If somebody has not achieved exactly the same level as everybody else, this constitutes “discrimination” and requires state intervention to correct.
The scary thing is that Egalitarianism is not just limited to the political Left anymore. It has made inroads into what used to be the political Right, too.
Bjørn Stærk is the Grand Old Man of Norwegian blogging. He’s also considered a right-winger by local standards. According to him, terrorism will end only if or when the terrorists grow tired of it:
Brave is sitting down calmly on a plane behind a row of suspicious-looking Arabs, ignoring your own fears, because you know those fears are irrational, and because even if there’s a chance that they are terrorists, it is more important to you to preserve an open and tolerant society than to survive this trip. Brave is insisting that Arabs not be searched more carefully in airport security than anyone else, because you believe that it is more important not to discriminate against people based on their race than to keep the occasional terrorist from getting on a plane.
Nine Afghan asylum seekers who hijacked a plane at gunpoint to get to Britain should have been admitted to the country as genuine refugees and allowed to live and work there freely, the High Court stated in a ruling. Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of Migration Watch UK, said Britain should ditch the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Writer Robin Harris noted that “The traditional British view is that rights should be negative: we may do whatever the law does not forbid.” This is how Anglo-Saxon law has been shaped from the very beginning, all the way back to the Magna Carta in 1215, which placed limitations on the king’s power.
According to Harris, “We do not expect from the state a positive right to specific benefits a job, or a house, or a good education. Yet it is precisely these kinds of rights that continental Europeans have come to expect. Because of the European Convention (ECHR) it is now impossible to expel foreigners who pose a threat to the country’s security,” or to maintain immigration control.
In Norway, the Directorate of Immigration gave all Iranian asylum seekers residency if applicants claimed to be homosexual, even if the testimony often had little backing or appeared to be patently false. Homosexuality is punishable in Iran, but the demands of proof are extremely high, making punishment rare in practice. Protecting gays from persecution sounds nice in theory, but when this is combined with absolutely no amount of proof, it becomes a suicidal decision to abandon your own national borders.
Egalitarianism and human rights fundamentalism become especially lethal when combined with an entitlement mentality, notions of positive rights and ideas of group rights over individual rights.
It is possible for all members of a society to obtain their negative rights, such as freedom from oppression and tyranny, at the same time. These include the rights to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” as stated by Thomas Jefferson in the 1776 United States Declaration of Independence.
This becomes a lot more difficult once we introduce the idea of positive rights, such as the right to a job. These require others to actively do something to fulfill your rights for you.
In The Case for Sovereignty, Jeremy A. Rabkin describes how Jürgen Habermas, Germany’s most celebrated philosopher, has coined the term “global domestic policy.” Habermas talks about establishing a structure of international law and authority that will control and direct all governments in their governing duties.
However, an international authority able to secure universal peace would require the means of enforcing peace. It would require the authority to resolve every dispute that might otherwise lead to war and to resolve all conflicting claims about the distribution of resources, within and between nations.
As Rabkin timely asks: “Who could challenge or constrain a world authority with such immense power? Even if it were constrained by a formal constitution, who could possibly ensure that the world authority remained within its proper bounds? How could it be anything like a democracy? Would a hundred small nations outvote the half-dozen largest nations? Or would a billion Chinese, a billion Indians, and a half-billion Southeast Asians be allowed to form a permanent majority, dictating law and justice to the rest of the world?
It is not a bad thing for the world for independent countries to remain independent. It is not a bad thing even for small countries — or perhaps especially for small countries.”
Rabkin describes how the US Founding Fathers made federal law (and the federal Constitution) the “supreme law of the land.” He thinks the “Founders would have been appalled at the thought that the federal government, in turn, would be subordinate to some supranational or international entity, which could claim priority in this way over the American Constitution and American laws.”
Yet this is precisely what is happening in Europe: “All members of the EU have now bound themselves to a scheme in which the European Court of Justice treats mere treaties as superior to national constitutions — and national courts give priority to the rulings of this European Court, even against their own parliaments and their own national constitutions.”
The EU is always presuming some consensus that will — supposedly — be discovered by bureaucrats and judges. In the long run, “the American scheme is bound to be more alert to security threats,” since the EU scheme “always suggests that people can be protected by negotiations, since Europeans have ceded supreme power to a ‘construction’ that doesn’t have an army. The structure encourages Europeans to continually disregard actual threats to their security.”
Rabkin also talks about the possibility of the Unites States leaving the United Nations, “to remind ourselves what we are seeking at the U.N. — not a world government, but simply a tool for our diplomacy.”
An International Criminal Court (ICC) already exists. How is it going to function within a worldwide criminal justice system without a world state? And what other international courts will later be established? Will they be limited only to genocide and war crimes, or will they expand into much more sensitive areas? Will Islamic countries attempt to enforce sharia through these courts on a global basis? They are already trying to ban Islamophobia and defamation of Islam through the UN.
Following the Muhammad cartoons jihad in 2006, an op-ed in the Baltimore’s Jewish Times proposed the creation of an International Religious Court, composed of Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergymen: “Anyone feeling that his or her religion was insulted could appeal to the International Religious Court for a ruling on the matter, and the court would then determine whether a penalty should be invoked. It would be the responsibility of the government on whose territory the action took place to impose the penalty.”
In the business world, outsourcing or contracting out tasks to an external entity that specializes in a particular activity has become very common. However, not enough attention has been paid to the outsourcing of both freedom of speech and control over immigration in Western nations.
Internally in these countries, we have a maze of various organizations, sometimes supported by the state, sometimes not, that put together make up an important component of the machinery of power. Perhaps we can label them, collectively, as the Multicultural Industry, since many of them make their living off — and have their personal prestige tied to — the Multicultural project. And just like the oil industry will oppose anybody going against their interests, so the Multicultural Industry will oppose anybody criticizing the Multicultural project.
In addition to this, we have another, international network of non-governmental organizations, NGOs. Since many of them seem to have a decidedly anti-Western and pro-Islamic tilt, I will call them collectively, NGOistan.
Quite often, representatives of the Multicultural Industry, NGOistan and anti-racist organizations team up together, sometimes in collaboration with UN bureaucrats, to influence national immigration policies. Frequently, they also denounce advocates of stricter immigration policies as “anti-democratic forces,” which is quite ironic given the fact that most of these groups and individuals have not been elected by the people and do not represent them. Isn’t it the other way around? Shouldn’t the people of a nation state be allowed to decide who should be allowed to settle in their lands, not bureaucrats and self-appointed guardians of the truth with no popular mandate?
Too many NGOs have a political agenda that tends to be anti-Western and anti-capitalist. Alan Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard University, responded to criticism by human rights NGO Amnesty International to Israeli military actions to prevent attacks from Jihadist organization Hizballah in Lebanon:
“Had the Allies been required to fight World War II under the rules of engagement selectively applied to Amnesty International to Israel, our “greatest generation” might have lost that war. If attacking the civilian infrastructure is a war crime, then modern warfare is entirely impermissible, and terrorists have a free hand in attacking democracies and hiding from retaliation among civilians. Terrorists become de facto immune from any consequences for their atrocities.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross wanted to visit the Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hizballah to ensure they were treated humanely. However, Hizballah has no obligations under international law. It is not a nation state. But at the same time, many people seem determined to ensure that Hizballah gets all the benefits of international law, without having to abide by it itself.
French philosopher and cultural critic Alain Finkielkraut thinks that Europe has made human rights its new gospel. Has human rights fundamentalism approached the status of quasi-religion? Have we acquired a new class of scribes, who claim the exclusive right to interpret their Holy Texts in order to reveal Absolute Truth, and scream “blasphemy” at the few heretics who dare question their authority? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a great document, but it is written by humans, and may thus contain human flaws. We shouldn’t treat as if it were a revelation from God, carved into stone. Far less should we deem as infallible the veritable maze of regulations and well-meaning human rights resolutions that have rendered democratic nations virtually unable to defend themselves.
Multiculturalists dismiss violent verses from the Koran and say that these should be read “within their historical context.” However, the same Multiculturalists get furious and call you “Fascist” if you question the UN Convention on Status of Refugees. But shouldn’t UN conventions also be read within their historical context? The UN Convention on Refugees was written in 1951, when communications were slower, when world population and migration was much less than it is now, when we had no Islamic terrorist groups operating within our countries, no Third World ghettos in our major cities and when nation states still managed to maintain their territorial integrity. Isn’t it then reasonable to have a second look at it now, as circumstances have changed?
If democratic nations are bogged down by suicidal human rights regulations while non-democratic states simply ignore any agreements they sign, doesn’t this mean that we run a risk that human rights and international law, instead of helping people in repressive countries, will weaken the democratic countries that actually respect them?
These are not easy questions, and we will have to grapple with them for a long time to come. But one thing is certain: Societies that have become too soft to protect their territories have become too soft to survive. The West may have strayed too far in the direction of signing well-meaning conventions removed from the realities of human life. Western civilization may need a correction soon.