A couple of weeks ago I asked for volunteers to go to the First Freedom Project Seminar in Kansas City. I figured that Gates of Vienna operatives could serve two purposes — firstly, they could provide a counterbalance to CAIR, ISNA, MPAC, and all the other Muslim front groups that attempt to pack events like these with their supporters. Secondly, they would be witnesses to the proceedings and could report back to us so that we could post their information here.
The first respondent to check in was the blogger Rojas from The Crossed Pond, whose report you saw last week. Rojas saw nothing terribly alarming in the seminar, and seemed to think that we may have been overreacting a bit to the DOJ initiative here at Gates of Vienna.
Yesterday I received a second report, this one from Paul Green. He disagrees with Rojas, and will explain why in his own report.
But first I want to remind our readers of why we’re raising the issue of these seminars, and of what the Department of Justice is doing.
Various federal agencies are under continuous pressure from Muslim groups, which want them to scale back “profiling”, institute special rights for religious minorities, become sensitive to Islamic issues, and generally make the government more Islam-friendly.
To help their cause, groups like CAIR develop educational packages and “sensitivity training” material to be used by government agencies. CAIR has been a major player in training the FBI on Muslim sensitivity issues; this despite the fact CAIR numbers among its prominent alumni people with connections to terrorism, some of whom have been convicted and sent to prison.
If you put yourself on email alert lists for groups such as CAIR, MPAC, MAS, and ISNA, you can determine the nature of their strategy by the events which they urge people to attend, and the talking points they provide for members to use at these events.
The First Freedom series, which the Kansas City seminar kicked off, is drawing special attention from the Muslim pressure groups. Mr. Green’s report below will help readers figure out why the Islamist lobby is so interested in these seminars.
The next event is in Tampa on April 25th. Tampa, as you may recall, is where Sami al-Arian — the Islamist former university professor and current federal convict — made his home. CAIR and MAS both have their regional headquarters there.
We will need volunteers for Tampa. Put April 25th on your calendar.
A Report From Kansas City
Dear Baron Bodissey:
Having been present at the Justice Department event in Kansas City that you besought volunteers to attend, I’m sending you the following report. As I lack my own blog, I respectfully request that you post it. Under separate cover I’m also sending you the statement to which I refer.
To the readers of Gates of Vienna:
As the “bearded, emphatic, Madison-quoting audience member who bore a stunning resemblance to former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop” at the U.S. Justice Department’s “First Freedom Project Seminar” held in Kansas City on March 29, I venture to present to you my own report on the event. My perception of it differs from that of the blogger Rojas of The Crossed Pond: I do not share his generally positive impression of this DOJ initiative, nor do I see it as “an attempt to expand appreciation for the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.” And I would caution Baron Bodissey not to be too quick to withdraw his alarm, nor to “rest content with the efforts of our Justice Department.”
Here is why: It is an exercise in bureaucratic empire-building that will enable Islamic activists to advance their agenda in the United States — in particular, to enhance, at taxpayer expense, their portrayal of Muslims as victims in the court of public opinion. The first presenter, Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination Eric W. Treene of the DOJ Civil Rights Division, was quite open about his agency’s view of religious discrimination complaints as a growth market. He frankly stated that “we want to increase the number of cases we bring,” and that “we can’t bring cases we don’t know about.” Hence this seminar (the first of several), whose objective is “to educate the public.” Treene further noted that while the number of racial and ethnic discrimination cases — once his agency’s bread and butter — had flattened out in recent years, the number of religiously based cases it handles has risen by some 70 percent since 1992. Moreover, he added, cases involving Muslim complaints have doubled since the 9/11 atrocity.
The next speaker, also of the Civil Rights Division, was Steven H. Rosenbaum, Chief of the agency’s Housing and Enforcement Section. He described his shop’s efforts against “religious discrimination in land use” — such as zoning decisions that might preclude the establishment of a house of worship in an area where local residents don’t see it as a good fit — and noted that “we’re working with a developing area of the law.” As mosque construction in the U.S. accelerates in coming years, undoubtedly it will be.
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The panel then heard questions from those present, which is when I took issue with U.S. Attorney Bradley J. Schlozman’s assertion in his opening statement that “before freedom of speech and the press, the Founders put freedom of religion.” I maintained that this was unsupported by either legal precedent or historical fact, and buttressed my argument with a quote from James Madison’s Jan. 7, 1800 Report to Congress on the Alien and Sedition Acts, which I had fortuitously chanced upon while preparing a statement to be delivered to the panel (under the mistaken impression that the event’s format provided for this): “Both of these rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press … are equally secured by the supplement to the constitution, being both included in the same amendment, made at the same time, and with the same authority.” To Treene’s rejoinder that this was a mere rhetorical point, I retorted that it was certainly at odds with a rhetorical point on this very subject made by the First Amendment’s author. (It may be found on page 657 of Library of America’s “Madison: Writings.”)
Following the break, Mark Kappelhoff, Chief of the Criminal Section of the DOJ Civil rights Division, spoke on the “Prosecution of Hate Crimes and Criminal Interference with Religious Exercise.” He presented a lurid rogue’s gallery of hate-crime cases, including that of one Buford Furrow, a neo-Nazi who shot up a Jewish community center in 1998 — and who Kappelhoff described as a “poster child” for hate-crimes prosecution. He also mentioned a case in which a bomb was placed in the van of a Palestinian family shortly after 9/11, a case of black church arson, the case of the “Volksfront,” a gaggle of neo-Nazi morons who threw rocks on which swastikas had been scratched into a Jewish community center in Oregon (this last, complete with photos they had taken of each other making “sieg heil” salutes), and three cases of hate crimes against Muslims. Conspicuously absent was any mention of hate crimes committed by Muslims, such as the assault on a Jewish community center in Seattle on July 28, 2006 by a man who, according to a witness, shouted “I am a Muslim American, angry at Israel” (Naveed Afzal Haq, a U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, was charged with the attack, which left a woman dead and five people wounded), or the vehicular assault on students gathered in a public area at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill on March 3,2006 by Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, who declared in a call to 911 that he had acted “to avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world” and later wrote long apologias for his attack from jail, quoting extensively from the Quran.Taheri-azar’s SUV rampage left nine injured.
I therefore approached Kappelhoff after the presentations had concluded and asked him about this, citing by name the two cases above. He insisted that “We do not choose cases; we do not choose victims; we prosecute equally” and cited a case against four Hispanic gang members who assaulted an African-American as proof of this. Again, no mention of any hate-crime cases brought against Muslims, despite the fact that so frequent have these become that they have even acquired a name in the blogosphere: “Sudden Jihad Syndrome.” I intend to raise this point further in a letter to Arizona’s U.S. congressional delegation.
With presentations by FBI Special Agent Jeff Lanza outlining procedures for reporting and investigating hate crimes and by DOJ Community Relations Service Regional Director Pasqual Marquez that included the didactic “test” described by Rojas, the proceedings came to a close. I was disappointed at being unable to give the statement I had prepared (especially since I had spent money I could ill afford on a short-notice plane ticket to attend the event), but feel that it was worthwhile to be there nonetheless. I had been reading Bat Ye’or’s “Eurabia” when Gates of Vienna posted its alert about it, and it sounded very much like the confabs between Muslim activists and European governments that have brought that continent to such a parlous state. While it did not replicate those meetings, what I did see there was hardly reassuring. I strongly recommend that anyone opposed to the ideological jihad we currently face attend either of the next seminars DOJ has scheduled: in Tampa, Fla. on April 25, and in Seattle, Wash. on May 10. Details are at First Freedom. Note that while the seminars are open to the public and admission is free, one must register to get in.
Yours in resolve,
Statement prepared for the U.S. Department of Justice “First Freedom Project” Seminar in Kansas City, Mo., March 29, 2007
Good morning. By way of introduction, my name is Paul Green, and I’m from Tempe, Arizona. For 15 years I was an editor and editorial writer for the East Valley Tribune of Mesa, Arizona, before resigning last year in protest over my newspaper’s refusal to print any of the Danish Muhammad caricatures to illustrate a piece I had written on the controversy surrounding them. I’m now at work on a book about Muslim demands for restrictions on freedom of expression and the media’s deference to them.
Religious freedom is a central part of both America’s heritage and my own. Some of my forebears came to this continent in 1630 to escape the religious restrictions then in force in England. As the historian David Hackett Fischer noted in “Albion’s Seed,” when these English Christians “explained their motives for coming to the New World, religion was mentioned not merely as their leading purpose. It was their only purpose.” But the religious persecution to which they had been subjected in the Old World did not preclude them from inflicting their own brand of it in the New. Such dissidents as the cleric Roger Williams had to flee New England to establish their own religious communities elsewhere, and generations were to pass before freedom of conscience became a widely accepted value in America.
Religious freedom is thus indeed a “first freedom” of our nation — but there are other “first freedoms” as well, such as the freedom of speech, of the press, and the right to peaceably assemble to petition for redress of grievances. That these are equal in stature to freedom of religion was confirmed by no less an authority than James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights, who in his Jan. 7, 1800 Report to Congress On the Alien and Sedition Acts declared that “Both of these rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press … are equally secured by the supplement to the Constitution; being both included in the same amendment, made at the same time, and with the same authority.”
I’m here today because I’m concerned that some of these “first freedoms” are in danger of being compromised by an excessive regard for another: to wit, that freedom of expression could in due course fall victim to the kind of religious zealotry that gave rise to the Puritan injustices. During last year’s Muhammad cartoon controversy, only three major newspapers in the United States had the courage to print any of the offending images, despite their comparatively innocuous nature and their manifest centrality to the story. The rest, using one specious excuse after another, all demurred.
And to what were their editors deferring? A militant, religiously based demand for censorship, as revealed by slogans on huge signs carried by Muslim demonstrators worldwide:
- In Pakistan: “Our religion does not allow freedom of speech”
- In London: “Freedom go to hell”
- In Indonesia: “A Muslim’s faith is above Western values”
- In Nigeria: “Free expression is Western terrorism”
- In Bangladesh: “Free speech symbolizes war on Islam”
- and “Punish the Danish cartoonists and publishers”
The latter demand was echoed in a February 2006 article in the University of Pennsylvania School of Law journal “The Jurist” by Seton Hall University law professor Bernard Freamon, a self-described “Muslim African-American law professor” who asserted that his co-religionists “are very right to vigorously condemn the publication of the cartoons and to seek to punish the editors through the criminal law process.” Moreover, he declared, the uproar and accompanying violence “raise profound questions about the continued viability of a liberal and universalist approach to free expression in our rapidly changing and increasingly pluralist world.”
Nor has Freamon’s been the only Muslim voice arguing in American law journals for restrictions on free expression. In the Winter 2000 issue of the Cumberland Law Review, Washburn University law professor Ali Khan propounded the novel theory that the scriptures sacred to his faith — to wit, the Quran and the Sunna” — constitute “protected knowledge, a form of intellectual property” that must be preserved “from the irreverence of misinformed critics.” “Islamic moral rights,” declares Khan, “mandate that the Quran’s integrity and honor be upheld against any physical or verbal attack. … Likewise, any attack on the person of the Prophet infuriates the entire Islamic community. In fact, any derogatory remarks about Allah or the Quran or the Messenger are occasions for Muslim revenge and punishment.”
Khan further complains that “secular speech has placed religion in the open market of ideas” which “allows artists and authors to challenge what religion holds beyond doubt.” But the tone and content of some of the Quranic injunctions Professor Khan’s religion holds beyond doubt — such as Sura 48, Verse 29, which states that Muslims “are hard against the unbelievers, merciful one to another” or Sura 9, Verse 123, which commands believers to “fight the unbelievers who are near to you, and let them find in you a harshness” — make it clear that the open market of ideas is a very good place for them. Criticism and analysis — and even satire and mockery — are potent antidotes to exhortations to hostility and insularity that, left unchallenged, can have dire societal consequences.
But the right to apply such antidotes is coming under increasing attack, both from advocates for religious zealots and their allies in the media and the academy. Spurious charges of “Islamophobia” and “Muslim-bashing” are routinely flung in the faces of those who attempt to point out the inimical aspects of Islamic belief, and institutions such as the newspapers that refused to print any of the Muhammad cartoons (which, be it said, made exactly the kind of political and social points that are clearly meant to be protected under the First Amendment and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights) are tending to keep their heads down as a result. Books critical of Islam have been withdrawn from a Web site where they were offered. A movie adaptation of a book depicting Muslim terrorists was altered to make the villains neo-Nazis instead. And a Web site where users may post their homemade videos has taken to removing those critical of Islam, even as they ignore ones full of jihadist propaganda.
In this era of jihad revival there is a pressing need for criticism and analysis of Islam, which must not be construed as “Islamophobia” or legally restricted as so-called “hate speech.” No religion, despite religion’s “first freedom” status, may be accorded primacy over the right to free expression — a central element of the liberty that, as the Declaration of Independence, affirms, is an inalienable right endowed to us by our Creator. That is something I hold sacred — and that neither I nor many other Americans will ever yield. Thank you.