Reclaiming Liberty: SION Conference (Part I)

September 13, 2012

Note:  Video footage, including a rousing speech made by the legendary Pamela Geller, as well as a moving speech by 9/11 mother Nelly Braginskaya, at Atlas Shrugs. Also, additional photos and footage provided by the indefatigable photo-blogger Urban Infidel

If  there was a single, overarching theme to the first Stop the Islamization of Nations Congress, it was just that. Freedom. The freedom exercised by Rifqa Bary-the courageous young woman who converted to Christianity despite the wishes of her Muslim parents, and whose portrait you see emblazoned upon the poster above-as well as the freedom to engage in critical inquiry regarding any and all subjects-including Islam-are one and the same. For fundamentally, they both come down to the exercise of free will. Individual choice is something that is not highly valued in authentic Islamic culture, as the plight of the recently freed Iranian Christian pastor  Yousef Nardakani, and the fate which befell Arab journalists who republished the famous Jyllands Posten Mohammed cartoons, demonstrate.

I traveled to the UN Millennium Plaza Hotel on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 massacres in order to listen to a roster of speakers who would illuminate just how precarious the freedom we enjoy is, why it is imperiled-not only in the United States, but across the globe-by whom, and how we can resist the encroachment of those who would circumscribe, and ultimately, eliminate it.

Notwithstanding the passel of amiably grouped American and United Nations flags in that photo, the  values of the United States and those undergirding the United Nations could not be further removed from one another. Anyone who has read the aptly titled The UN Gang by Pedro Sanjuan, a career diplomat and Foreign Service officer-a book that , ironically enough, was stolen while I attended the conference-would recognize just how different our nation is from the anti-American swamp in Turtle Bay. Unfortunately, those in power today-particularly within this administration-seemingly want to emulate the rogue’s gallery of Islamic theocracies, tinhorn military dictatorships, and third world socialist backwaters that currently comprise its membership. At least, with respect to the citizen’s relationship to the state.

Although the words from the Old Testament prophet are laudable-if a bit confusing when juxtaposed against the United Nations general opinion of Jews-they in stark contrast to most of the actions undertaken by the UN, which range from supplication before the preeminent state sponsor of terror, to deploying “peacekeepers” whose chief recreational activity consists of terrorizing the people they were putatively sent to protect. However, the most insidious threat posed by the United Nations is its attempt to nullify our natural rights in order to preserve the edifice of Islam as a great religion.

In decades past, the free world-led by the United States-would have led the fight against criminalizing dissent. However, the position espoused by the American government has been changed dramatically. The instinctive reflex on the part of government officials is exemplified by the craven tweet-since deleted-by the United States embassy in Cairo issued shortly before it was assaulted by a salafi mob. A mob which included, it should be noted, both the younger brother of Al Qaeda’s current emir and members of the terrorist organization whose leader is responsible for the first World Trade Center bombing. Of course, now that the Arab Spring is in full bloom, we should keep in mind that yesterday’s terrorist might very well be today’s democrat.

The most significant aspect of this transformation is the State Department’s active encouragement of a UN resolution, crafted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which would criminalize any substantive criticism of Islam. As Robert Spencer pointed out during the conference, this treaty would have the force of law, and there’s no reason to believe that the United States Supreme Court-McConnell vs. FEC made its cavalier attitude towards expressive speech plain-to honor our First Amendment rights any more than it has recognized those enshrined within the Second Amendment, or, I would add, the Fifth.

The institutionalization of this dhimmification of our legal system is occurring in our own backyard. State Senator David Storobin, who-regardless of any other criticism that can be leveled against him-should be congratulated for having the temerity to attend this conference, explained why this is such a pernicious development. A man whose family escaped from the Soviet Union-the largest totalitarian empire in world history-and whose relatives were slaughtered by Islamic separatists-Senator Storobin is perhaps uniquely qualified to speak to this issue. He denounced hate speech laws, which he correctly described as penalizing thought rather than criminal action, and averred that he believed in the principles of the Founders. “The founding fathers of America, not the Soviet Union. Madison, not Lenin.”

It’s a quote worth keeping in mind when the vanguards of the left insist upon adopting a policy of prior restraint against the only religion of global breadth they seemingly venerate.  What makes matters even more grave is the fact that those whose sensitivities will be preserved at the expense of our liberty, unlike the victims of other thought crimes-or perceived thought crimes-the left has sought to give protected status, these individuals have the propensity to vent their displeasure in ways much more colorful than public protests or civil disobedience. This fact was brought home to the audience during the speech of the man you see below, David Yerushalmi, founder of the American Freedom Law Center and tireless advocate for American civil liberties.

Mr. Yarushalmi’s speech focused on the nexus between the application of sharia law within Western societies and the inexorable diminishment of civil rights and liberties of citizens living in those societies. Contrary to the anodyne picture of sharia which has been painted by the press, academe, and assorted lapdogs of CAIR touted by our intellectual betters, the facets of Islamic law-provided we ever agree on a school of Islam to impose-which many have no trouble with in principle are diametrically opposed to the values we cherish as American citizens. A perfect illustration of this conflict in practice occurred earlier this year during an Arab American festival held in the city of Dearborn, Michigan.

Exercising their Constitutional right to peaceably assemble and voice their opinions, several Christian missionaries decided to demonstrate their profession of faith in Christ-and disbelief in the assertions found within the pages of the Koran-during this event. Doubting the claims of Mohammed-or his adherents-is a criminal offense-in Islam, not in the United States-which led to these men to being stoned by a frenzied mob of “Arab Americans.” Despite the fact that it was the peaceful protesters who were attacked-to the point of bloodshed-they were the ones told to vacate the premises, lest they be arrested.

The Orwellian revision of the facts by local and national media outlets-where the victims and aggressors were inverted-was not surprising. However, the willingness of a large municipal police department to enforce the legal code that contradicts the 1st Amendment is what led Mr. Yarushalmi to pursue a lawsuit against the officials responsible for this outrage.

While this incident might be interpreted as speaking to the depressing lack of respect for constitutional rights by those entrusted with the use of deadly force by the state, the tenacity with which this lawyer is seeking redress is what stands out in my mind. This determination to protect the sacred right of free speech can also be seen in the legal battle between the American Freedom Defense Initiative/Stop the Islamization of America and the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority over the content of the subway ad you see presented in the powerpoint presentation below.

Questioning the rationale behind the construction of a mosque within sight of Ground Zero, the ad was initially deemed unacceptable by MTA executives before a lawsuit reminded them that freedom of speech trumps the tender sensibilities of a teflon-coated religion. The same MTA was forced to back down again after a federal judge chastised it for refusing to consent to the display of another AFDI/SIOA ad which supported the state of Israel.

However, the most intriguing recent legal victory of Mr. Yarushalmi’s was the decision by the corresponding public transportation governing authority in the city of Detroit.

The poster you see above is nearly identical in content to billboards commissioned by atheist activists exhorting non-Muslim believers to abjure their faith. The only difference being that a the consequence for individuals who answer the question posed here in the affirmative is death. As the tragic fates of Jessica Mokdad

…and Aqsa Parvez make clear.

It is precisely the willingness among adherents to the Koran to inflict often lethal violence upon its critics which leads governments to attempt to circumscribe the actions, and police the expression of thoughts, of the people whom they ostensibly serve. However, the complicity of almost every major media organ-both in print and on television-in the whitewashing of Islam’s intolerance of dissent-among other less than admirable traits-has as much to do with affinity for the ends-if not always the means-of its followers, as it does any craven abdication of responsibility linked to fear. We’ll examine the responsibility of the press for the current state of affairs in Part II of our coverage.










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