Our erstwhile ally in Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is responding to the brutal murder of U.S. ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three other embassy staff in Benghazi on Wednesday. Stevens was reportedly suffocated to death by the attacking mob which attacked the consulate because of a small film shown in the United States that was deemed as insulting to the Muhammad. Karzai then offered his own take on the murders by denouncing the “inhuman and abusive act” of the . . . filmmakers.
President Obama heralded Stevens as someone who “[t]hroughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi . . . and supported Libya’s transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai then stepped forward to denounce the “inhuman and abusive act” of the filmmakers and criticized them for causing “enmity and confrontation between the religions and cultures of the world.” I have not seen this film and have little interest in doing so. However, those filmmakers have a right to portray Muhammad in any fashion that they wish. It is the basis for free speech. The continued pattern of Muslim extremists killing people as a protest to intolerance is facially absurd and little more than a rationalization for violence. For Karzai to pick up on that theme demonstrates his fundamental disagreement with key free speech and free exercise values. It also shows the dangers of the Obama Administration’s effort to create an international blasphemy standard with its Muslim allies.
The Obama Administration has been working to develop an international standard for blasphemy prosecutions. The West has steadily yielded to the demands of religious groups that free speech must be curtailed in the name of faith. At the same time, Western governmental and religious leaders have denounced agnostics and atheists as one of the greatest threats facing the West (here and here and here and here). President Obama and Hillary Clinton have been facilitating this trend by working with Muslim nations to develop an international standard allowing for the prosecution of those who insult religion. The Administration has drawn a dangerous line with Muslim countries in first supporting the concept of an international blasphemy standard. As I have mentioned before, the efforts of the Obama Administration to work with these countries on an international blasphemy standard is a threat to free speech around the world. After first supporting an international blasphemy standard, the Administration sought to get Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other countries to adopt the Brandenburg standard as the basis for such prosecutions. This case also shows why the use of the Brandenburg standard is so dangerous in the hands of such officials who view free speech as the cause of imminent violence. Past cases show that even the suggestion of blasphemy is enough to trigger violent riots in some Muslim nations. Because any joke or image of the Prophet can trigger violence, the standard is immediately satisfied in countries like Egypt and Pakistan, which can then claim some legal legitimacy under the standard created with the United States.
Secretary of State Clinton continues to push for the implementation of the new international effort to criminalize certain forms of anti-religious speech as our Muslim allies expand their definition of blasphemy.
The death of our ambassador and these other Americans was simply murder. It was not caused by a film or the exercise of free speech. It was caused by the continued failure of leaders like Karzai to stand up to extremists who believe that violence is warranted whenever people insult your faith or a religious figure. There is a global struggle today over free speech, not just in the Middle East but in the West. The solution is not to enable or legitimate efforts by people like Karzai to prosecute those who “cause” violence by engaging in unpopular or blasphemous speech.
Source: National Journal