One of the most popular attractions in Washington, D.C. is a building that graces Pennsylvania Avenue with an exterior engraved with the First Amendment to the Constitution and its guarantee of, among other liberties, freedom of speech. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would have been well advised to hold her three-day meeting last week with the some of the most determined enemies of free expression – increasingly doing business as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – at the Newseum, rather a few blocks away in Foggy Bottom.
After all, at that shrine to our most fundamental civil rights, the delegates would have found an exhibit about freedom of speech which declares: “For better or worse, the First Amendment helps shelter the varied results of free expression even when they are considered by some to be offensive or distasteful.”
Unfortunately, such shelter is precisely what the Organization of Islamic Cooperation wishes to eliminate when it comes to expression about its faith that the OIC’s 57 member nations and other Islamists find “offensive or distasteful.”
Advancing that agenda is the OIC’s purpose in the so-called “Istanbul Process” that it launched with Mrs. Clinton last July in Turkey. As the Hudson Institute’s Nina Shea pointed out in a withering indictment of this diplomatic exercise published last week in the New York Post, “the gathering was folly.”
Ms. Shea provides several reasons for that conclusion. Reduced to their essence, it is folly for America to be legitimating – let alone engaging in – a search for ways to “bridge” the gap between our First Amendment rights, on the one hand, and the Islamists’ belief that anyexpression that “offends” their religion is a capital offense, on the other. To do so is to affront the Constitution and threaten the free and tolerant society it has made possible in this country.
The Obama administration started down this ill-advised road by cosponsoring in 2009 an OIC-drafted resolution in the UN Human Rights Council that condemned “defamation of religion” – read, Islam. That initiative helped advance the Islamists’ twelve-year campaign to “prohibit and criminalize” such defamation in accordance with the “blasphemy laws” that are part of the totalitarian doctrine they call shariah.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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