Another Muslim Cleric faces life in prison for speaking his mind
Allan Cowell writes in the Thursday 1/12/06 editions
of The New York Times (p A5)
under the headline "Muslim Cleric Accused in London Court of Inciting
Hatred of Jews." Among the terrible crimes this fellow, Abu Hamaza
al-Masri, has dared to promote is "the establishment of an Islamic
caliphate in the White House." What I see in this article is the
unabashed hostility toward Muslims surfacing in public policy in both
Britain and the United States. For apparently, this poor fellow is
"wanted in the United States on other terrorism charges," such as
speaking his mind, which has generally become a terrorist offense.
Several Moslems are now serving life sentences in the United States for
crimes related to freedom of speech.
He wanted a caliphate established in the White
House? How dare he! Someone stop him immediately!
"You would think he would be preaching tolerance,
mutual coexistence and responsibility regardless of religion or creed,"
British Prosecutor David Perry is quoted as saying in court. Well,
there is still a semblance of religious freedom in Britain, and perhaps
Perry can find a minister or cleric whose preaching suits his fancy.
Perry continues: "In fact he preached the opposite: intolerance,
bigotry and hatred, in particular against Jews as a racial group and as
a religious body." Now I bet if we tried real hard, we could come up
with a church or synagogue where the minister or rabbi veered into
territory where the same description of their preaching could be
applied. So perhaps what Perry needs to add to his other offenses is
that Masri is of the Moslem faith.
Perry also said that Masri "encouraged his
listeners, whether they were an audience at a private meeting or a
congregation at the mosque, to believe it was part of a religious duty
to fight in the cause of Allah, God, and as part of the religious duty
to kill." Well, that doesn't appear to be a terribly absurd teaching.
Certainly, Americans are told that it is their duty to kill Iraqis, and
if this was inconsistent with religious teaching, certainly the
government would be called irreligious. It would mean that God is not
on the side of America, since killing would not be God's will. Are
Americans not doing God's will by killing Iraqis? This seems to be the
conclusion to be drawn from Perry's remarks. He can't have it both ways.
It seems to me that any group or individual is
subject to criticism. Why should there be any exception? There is a lot
of criticism of fundamentalist Christians, of Catholics, of Hindus,
etc. These are not crimes. Why should criticism of Jews be a crime?
Certainly it is no crime to criticize Moslems these days. In a free
society, we are free to offer our criticism and policy prescriptions.
Does this suddenly mandate a life sentence, such as the one Masri faces?
Most telling about Alan Cowell's article is that it
mentions not one piece of information in defense of Masri, with the
exception of reporting that Masri has pleaded not guilty. It reads like
a government press release, without alteration. Is this a news article?
Times editors, let's give this
another go around. I know you can do it!