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!