By: Aeneas Lavinium
Our Mission Statement was compiled earlier in the year and continues to help shape our activities. We would like to establish relations with other groups who share our values in 2013. We have decided to put it into a PowerPoint presentation in order to make it more accessible. In 2013 we will review the Mission Statement so this is a good opportunity for our readers and supporters to tell us what they think so we can fine tune it and make improvements.
Here is the presentation:
This is the presentation in video form:
This is the transcript from the video:
Hello. My name’s Chris Knowles. I’m going to be giving an overview of the Mission Statement of the International Civil Liberties Alliance. I’ll start by talking briefly about ICLA’s mission and then go on to outline the key areas that we focus on.
“ICLA is a human rights organisation that aims to uphold democracy, freedom and individual liberties.”
These are the values of the period that the history books refer to as the Enlightenment. They inspired the great political and social changes of the 18th century and were the basis of both the French and American Revolutions. The picture on this slide shows the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen that was approved by the National Assembly of France in 1789.
ICLA’s main focus is opposing the use of sharia when it undermines freedoms and human rights. This goal is in keeping with the Enlightenment values on which ICLA is based. During the much criticised period of Western colonialism countries like Great Britain were confronted by the present of Islamic slavery in Africa. Under British tutelage Hamoud bin Mohammed of Zanzibar abolished slavery from his territory. Slavery is allowed under sharia law yet this episode shows that an Islamic ruler was prepared to abolish it despite opposition from conservative elements within his society. This is an historic example of anti-sharia activism that even some Muslim societies have been prepared to accept.
We’ll now look at the 10 key issues that form a framework for the ICLA mission. I’ll go through each of these in turn.
WITH REGARD TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION OUR MISSION STATEMENT READS AS FOLLOWS:
“-Calling for the protection-
of the citizens’ rights to free expression,
the repeal of legislation that prevents its effective exercise
and adoption of legislation similar to the “First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America”, into national or international law:
[Congress] shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
A few examples can serve as examples of how sharia compliance can have an adverse effect on freedom of expression:
(i) The first major contemporary threat to freedom of expression by sharia can be traced back to the Satanic Verses controversy of 1988. Muslims accused the author of this book, Salman Rushdie, of blasphemy. The controversy culminated in Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issuing a fatwā calling for Rushdie’s death. The claims of “hurt feelings” from members of the Islamic community would become a recurrent theme in the future.
(ii) In September 2005 the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed. However, it was only after a group of Danish imams stirred things up in the Middle East that the cartoons came to prominence. It seemed that the furore was merely a tool to undermine Western freedom of speech in favour of sharia compliance. Opposition to free speech was the central component of the demonstrations that were finally unleashed in February 2006.
(iii) Lobbying by Islamic groups has led to the creation of so-called ‘hate speech’ legislation in many Western countries. Formal blasphemy laws may have been repealed but the ‘hate speech’ laws that have replaced them have been far more draconian and far reaching. Many such laws claim to have free speech safeguards but in reality they’ve had a chilling effect on freedom of speech. In reality they have given state officials much more opportunity to harass people who speak their mind on important matters of public policy. They seem to be based more on sharia compliance than they are on adherence to the established norms of human rights.
(iv) The term ‘Islamophobia’ was invented by Islamists as a way of silencing debate about Islam. The central aim of this is to demonise critics of sharia and undermine freedom of expression. The term remains ill-defined and therefore a very useful term to demonise and delegitimise. It has been taken up with relish by those with a pro-sharia agenda.
(v) The OIC has been lobbying the United Nations for many years for the establishment of a global blasphemy law. Again this is an effort to replace traditional human rights with sharia compliant human rights. The latest manifestation of this is the Istanbul Process. This aims to use freedom of religion as a smokescreen to undermine both freedom of expression and freedom of religion itself.
In order to support freedom of expression in 2012 we attended the annual Passion for Freedom art exhibition. This is a picture of me outside the event. Artists from across the world gathered to exhibit their work. The aim of the event was to highlight the need for freedom of expression. Also in 2012, partly to confront the threats to freedom of expression, ICLA established the 2012 Brussels Process with the aim of creating a framework for a broader defence.
WITH REGARD TO DEMOCRACY AND THE RULE OF LAW OUR MISSION STATEMENT READS AS FOLLOWS:
“Promoting democracy and the Rule of Law by ensuring that all citizens are treated equally under the law, and opposing adoption of any legal system that competes with Constitutional law, with particular focus on any such system that violates fundamental human rights. This includes, but is not limited to, systems that discriminate against women, discriminate according to ethnicity or religion, and in particular any initiative that deprives the citizens of their rights to choose for themselves the laws that govern their lands.”
As an organisation, ICLA believes that the only way in which a diverse society can be harmonious and prosperous is through the rule of law. When you have a society in which people of different religions congregate, the only way that this can be achieved is via a single secular law for all. Efforts to create group rights rather than individual rights leads to suspicion and mistrust.
ICLA is a law abiding organisation. We believe in peaceful protest and seek to participate in civil society organisations such as the OSCE.
WITH REGARD TO FREEDOM OF WORKSHIP OUR MISSION STATEMENT READS AS FOLLOWS:
“Protecting the right of any person to reform or abandon his religion without hindrance, fear, or censure, as well as calling for national and international law to be amended to provide relevant protection for such persons. In particular, ICLA will campaign against the practices of intimidating or punishing reformers and apostates, and for the right of any person to challenge religious authorities on these subjects. Finally, ICLA will support and encourage liberal reformers seeking to bring traditional creeds up to modern standards for civil liberties.”
Freedom of religion is a concept that was developed before the era of multiculturalism. It was developed primarily as a mechanism to manage doctrinal differences within Christianity. Since religion was effectively a constant it therefore amounted to a freedom of worship. Things are much more complicated in a multicultural society.
We can clarify the situation by explaining what freedom of worship is not:
• It is NOT the right to commit murder
• It is NOT an excuse for bad behaviour
• It is NOT a tool for cultural bullying
• It is therefore NOT an absolute right
Let’s illustrate this with two examples:
The first example is Sati – the immolation of Hindu widows. This was regarded by many as an integral Hindu custom. However, this is not something that Hindu’s do today. They have moved on. Could authoritative Islam make similar positive strides with regard to some of its more extreme customs? Of course if Sati was practiced today it would be an example of multiculturalism taken to extremes. We should oppose extreme multiculturalism. General Sir Charles Napier put it well when confronted by Sati – back in the day:
“This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”
The second example comes from the Aztec religion which ritualised cutting out the beating hearts of sacrificial victims. Would the multicultural extremists of the West allow this practice in our towns and cities today if they contained sizable Aztec minorities? I would certainly hope not!
ICLA IS A KEEN ADVOCATE OF EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN AND OUR MISSION STATEMENT SAYS THE FOLLOWING:
“Promoting equal rights for men and women alike through challenging discrimination against women based on religious dogma, or other discriminatory or damaging practices traditionally considered ‘religious’. It is the firm belief of ICLA that equal rights for women are a cornerstone of a modern society, and that ensuring these rights is vital for a balanced future development of our societies.”
Sharia certainly goes against the principle of gender equality – after all in a legal setting it gives the testimony of a woman half the weight of that of a man. The Koran and the standard sharia law text Reliance of the Traveller make the status of women under sharia very clear indeed.
In sura 4.34 of the Koran (1) it says the following:
“Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High and Exalted, Great!”
Reliance of the Traveller states:
• “A woman may not leave the city without her husband or a member of her unmarriageable kin”
• “The husband may forbid his wife to leave the home”
• “A woman has no right to custody (A: of her child from a previous marriage) when she remarries…”
• “A free man has three pronouncements of divorce”
The picture on this slide shows a 21st century woman wearing a Niqāb in Monterey, California. This contrasts with the picture of the suffragette demanding votes for women in the previous slide.
WITH REGARD TO NUMBER 5 IN OUR LIST – EQUALITY BEFORE THE LAW – OUR MISSION STATEMENT READS AS FOLLOWS:
“Demanding individual equality before the law, in theory as well as in practice. Countering violations of this principle in the theory of legal or religious texts, as well as in their practical execution.”
We’ve just seen how sharia treats women. If you are a practicing homosexual the consequences can be severe – including the use of capital punishment. Even minority Muslim sects such as the Ahmadiyya are regarded as heresies by some interpretations of sharia. Non-Muslims of course are expected to pay the Jizya protection money tax in exchange for being tolerated. Clearly sharia does not allow equality before the law!
ICLA IS A FIRM BELIVER IN INDIVUDUAL LIBERTY AND ITS MISSIONS STATEMENT STATES THE FOLLOWING:
“Supporting the rights of the individual and opposing measures that undermine the norms of individual liberty. It is a fundamental concept that liberty belongs to individuals, not groups, and consequently that granting special privileges to or revoking them from a group is at odds with this principle. In particular, no rights must be withheld from a citizen due to his religion, either in law or in the application thereof.”
Individual liberty is dependent upon the right to concepts that we have already discussed – the right to freedom of expression and on the principle of equality before the law. It is undermined by concepts like political correctness and group rights that are increasingly developing a foothold in our society.
ICLA IS KEEN TO COUNTER THE PRACTICE OF DISGUISING POLITICS IN THE CLOTHES OF RELIGION INORDER TO PROTECT IDEAS FROM SCRUTINY. OUR MISSION STATEMENT ADDRESSES THIS ISSUE AS FOLLOWS:
“Challenging the use of religious ideology or status to gain political power or to conduct subversive activities; for example by requesting that the status of any individuals or organisations doing so shall be reclassified from “religious” to “political”, and subsequently treated as such by the authorities.”
Unlike religions like Christianity, Islam gets into the minutiae of life. Religious laws often dictate how even the most basic of daily tasks are accomplished. This is similar to Judaism, but unlike Judaism Islam is a proselytising religion. It also has rules that are applied to non-believers. In many ways it has a political agenda. It is these factors than can come across as threatening to non-Muslims.
While it might be reasonable to expect respect for the sacred, it is definitely unreasonable to expect respect for the mere political.
When religion moves out of the realm of individual conscience and develops and imperialist agenda it is inevitable that some people will feel threatened. We saw how this created conflict in 7th century Arabia just as it does today.
Organisations such as the OIC refuse to recognise distinctions between the political and the religious. We see how they use this as a smokescreen to push forward a purely political agenda.
BECAUSE SHARIA CAN IMPACT ON THE LIVES OF NON-MUSLIMS AND THOSE WHO LEAVE ISLAM, THE RIGHT TO OPPOSE SHARIA MUST BE A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT. THE FOLLOWING IS WHAT THE ICLA MISSION STATEMENT SAYS ON THE SUBJECT:
“Countering any attempts by Islamic leaders or organisations to implement Sharia, covertly or openly. Campaigning for the protection of individuals and organisations working to prevent the implementation of Sharia in our societies. This includes ensuring that law enforcement and courts deal fairly and robustly with threats and intimidation against citizens doing so, for such citizens are working in line with the European Court of Human Rights verdict of February 13th 2003:”
“… the Court found that sharia was incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy as set forth in the Convention. It considered that Sharia, which faithfully reflects the dogmas and divine rules laid down by religion, is stable and invariable. Principles such as pluralism in the political sphere or the constant evolution of public freedoms have no place in it.”
There are many people who would argue that the right to oppose sharia is automatic in the West. Others would say that the right exists but that it is ‘rude’ to use it because it risks causing ‘offence’ or ‘hurt feelings’. Far from being an automatic right people have been demonised and slandered, they have lost their livelihoods, they have even ended up in prison for opposing sharia. As a result specific provision to protect this right is now essential in both national and international law.
The names listed on this slide include some of those who have been discriminated against and mistreated due to their opposition to sharia.
This slide show the work of some of our German friends who organised a weekly vigil in Berlin to highlight the case of Tommy Robinson who has experienced much abuse at the hands of authorities in the United Kingdom.
INTERFAITH DIALOGUE IS SOMETHING THAT WE BELIEVE HAS BEEN PEVERTED FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES. THE FOLLOWING IS WHAT THE ICLA MISSION STATEMENT HAS TO SAY ABOUT THIS IMPORTANT SUBJECT:
“Encouraging individuals and organisations to engage in useful and respectful interfaith dialogue, and exposing any fraud attempted in such dialogues. This includes requesting of relevant parties that they be clear and explicit in their communications, and that sincere efforts be undertaken to uphold any agreements reached. Promoting the abolition of detrimental religious dogma, for instance by having Islamic organisations sign on to A Proposed Charter of Muslim Understanding by Sam Solomon.”
In recent times interfaith dialogue has meant one thing – surrender to sharia compliance. It has been a one way process and therefore has not been dialogue at all! Dialogue should not a power grab it should be a tool to achieve mutual understanding.
The Proposed Charter of Muslim Understanding by Sam Solomon highlights some of the concerns that many non-Muslims have about Islam. It should therefore be something that is considered along with other points of view during any dialogue.
ICLA has recently participated with a newly established organisation called Ethical Interfaith that aims to restore balance to interfaith dialogue.
The picture in this slide shows a 12th century mosaic in the cathedral of Monreale in Sicily. The cathedral is built using a blending of Christian, Islamic, and Pagan elements and shows that good results can derive where different cultures work together.
FROM ITS VERY BEGINNING ICLA HAS BEEN ENGAGED IN INTERNATIONAL NETWORKING ACTIVITIES. IT IS A FIRM BELIVER IN INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION FOR THE PROTECTION OF LIBERTY. HERE IS WHAT OUR MISSION STATEMENT HAS TO SAY ON THE SUBJECT:
“Supporting grassroots groups, individuals, and other organisations committed to protecting individual liberty locally, nationally and globally. Lobbying governments and international organisations to develop legislation and codes of conduct to prevent stealth or open undermining of these liberties, as well as the human rights violations that would inevitably follow from the destruction of our civil liberties.”
As I’ve mentioned ICLA has always been involved in international networking activities. Working with others is a central aspect of our mission. We have organised international conferences. We have attended events organised by others. We have engaged with civil society via our participation at the OSCE. Recently we have devised the 2012 Brussels Process to create an international framework for anti-sharia activism. We hope that you will work with us in the context of that process and if you share our values we look forward to working with you.
(1) Koran – Everyman’s Library – Marmaduke Pickthall translation.