In a brazen attempt to stifle free speech in the West, a Jordanian court recently summoned twelve European citizens to answer criminal charges of blasphemy and inciting hatred.
Among those sought by the court is Geert Wilders, the Dutch liberal politician who made the anti-Islamist film, Fitna. Released last March, the Dutch MP’s production caused an uproar in Islamic countries, since it equated Islam with violence. Now a Middle Eastern court would like to prosecute Wilders for the “crime.” (Ironically, a Dutch court dropped charges against him for inciting hatred against Muslims with his film the day before the Jordanian court issued its subpoena.)
The Jordanian court’s move is only the most ambitious attempt to silence debate about Islam. Until now, the preferred strategy has been to file civil lawsuits in western courts to intimidate critics. The latest version of what may be called the legal jihad is even more disturbing.
In one subpoena, issued in early June, the Jordanian court ordered ten Danish newspaper editors to travel to Jordan for the “crime” of having republished the “Mohammad cartoons” last February. The cartoons, first published in 2005, were also greeted with disturbances in Muslim lands. Seventeen Danish newspapers republished the controversial cartoons as a response to the discovery of an Islamist plot to murder Kurt Westergaard. Westergaard, a caricaturist, drew the most famous of those cartoons in the form of Mohammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban, for which he is also included in the summons.
This new campaign of intimidation against the West is being mounted by a Jordanian organization calling itself “Messenger of Allah Unite Us”, which is made up of “… media outlets, professional associations, parliamentarians and thousands of volunteers.” This organization, according to one account, arose as a “civilized response” to the Mohammad cartoons’ republication in 17 Danish papers last winter, after which it took the matter to a Jordanian court and successfully had charges pressed against the Danes, and later against Wilders.
The subpoenas will be sent to the twelve Europeans through their embassies in Jordan. If they do not appear within 15 days, the Messenger of Allah group says it will seek international arrest warrants through Interpol.
But while Denmark and Holland will not forcibly send innocent citizens to Jordan, this new, “legal jihad” tactic of criminalizing those believed to have insulted Islam constitutes a threat on an unprecedented level against freedom.
Citizens of western countries who criticize Islam, and are even willing to face lawsuits in civil courts their own countries for doing so, may now exercise restraint if they risk facing criminal charges in a Muslim country. Especially if the charge is blasphemy and it is being tried by a sharia court, which can impose a death sentence (The Danes and Wilders, a Jordanian lawyer said, are facing a maximum of three years in jail).
As well, critics of Islam who have outstanding warrants against them from courts in Muslim countries will have their freedom of movement restricted, since travel abroad will now be problematic. Wilders expressed this sentiment, saying he will be careful when he travels now. Such targeted individuals, like Wilders, will obviously have reservations travelling to a third country where Jordan could file an extradition application or may already have an extradition treaty in place.
But what is most disturbing is that an Islamic country would dare subpoena citizens of another state for an action not committed within its borders but in a land where no laws were broken. Besides being meant as a weapon of intimidation, this tactic also represents a frightening extension of Islamic law into the heart of western countries.
But perhaps most ominously, this incredibly brazen measure shows that even a small Islamic country like Jordan has no fear of Europe. And, indeed, no retaliatory response met the Jordanian court’s action against European citizens.
Europe’s appeasement is also evident in the second part of Messenger For Allah group’s anti-blasphemy campaign. This part calls for a commercial boycott of all Danish and Dutch products in Jordan and of anything associated with the two countries, such as airlines and shipping companies. The boycott campaign actually began late last February but was suspended due to the losses Jordanian importers were incurring that had large stocks of unsold Danish and Dutch products.
The boycott, however, was resumed June 10. One million posters containing the logos of banned Dutch and Danish products will eventually hang in Jordanian businesses under the title “Living Without It.” The boycott will also be spread by television and radio ads, t-shirts, and bumper stickers.
Dutch and Danish companies were instructed they could get their products off the boycott list if they, essentially, betrayed their nations’ values and their countrymen. The affected companies, according to The Jordan Times, were told to denounce the Dutch film and the Danish cartoons in the media both in Jordan and in at least one publication in their own country, support the Jordanian legal action taken against Wilders and the Danish newspaper people as well as the creation of an international anti-blasphemy law.
Several companies have already complied. When informed of the stipulation that requires a denunciation be published in a Dutch newspaper, a spokesman for a Dutch food company that exports to Jordan said his company “…would print it if needed.”
But such groveling will only buy these companies a little time, as another Dutch company discovered. It had immediately distanced itself from Wilders and Fitna after the film’s release last March but still had products placed on the boycott posters.
The Dutch government did not fare much better in its appeasement efforts. One Dutch embassy official in Jordan said he was surprised his country was included in the boycott in the first place since his government had already printed statements in the Jordanian press distancing itself from Wilders’ film.
And, naturally, the Jordanian blackmailers’ demands have not stopped. Only last week, Dutch and Danish companies were told to put the boycott posters up in their own countries if they did not want their products blacklisted.
Perhaps to further intimidate Holland’s and Denmark’s populations, the Jordanians are also claiming their boycott campaign is causing these countries huge financial losses of over four billion Euros in four months. A Danish official, however, says that is ridiculous since his country only exported about $50 million worth of goods to Jordan in 2007.
The overall goal of the Messenger of Allah group’s legal and commercial campaign against the two European states, it says, is the enactment of “a universal law that prohibits the defamation of any prophet or religion”, especially of the Prophet Mohammad. Islamic countries are already pushing for such a law at the United Nations.
“The boycott is a means but not an end,” said Zakaria Sheikh, a spokesperson for Messenger of Allah Unite Us. “We are not aiming at collective punishment, but when the Danish and Dutch people put pressure on their governments to support the creation of an international law, we are achieving our goal.”
Well, there you have it. The Muslim organization wants Denmark and Holland not just to muzzle themselves but to help it muzzle the rest of the world as well.
But just the opposite should occur. All western countries should help put a muzzle on Jordan’s ridiculous campaign to squelch free speech, meddle in the internal affairs of two sovereign, western states and intimidate their citizens. In terms of financial measures, Denmark, showing its usual mettle, has already led the way when it told the Sudan it would have to repay a $500 million debt the Scandinavian country was considering cancelling, if it joined the boycott.
It should also be pointed out in the West that Jordan, which is demanding respect for its religion, does not respect other religions equally. While the practice of other faiths is not forbidden in the Middle Eastern country, none are allowed to proselytize, and converts from Islam to other religions are prosecuted by Jordanian sharia courts.
Moreover, the Jordanians should be told that if they want to extradite inciters of hatred to their courts, then citizens of their country, and of other Islamic countries for that matter, who have advocated killing Jews and other the infidels will be extradited to face western courts. In the end, if legal jihad is not recognized as the danger to the West that it is, and vigorously opposed, it will wind up punishing more than just two small European countries.