Friday, December 21, 2007

Savage vs. CAIR: The battle over free speech

By Cinnamon Stillwell

Conservative talk radio show host Michael Savage is no stranger to courting controversy. Savage is known for his blunt commentary which at times goes beyond the realm of the politically incorrect into the confrontational. It is a style Savage describes as "psychological nudity" and the opening to his show warns overly-sensitive listeners as much. But, in the process, Savage touches on some fundamental truths that hit home with his fans, while simultaneously motivating his opponents. Whether they love him or hate him, 8 million listeners tune into "The Savage Nation" each week. The fact that the show originates in left-leaning San Francisco only adds to its entertainment appeal.

Savage's controversial commentary tends to elicit a censorious response. It wasn't long ago that Savage's remarks on illegal immigrants drew the ire of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, which, it seems, is always on the lookout for avenues of politically-correct behavior control. Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval introduced a resolution twice this year condemning Savage for "hate speech," a meaningless yet ominous gesture which disregards the concept of free speech. The resolution failed the first time around thanks to the lone dissent of the now-ousted Supervisor Ed Jew, who, in contrast to Sandoval's identity-politics-steeped perspective, stuck with upholding the First Amendment. But in October, the resolution passed, providing a menacing example of government interference, albeit symbolically, in the free speech rights of its citizenry.

Economic punishment is another weapon in the hands of those opposed to Savage's provocative methodology and the Council on American-Islamic Relations is the latest to jump on the boycott bandwagon. CAIR is a Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization that touts itself as "America's largest Islamic civil liberties group." As such, CAIR expressed concern over a number of statements made by Savage on his Oct. 29 program that the group felt were anti-Muslim in nature. In response, CAIR, along with the newly formed Hate Hurts America Community and Interfaith Coalition, has attempted to mount a boycott aimed at advertisers on Savage's show. According to a Dec. 3 CAIR press release, a growing list of companies, including AutoZone, Citrix, TrustedID, JC Penney, OfficeMax, Wal-Mart, and AT&T, have joined the boycott.

But rather than taking CAIR's boycott lying down, Savage is fighting back, in court. Represented by his lawyer, Daniel A. Horowitz, Savage is suing CAIR primarily for copyright infringement. According to the text of the lawsuit, which is posted at Savage's Web site, CAIR "misappropriated" his work by posting the four-minute segment in question at its Web site and including it in outreach and fundraising efforts. Taking it a step further, the lawsuit accuses CAIR of misrepresenting itself as a "civil rights organization" and of "advocating a specific political agenda that is directly opposed to the existence of a free society." While the copyright infringement charges against CAIR may or may not pan out, the broader implications could end up holding the most weight.

Savage is certainly not the first to call CAIR's political motivations into question. CAIR is the leading Islamic lobby group in the nation and the organization is accorded a great deal of legitimacy by the mainstream media, the Bush administration and other politicians, academia, civil rights activists, and even military and federal agencies that have employed the group's assistance for "sensitivity" and "cultural training." Nonetheless, questions surrounding CAIR's philosophical underpinnings, foreign funding, and political goals continue to haunt the group's footsteps.

Federal prosecutors named CAIR, along with the Islamic Society of North America and the North America Islamic Trust, an unindicted co-conspirator in the recent case involving the now-defunct Muslim charity the Holy Land Foundation and its alleged financial ties to the Palestinian terrorist group turned terrorist government Hamas. Also coming to light via the Dallas trial was a 1991 memo put out by the Egyptian Islamist organization the Muslim Brotherhood citing a strategy to subvert the West using mainstream Islamic front groups such as CAIR. As Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher put it:

The HLF trial is exposing for the first time how the international Muslim Brotherhood - whose Palestinian division is Hamas - operates as a self-conscious revolutionary vanguard in the United States. The court documents indicate that many leading Muslim-American organizations - including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim American Society - are an integral part of the Brotherhood's efforts to wage jihad against America by nonviolent means.

Indeed, in a 1993 interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, CAIR's communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, let slip that: "I wouldn't want to create the impression that I wouldn't like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future ... But I'm not going to do anything violent to promote that. I'm going to do it through education."

In light of the mistrial declared in the Holy Land Foundation case, which some concluded was due to a prosecution insufficiently prepared for the rigors of explaining terrorist financing and charges of intimidation among members of the jury, CAIR is trying to have the "unindicted co-conspirator" label retracted. It has solicited the assistance of House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., to that end. But even without the revelations brought to light by the Holy Land Foundation trial, a body of evidence exists to suggest that CAIR is not the benign organization it presents itself as.

Three CAIR officials have been convicted on federal terrorism charges since Sept. 11, 2001, and, according to World Net Daily, "at least 11 other CAIR officials have been caught up in terror investigations." Others have documented CAIR's objectionable associations, including its founding by former officials of the Islamic Association of Palestine, which has been described by the FBI counter-terrorism unit as a "a front organization for Hamas." It's to the point where, as WND puts it, "Congressional leaders say they are warning lawmakers and other Washington officials to disassociate from the group due to its growing terror ties."

This may explain why California Sen. Barbara Boxer rescinded an award last year that was bestowed upon Basim Elkarra, the executive director of CAIR-Sacramento. As she put it at the time, "To praise (CAIR) because they haven't been indicted is like somebody saying, 'I'm not a crook.'" Similarly, New York Sen. Charles Schumer, in a statement from the Sept. 2003 Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security noted that "we know (CAIR) has ties to terrorism ... intimate links with Hamas" and Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin called CAIR "unusual in its extreme rhetoric and its associations with groups that are suspect." Rep. Bill Shuster R-Penn., concluded that "Time and again (CAIR) has shown itself to be nothing more than an apologist for groups bent on the destruction of Israel and Islamic domination over the West." With the exception of the latter, all of these politicians are Democrats, demonstrating that criticism of CAIR is no right-wing conspiracy. Nor is it, as has been claimed by CAIR officials on many occasions, a campaign by the so-called Israel Lobby.

The list of abhorrent statements made by CAIR officials, not to mention unethical tactics, ties to terrorism and Saudi funding, is so long that criticism can no longer be avoided by deflecting blame. Savage's lawsuit details a number of instances in which CAIR officials publicly supported terrorism, acted as apologists for or distorted facts around terrorist acts, and admitted to an Islamist agenda to dominate America.

If experience is any indication, Savage's lawsuit may very well end up being settled out of court, as its unlikely CAIR will wish to call attention to these unsavory details. Such was the case when CAIR tried to sue Andrew Whitehead, the founder of the organization Anti-CAIR, in 2005 for libel. The lawsuit was based on objections to statements posted at the Anti-CAIR Web site, including Whitehead's labeling CAIR a "terrorist supporting front organization." But after Whitehead's lawyer responded with a series of discovery requests and documents that, had they become part of a trial, almost certainly would have exposed CAIR's shady background, the organization agreed to settle out of court. To this day, Whitehead has made no changes to the Anti-CAIR Web site, which may indicate that none of the libel charges made by CAIR could be substantiated.

At the time the case was settled, some predicted that CAIR's litigiousness would taper off, but the group seems simply to have shifted tactics. Now, mounting boycotts or pressuring employers to drop political commentators whom they label "anti-Muslim" are CAIR's preferred routes.

And Savage is not the first target. In 2005, talk show host Michael Graham found himself the object of one of CAIR's pressure campaigns and ended up losing his job as a result, an outcome that was praised by CAIR officials. Conservative columnist and author Cal Thomas too was targeted by CAIR earlier this year for comments he made on Washington, D.C., radio station WTOP, but his employers, hit with a barrage of supportive e-mails from the public, stood by him.

Even prime-time fiction is not immune to CAIR's meddling. The television show "24" earned CAIR's disapproval after the introduction of an Islamic terrorist sleeper cell to the story line of the fourth season. CAIR immediately scheduled a meeting with Fox executives in Los Angeles, which resulted in "24" star Kiefer Sutherland delivering a midseason disclaimer reassuring viewers that not all Muslims were terrorists. As I noted in a column on the subject, the show itself makes this point obvious and the fact that it counts Muslims among its fans would seem to indicate as much. But where CAIR rears its head, others tend to cave lest they be labeled with the broad brush of "Islamophobia."

A favored CAIR tactic is to push the specter of anti-Muslim hate crimes, as if to imply that the United States is a hostile environment for Muslims. The overriding narrative holds that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were the catalyst for a wave of unfounded hostility towards Islam. Never mind the fact that it is not anti-Muslim hate crimes that have been on the rise since Sept. 11 but rather anti-Jewish hate crimes, the United States is still the most religiously and ethnically tolerant nation in the world. This may perhaps explain why, as compared to other parts of the West, Muslims are thriving in America. But one would never know this to listen to CAIR's dire reports.

Among the supposed anti-Muslim hate crimes sweeping the nation are death threats, a claim that has a habit of popping up whenever criticism is directed toward high-profile Muslim groups or individuals. It seems awfully coincidental that, following the announcement of Savage's lawsuit, the FBI began investigating a death threat claim brought by Basim Elkarra, director of CAIR's Sacramento chapter, which he insists resulted from the public feud. Strangely enough, Elkarra also reported a death threat after Sen. Boxer, as mentioned above, rescinded his award. While the basis for Elkarra's current claim remains to be seen, such threats are in fact a hazard of public life and aren't necessarily the doing of one's political opponents. The truth of the matter is that those who dare to critique Islam - Muslims and ex-Muslims among them - are themselves most at risk of death threats in the current political and religious climate.

Time will tell whether or not the rest of Savage's advertisers fall prey to CAIR's intimidation tactics, but something tells me his aggressive lawsuit will have an impact. Whatever happens, it's high time that CAIR's mantle of respectability be put to the test. The war on terrorism has many fronts, the bulk of them ideological in nature. Giving up our rights to free speech in order to avoid causing offense would be a clear victory for America's enemies. The question is, is CAIR among them?


Canada's kangaroo courts

Trivial and unsubstantiated complaints to the country's various human rights commissions have become so commonplace they're barely even noticed anymore. But it would be unwise to dismiss these as mere instances of "political correctness run amuck." There are those among us who would dearly love to further restrict our right to free speech and they've found a powerful ally in our human rights commissions.

Originally set up to hear cases of discrimination with regards to housing, employment and accessing services, these commissions have become little more than support groups for those who would censor and deny any speech they disagree with. It's ironic that they're referred to as "human rights" commissions when, in fact, they have become the champions of groups who insist others are not entitled to differing opinions, voices or expressions. By slowly shrinking and curtailing free speech, they are legitimizing those constituencies in society who have no appetite for views other than their own.

In their most recent acts of contrition, the federal and B.C. human rights commissions have agreed to hear a complaint filed by four students from Toronto's Osgoode Hall Law School. They're accusing Maclean's magazine of subjecting Canadian Muslims to hatred and Islamophobia for reproducing excerpts from Mark Steyn's, America Alone, in a 2006 article.

Steyn's book sold very well and was one of the most talked about releases ever written by a Canadian. It so impressed me that I adopted it for a third-year course dealing with multiculturalism and conflict. Numerous students, including at least one Muslim, expressed their delight at being assigned something so fresh and thought-provoking as required reading.

If some people don't like the book that's their right. And if they want to submit a frivolous complaint to a human rights commission, that's their right too. Sadly, for many people, complaining and grieving is all they have. But there is absolutely no excuse for human rights commissions to validate these malicious exercises in censorship. They are not bound by legislation or precedent to entertain every yahoo that comes whining and crying about an article or book that hurt their feelings. These type of people thrive on being offended. They live for those moments where they can play the victim role amidst an imaginary culture of intolerance. It's their narcotic.

These complaints are not about addressing hate speech. There is a Criminal Code section that deals with hate crime. But prosecuting under that statute requires some burden of proof and is governed by the presumption of innocence and due process. None of these are considerations at human rights commission hearings. This is precisely the reason such complaints are made to these kangaroo courts rather than the RCMP.

Launching these types of investigations is aimed at chilling journalists and threatening media outlets with costly legal bills and negative public attention. They are about silencing dissenting voices and censoring the media's ability to report from a broad range of perspectives. Human rights commissions have no business being complicit in such dangerous and anti-democratic thuggery.


Canada's Supreme Court Rules in Internal Religious Matter - Jewish Divorce

This may not be as bad as it sounds. The court probably saw itself as simply enforcing a contract

The Supreme Court of Canada has ordered a man to pay damages for failing to provide his former wife with a Jewish writ of divorce, or ghet, a purely religious matter with no connection to Canada's civil law. According to a report from Brian Lilley of CFRB radio news, the ruling may have an impact on other religious groups in Canada.

The case has been pending since a Montreal woman petitioned the Supreme Court in 2006 to uphold a lower court decision awarding her damages after her ex-husband refused to provide her with the ghet. Stephanie Bruker and Jason Marcovitz were married in 1969 and when they divorced in 1980, part of the legal settlement included a promise by Marcovitz that he would provide a ghet.

Lilley quotes Peter Vere, a Catholic canon lawyer, who pointed to the danger of secular courts involving themselves in the internal matters of religious groups. Vere warned that "this decision could impose itself on the conscience of the individual or fine an individual for something they hold in good conscience. It is never a good thing when the courts try and legislate creed."

Vere cited cases in which Catholics contend in ecclesiastical courts over annulments and others in which religious freedom plays a part in conversions. Under some interpretations of Muslim Sharia Law, a person who leaves Islam for another religion is liable to the severest penalties.

The dissenting opinion was penned by Justice Marie Deschamps who wrote, "In addition, the assessment of damages would require the court to implement a rule of religious law that is not within its jurisdiction and that violates the secular law it is constitutionally responsible for applying." reported in 2006 that the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled that although the pre-nuptial agreement that included the promise of the ghet had been signed, the federal Divorce Act does not give courts jurisdiction to force anyone to issue any purely religious decree. Bruker had sued Marcovitz successfully in the lower courts, being awarded $47,500 plus interest going back to 1995.

Bruker's lawyer, Alan Stein, said in 2006, when the Supreme Court agreed to hear his wife's request to uphold the lower court's ruling, that the Court's ruling will have far-reaching consequences for all Canadians, because it will affect the validity of any agreement of a religious or moral nature.


More moral equivalency from CNN's Amanpour

Post below lifted from Infidels are cool. See the original for links

I'm watching Christian Amanpour CNN special outlining the Christian fundamentalist "threat" to America. I just get sick to my stomach watching this. She has gone through a full hour of outlining how the "fundamental Christian Right" is the number one threat to America. Ummm, hello? Islam? She spends an ENTIRE segment on the few abortion clinic murders making it seem like it's this huge problem that we must deal with. She makes the "Christian right" look like some extreme movement that is just out of line and very typical of the biased CNN reporter. She also interviews Jimmy Carter and lauds the fact that he's a "moderate" Baptist but doesn't mention the fact that he's anti-Israel and legitimizes Islamic terrorism.

I also can't help but notice the ridiculous "doom and gloom" music throughout the show sending another underlining message that America must be in trouble if Judeo-christian values rule America. She calls Christians leaders who want to turn over Roe v Wade "Scare Mongers" trying to shove "Christianity down the mainstreams throat".

The true moral equivalence of "God's warriors" is so distorted, any person who doesn't follow religion or politics is sure to believe the lies and distorted biased nature of this show. She once again, fails to acknowledge the true threats of Islam the entire world faces. She still honestly believes that Christianity is just as dangerous as Islam. Give me a fricken break. The nerve of this woman just drives me insane.


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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