The Clarity Coalition is appalled by the recent decision by Western states to capitulate to the pressures of Islamists. We view the announcements by Denmark and Sweden considering additional legal powers to ban protests involving Quran burnings as a defeat for global free speech. Such a decision sets a troubling precedent and betrays the freedoms these nations once proudly claimed to uphold.
Free speech was founded on religious freedom – the right of Martin Luther and others to protest Catholicism. Now, hundreds of years later, some of Europe’s most liberal countries have decided to police speech and expression on behalf of religion. Moreover, they are doing it on behalf of only one religion, Islam, as they once did for only Christianity. This is a tragic erosion of hard-won freedom and rights.
As a coalition committed to defending democratic principles and human rights, we find it deeply concerning that national security justifications might be used to limit the right to mock other countries, their values, and their religions. People should be free to criticize and mock societies, institutions, and values without fear of repercussions, as it is a fundamental aspect of a liberal democracy.
The Clarity Coalition stands firm in opposing the intimidation and pressure exerted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Western nations. The threat of possible sanctions against Denmark and Sweden for the actions of protestors is an attempt to impose Islamic blasphemy norms on a global scale. We believe this is an illiberal interpretation of international human rights standards and a concerning attack on free speech.
By succumbing to the demands of religious dictatorships and violent extremists, Western democracies surrender core values and principles. The OIC’s goal of imposing Islamic blasphemy norms should not be tolerated.
The Clarity Coalition urges Western democracies to uphold their commitments to free speech, even in the face of pressure and threats from Islamist regimes. We must not forget the historical precedents of the fatwa against writer Salman Rushdie, the orchestrated campaign against Danish cartoonists, and the murderous attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo. All demonstrated the persistence of Islamist challenges to free expression.
While we uphold the right to free speech and condemn hypocritical responses, we do recognize that the burning of books, especially religious texts and national flags, is neither constructive nor furthers any debate. But in the end, it is the protection of the most offensive speech on the margins which measures our commitment to such freedoms, not comfortable speech in the center.
In conclusion, the Clarity Coalition calls on Western states to reaffirm their commitment to defending free speech, even in the face of external pressures. We must stand united against the attempts to stifle criticism, and we must preserve the rights and values that define our liberal democracies. By doing so, we can maintain our position as bastions of freedom, progress, and human rights in an increasingly interconnected world.