FREE SPEECH IS NATIONAL SECURITY THREAT FOR US:IMAM
There are religions that promote turning the other cheek even when mocked, but it appears Islam is not one of them. According to one of the most prominent imams in North America, Islam never condones violence, but it also, under no uncertain terms, “everaccepts” speaking ill of the Prophet Muhammad.
In fact, so grave is mockery of the prophet considered, that the cleric – Mohammad Qatanani, who leads one of the largest mosques in New Jersey – even believes free speech that criticizes Islam poses a national security threat to the U.S. and that those responsible should be investigated by the Department of Homeland Security.
“We, as Americans, have to put limits and borders [on] freedom of speech,” Qatanani, leader of the Islamic Center of Passaic County (ICPC), told TheBlaze. He explained that while Americans may ”have the freedom“ to speak their mind, ultimately, they “have no right to [talk about Muslim] holy issues“ as it will incite ”hatred or war among people.”
Qatanani said he thinks agitators who slander Islam, or, more specifically, the Prophet Muhammad, incite violence and hence, pose a national security risk that threatens the safety of Americans at home and abroad. Thus, America should disregard its First Amendment as it is typically applied and instead act in accordance with sharia law for the ultimate “good” of society.
In an exclusive interview with TheBlaze, the cleric, who was nearly deported in 2008 for failing to disclose his former ties to the terrorist organization Hamas on a 1996 Green Card application, explained that Muslims are required by Islam to respect the law of the land in their host-countries. He followed up that statement, however, with a treatise on how those who slander the prophet be pursued legally.
While some leaders within the Muslim community have spoken out against the anti-America driven violence in the Middle East, many have qualified their condemnation with moral equivalence, treating a film dubbed “Innocence of Muslims” (which some claim served as the catalyst for the attacks), with even harsher disdain than they do murder. Qatanani said the Obama White House should take legal action against the filmmakers.
“My position is that White House has to say strong in its condemnation [of the filmmakers] and take this person to court. If he is innocent, we will accept that… The government has strong case against this person.”
When asked what can be done to prevent future attacks, Qatanani invoked Homeland Security again, suggesting that the department actually step-in to prevent artists, composers, movie-makers, or satirists (among others), from producing works critical of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. He believes it is in America’s best interest to quell this kind of free speech as it “ruins” America’s image abroad and will ultimately hurt people.
Qatanani’s statements make it appear that, in so many words, the cleric is advocating for the U.S. to operate by sharia law – the religious law of Islam – when it comes to freedom of speech as it relates to Islam. If so, it would seem to echo comments in a previous report on TheBlaze outlining Islamists’ “10-year plan” to make slandering Islam unlawful on an international level.
American freedom versus Islamic freedom
One of the most revealing insights made by the controversial faith leader came when he juxtaposed American freedom with the type of freedom permitted under sharia law.
The imam acknowledged that observant Muslims view freedom only through the lens of that which is permitted by the Quran and Sunnah, the two sacred texts of Islam, and is therefore much different from the way Americans view freedom.
“They [Muslims] think our [American] freedoms are too much,” Qatanani said. “The freedom of the American people is so different from their [Muslims’] freedoms. We believe freedoms have limits and rules, otherwise we will get people into trouble…Freedom according to Islam must be according to the Quran and Sunnah. You can do [anything] you like within the teachings of these two resources. This is the difference and main reason [for the conflict].”
A different standard of freedom?
“People there [in the Middle East] don’t understand the American Constitution and freedom of speech,” Qatanani said. We have to understand each other because misunderstanding is a killing issue… The issue of Prophet Muhammad is very delicate – they [Muslims] will not accept in any way, anybody who talks badly about Muhammad.”
He went on to explain that not even Jesus or Moses, who Muslims also revere as heroes and prophets, would be permitted to speak ill of their ultimate Prophet Muhammad and stated emphatically, and repeatedly, during the interview that Muslims will never “accept” or tolerate such slander even in the U.S. under the auspices of freedom of speech.
At one point Qatanani said that it is essentially fine to mock Jesus or Moses (as Americans often satire various religious figures) but that is absolutely verboten to mock Muhammad. Later, he added that Muslims would be equally upset if anyone were to slander Christian or Jewish figureheads.
On the embassy attacks
At the end of the day Qatanani was consistent in his call for peace, however, he was particularly fixated on the “Innocence of Muslims” as egregious enough to justify violence.
“I believe the producer of the film’s [goal] was to have people hate each other. We are against the bad reaction, but the producer wants people to react that way [rioting]. He has a hidden agenda.”
In fairness, TheBlaze has reported that the filmmakers appear to be dubious characters with checkered pasts, and perhaps even ill-intentions. That said, they were certainly within their “right” under American law to produce the movie, whether tasteful or not. Qatanani pressed that irrespective of context, such movies and rhetoric will be exploited by extremists and thus, America has a responsibility to prevent inflammatory material that could agitate jihadists from reaching the mainstream.
An interesting point to note was that throughout the discussion, Qatanani repeatedly called for peaceful action and condemned violence as being anathema to true Islam. Conversely, he referred to the attacks on U.S. embassies abroad that left a U.S. ambassador, two Navy SEALs and one additional civil servant dead, as merely ”a bad reaction.”
He then repeated calls for peace and maintained that such “bad reactions” go directly against Islam’s peaceful nature.
“We condemn any bad reaction that is not peaceful. That is not Islamically acceptable, even by the teachings of the prophet. It is unacceptable.”
So who is Qatanani?
Qatanani’s notoriety soared in 2008 when U.S. immigration authorities attempted to deport him.
Born in the Palestinian city of Nablus, Qatanani was arrested, pleaded guilty and was convicted in an Israeli military court in 1993 for aiding Hamas during an uprising that same year. When he immigrated to the United States in 1996, the cleric failed to include information about his ties to the terrorist group on his U.S. Green Card application. The omission, along with the cleric’s checkered past, prompted immigration officials to file a motion to deport Qatanani and his family.
Qatanani and his attorneys have since minimized the cleric’s history, maintaining that he was merely among hundreds of other Palestinians detained during the uprising and that he had been convicted in absentia and later subjected to harsh interrogation tactics, even “torture.”
Ultimately, Qatanini and his family were granted permanent residency in 2008, but the case is currently being appealed through the New Jersey Immigration Court of Appeals. He is also suingthe FBI and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency for the release of any records that bear relevance on his ability to remain in the U.S. The imam filed his suit under the Freedom of Information Act in a U.S. District Court in Newark at the end of June, 2012. His suit claims the of Departments of Justice and Homeland Security have ignored his requests for records for more than five months.
It should also be noted that Qatanani has been much admired, not only in the Muslim community but interfaith communities as well. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has even embraced the cleric, calling him a “friend.”
So what does one of America’s most high-profile and perhaps controversial Islamic scholars think is really behind the animus Islamists harbor for the West? “Miseducation.”
According to Qatanani, “miseducation on both sides” is fanning the flames of discontent in the “Muslim or Arab world…and the solution is education for everyone.” For the cleric, misunderstanding can, and clearly has, led to “killing.”
“The people here don’t understand the Arab world, how they think and deal with holy issues — issues related to the Quran and Prophet Muhammad,” the imam told TheBlaze.
The imam clarified his position by saying that there is an onus on each and every person — Muslim or not — to weigh the potential harm that could come from his or her words. The message Qatanani was attempting to convey is that “we have to stop” putting people’s lives in danger and sabotaging Muslim-American relations with anti-Islamic language and imagery. He did not address the lives that are put in danger from actual acts of agression waged by Muslims who are not respecting another culture’s “law of the land.”
Qatanani said that in these sensitive times following the Arab Spring, Muslims abroad “want to be close to America” but that saboteurs are getting in the way. “I believe that understanding each other and education is the key,” Qatanani said, adding that cross-pollination is possible if Muslim and American scholars travel to one another’s regions to educate the public.
“So we need to build that bridge. The Muslims living here in U.S. can do that.”
Muslim Rage & The Last Gasp of Islamic Hate
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Once again the streets of the Arab world are burning with false outrage. But we must hold our heads up high. Ayaan Hirsi Ali on how she survived Muslim rage—and how we can end it.
It is a strange and bitter coincidence that the latest eruption of violent Islamic indignation takes place just as Salman Rushdie publishes his new book, Joseph Anton: A Memoir, about his life under the fatwa.
In 23 years not much has changed. ‘Salman Rushdie reads from the prologue of his new memoir.
Islam’s rage reared its ugly head again last week. The American ambassador to Libya and three of his staff members were murdered by a raging mob in Benghazi, Libya, possibly under the cover of protests against a film mocking the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
They were killed on the watch of the democratic government they helped to install. This government was either negligent or complicit in their murders. And that forces the U.S. to confront a stark, unwelcome reality.
Until recently, it was completely justifiable to feel sorry for the masses in Libya because they suffered under the thumb of a cruel dictator. But now they are no longer subjects; they are citizens. They have the opportunity to elect a government and build a society of their choice. Will they follow the lead of the Egyptian people and elect a government that stands for ideals diametrically opposed to those upheld by the United States? They might. But if they do, we should not consider them stupid or infantile. We should recognize that they have made a free choice—a choice to reject freedom as the West understands it.
How should American leaders respond? What should they say and do, for example, when a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s newly elected ruling party, demands a formal apology from the United States government and urges that the “madmen” behind the Muhammad video be prosecuted, in violation of the First Amendment? If the U.S. follows the example of Europe over the last two decades, it will bend over backward to avoid further offense. And that would be a grave mistake—for the West no less than for those Muslims struggling to build a brighter future.
For a homicidal few in the Muslim world, life itself has less value than religious icons, such as the prophet or the Quran. These few are indifferent to the particular motives or arguments behind any perceived insult to their faith. They do not care about an individual’s political alignment, gender, religion, or occupation. They do not care whether the provocation comes from serious literature or a stupid movie. All that matters is the intolerable nature of the insult.
The riots in Muslim countries—and the so-called demonstrations by some Muslims in Western countries—that invariably accompany such provocations have the appearance of spontaneity. But they are often carefully planned in advance. In the aftermath of last week’s conflagration, the State Department and Pentagon were investigating if it was just such a coordinated, planned assault.
The Muslim men and women (and yes, there are plenty of women) who support—whether actively or passively—the idea that blasphemers deserve to suffer punishment are not a fringe group. On the contrary, they represent the mainstream of contemporary Islam. Of course, there are many Muslims and ex-Muslims, in Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere, who unambiguously condemn not only the murders and riots, as well as the idea that dissenters from this mainstream should be punished. But they are marginalized and all too often indirectly held responsible for the very provocation. In the age of globalization and mass immigration, such intolerance has crossed borders and become the defining characteristic of Islam. Where the Protests Are
And the defining characteristic of the Western response? As Rushdie’s memoir makes clear, it is the utterly incoherent tendency to simultaneously defend free speech—and to condemn its results.
I know something about the subject. In 1989, when I was 19, I piously, even gleefully, participated in a rally in Kenya to burn Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses. I had never read it.
Later, having fled an arranged marriage to the Netherlands, I broke from fundamentalism. By the time of Sept. 11, 2001, I still considered myself a Muslim, though a passive one; I believed the principles but not the practice. After learning that it was Muslims who had hijacked airplanes and flown them into buildings in New York and Washington, I called for fellow believers to reflect on how our religion could have inspired these atrocious acts. A few months later, I confessed in a television interview that I had been secularized.