Monthly Archives: September 2012

When “freedom of speech” translates into hate crime

The piece was offered by the author to run on pakpotpourri2
Kourosh Ziabari

They see the offensive movie which has insulted one of the world’s most ancient, venerated and popular religions in the light of their ambassador and other diplomatic staff being killed overseas. Of course such violence is not accepted, but the U.S. politicians and mass media have never paid due attention to the disgraceful and outrageous nature of a movie which portrays Islam a repressive religion and its holy prophet as a depraved and corrupt individual; a movie which has targeted the souls of 1.5 billion Muslims around the world with its heinous and appalling language.

“Innocence of Muslims” produced by a man who has been laying in ambush since the release of the 13-minute trailer of his movie on Youtube is a film awash with a throbbing tone and insulting portrayals. There has been a widespread controversy over the identity of the man behind the movie. Last Wednesday, the Associated Press published an interview with a man identified as an American-Israeli citizen named Sam Bacile who produced the movie with the donation of 100 Jewish sponsors. The same day, Wall Street Journal published an interview with Bacile and identified him as the writer and producer of the movie.

However, the following day, WSJ published a correction, noting that “subsequent reporting indicates that [the] name is a pseudonym.” Afterward, some media outlets referred to the previously Sam Bacile as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula who was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt and later moved to Cerritos, California. Further investigations by the media revealed that the producer of the incendiary film had been using numerous pseudonyms including Nicola Bacily, Robert Bacily, Matthew Nekola, Daniel K. Caresman, Sobhi Bushra and Malid Ahlawi.

What seems clear from the different reports provided by news agencies and newspapers is that the Israeli-American Sam Bacile is the same Coptic Egyptian Nakoula Basseley Nakoula who has assumed ambiguous and equivocal identities in order to avoid the possible consequences of the rage and fury of the Muslims. Interestingly, the mass media haven’t published any photo of him. Google image search for the entries of “Sam Bacile” and “Nakoula Basseley Nakoula” return the pictures of Terry Jones and former U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens! There’s only one picture which shows a man claimed to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, sitting beside a woman, but nobody has confirmed the veracity of the picture.

According to the New York Daily News, the 55-year-old filmmaker was convicted of a check-kiting scheme in 2010 and sentenced to 21 months in prison and served one year, later being released on probation. A federal court had ruled that he was barred from using internet for 5 years.

There are some recorded movies of his anti-Islam speeches, attesting that he has a background of attacking Muslims on different occasions. In his recent interview with AP, the extremist filmmaker has called Islam “a cancer,” saying that “the U.S. lost a lot of money and a lot of people in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re fighting with ideas.”

However, aside form the identity and background of this profane man, the depth of the calamity which he has created by producing the anti-Islam movie is indescribable. He insulted the most revered and honored personality of the Muslim world who is considered to be an intermediary between the people on earth and the Almighty God. Prophethood is among the main pillars of Islam as a universally-acclaimed faith, and 1.5 billion Muslims, from all races, languages and sects believe that Prophet Muhammad is the last divine prophet inspired by God. Muslims believe that the Holy Quran is a miracle of Prophet Muhammad and that Allah has sent the verses of Quran word by word upon the heart of prophet. Muslims don’t touch the words and pages of Quran when they have not performed wudu (proper religious ablution to say prayers or read the Holy Quran). These are not simply traditional customs, but beliefs which are intertwined with the hearts and souls of the true believers.

The majority of U.S. media and politicians issued condemnations; but condemnation of what? They condemned the wave of anger that has swept the Middle East and North Africa and led to the killing of U.S. ambassador to Libya and other attacks on the U.S. diplomatic missions around the world including in India, Tunisia, Yemen, Pakistan, Sudan and even such European countries as Greece, Denmark and Belgium. Apologies were also made, but not by the U.S. officials over the release of the blasphemous movie which broke the hearts of millions of Muslims; rather, by the leaders of some countries in which the U.S. diplomatic missions were attacked.

The heated protests of the Muslims across the globe which the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has ardently rebuked come as a natural consequence of the ugly and dreadful assaults of the United States and other Western nations against Islam. When they flagrantly abuse the concept of “freedom of speech” to justify their blasphemous insults to Islam and its sanctities, it’s clear that the Muslims will intrinsically burst into anger and respond fiercely.

The West-directed campaign against Muslims has been underway for a long time, but revamped and revitalized in the recent years, especially following the 9/11 attacks and when President Bush declared his War on Terror, which some political commentators see as a War on Islam.

In September 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published offensive cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, leading to a worldwide controversy which lasted for several months.

In 2006, the extremist, right-wing Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders produced an inflammatory, insulting movie titled “Fitna” in which he directed baseless and funny accusations against Islam, including the claim that Islam supports violence and terrorism. As written by Kaiser Bengali in The Express Tribune, “Wilders’ ideas struck a chord in mainstream politics across Europe. France and Belgium banned veils that covered the face and Switzerland barred the construction of new minarets following a referendum. Anders Breivik, a Norwegian Christian extremist, who killed nearly 80 people outside Oslo to express his anti-Islamist sentiments, had cited Wilders’ anti-Islamic views in his online manifesto.”

Other attacks were sporadically launched on Islam and Muslims until 2011 when the insane pastor of an evangelical church in the U.S. named Terry Jones burnt some copies of the Holy Quran on the anniversary of 9/11 attacks and sparked international anger. The publicity stunt later confessed in an interview that he had never read the Quran and even did not know Prophet Muhammad.

And now, the anti-Islam and anti-Muslim attacks have been manifested in the form of the sacrilegious movie which the neo-conservative commentator of The Wall Street Journal has described as a film which “nobody has seen” and depicts Prophet Muhammad “in a, well, unflattering light.”

The duplicitous and hypocritical reaction of the Western politicians and media to the movie and their justification that its screening and distribution is acceptable according to the value of “freedom of speech” is a testimony that they have never been sincere in their claims and that they are intentionally inattentive to and careless about the sensitivities of some 1.5 billion people around the world.

If freedom of speech is a universal value, then it should not be limited when it comes to criticizing Israel and talking about its dominance over the U.S. Congress and mass media. At any rate, the Western freedom of speech has once again been translated into a hideous and detestable form of hate crime and blasphemy.

Kourosh Ziabari is an award-winning Iranian journalist, peace activist and media correspondent. He has received the Superior Iranian Youth award from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has also won Iran’s 18th Press Festival first award in the category of political articles. Kourosh is a member of World Student Community for Sustainable Development and also a member of the European Association for Teaching of Academic Writing.


Free Speech: do You know what it is?

By: Waris Husain

As Pakistan assesses the carnage of the violent protests that were triggered by an Islamophobic movie produced in the United States, many have asserted that the moviemakers are protected by the freedom of speech. Judicial perspectives from the U.S. concerning free speech enjoy dogmatic support across the globe, but its followers should consider that that international law encourages prohibitions on hate speech as a valid method to protect minority groups and establish peace in a country.
However, there are two major reasons why the U.S. has not followed suit from its international allies, who prosecute individuals for speech that would be considered constitutionally protected by American standards. First, American jurisprudence protecting free speech is based on a laissez-faire economic model which assigns ultimate value to the maintenance of a free market of ideas and judges are presumptively repulsed by the government setting parameters on that market. Second, the U.S. protection for free speech is dictated by the nation’s negative rights constitution, which has proven cumbersome when confronting the rise of hateful rhetoric against certain minority groups.

Justice Holmes, who rightfully remains a towering figure in law, first introduced the idea that the government should not involve itself in censorship because it was better to leave the “marketplace of ideas” unfettered. He argued that “the best test of truth is the power of thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market,” meaning that people should be given the option to choose whether or not to support any idea.
In order to allow them to decide fairly, the marketplace of ideas gives penultimate value to freedom of speech of any kind, including hateful speech. In a functioning marketplace, the government would not need to censor hateful speech, because the people themselves would decide not to listen to the hateful speaker, and he or she would be relegated to a punishment worse than imprisonment – anonymity.
As such, the Supreme Court has erred on the side of approving hate speech rather that allowing the government to regulate speech. The slippery slope argument has been used by many American judges, asserting that if the government is given an inch to censor free speech, they will take a mile. Justice Douglas stated that the government had to respect the marketplace of ideas, “for the alternative would lead to standardization of ideas either by legislatures, courts, or dominant political or community groups.”
This seems to echo the belief in economics that free market theorists like Milton Friedman support: he wrote that “underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” These individuals cannot imagine a government that regulates business or speech without attacking the basic freedom underlying it.
Yet, countries around the world have rejected an absolute belief in the free market, especially after the recent economic meltdown which some say was caused by the failure of governments to effectively regulate the market. In many ways, we are also seeing a global legal meltdown concerning freedom of speech and how it relates to the protection of minority groups.
The Pew Institute has reported that hate speech and religious incitement has increased around the world, and they point to growing examples of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in Western countries. This is alarming when one considers the opinion of the Council of Europe which stated that hate speech against vulnerable groups does double damage by reinforcing stereotypical prejudices and silencing minority members.
The U.S. has rigidly stood by its jurisprudence, recognizing many anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic expressions as valid exercises of the First Amendment in the free market of ideas. However, Europe has dealt with the problem by forgoing the laissez-fair approach to free speech and prohibiting certain forms of hate speech.
One can compare the case of neo-Nazis’ right to free speech in the U.S. and Europe. In the Skokie affair, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that neo-Nazis have the right to display their swastikas and parade in a city despite the damage it might cause to the community. While in Jewish Community of Oslo et al. v. Norway, a committee ruled that the display of Nazi regalia and advocating in favor of the Nazis publically constituted hate speech and could be prosecuted.
Before Pakistanis laud the U.S. for protecting free speech, one should consider the way in which the failure to prohibit hate speech affects Pakistan. When news anchors or neighborhood imams deride Shias, Ahmedis, Hindu’s or Christians, they are not punished by the state, while their targets are left to languish in greater social alienation. Their speech offers nothing beneficial to the society, yet it would be protected by American courts, so long as it was not likely to incite imminent lawless action.

The second element that affects American free speech jurisprudence is the basic structure of the constitution. If one looks to the Bill of Rights, it is a list of things the government cannot do: “the government shall not infringe upon” freedom of speech, religion. This is emblematic of a negative rights constitutional order that can be traced to the founders of America who believed that the basic function of government was to respect the autonomy of citizens.
One can distinguish this from the system in other countries that is dictated by a positive rights Constitution, which requires the government to “ensure” rights. As such, man y positive rights constitutions enshrine civil liberties in two parts: the first recognizes the individual’s right, and the second establishes the individuals’ duty not to abuse that right. Thus, there is a marked difference in between the two legal regimes; one envisions each citizen as a secluded island unto themselves that must be left alone, while the other assumes that each individual is a member of their society at large.
Under the positive perspective, the government has greater authority and obligation to limit certain individual rights for the sake of the community. This is embodied in international law through the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which has been signed by the U.S. and Pakistan. While the ICCPR recognizes free speech, it obligates signatory nations to prohibit speech “advocating for religious or ethnic hatred.”
The U.S. has not satisfied this obligation because its negative rights regime dictates that the indivudal owes no duty to their community to refrain from propagating hateful ideas. In contradistinction, positive rights proponents would assert that while an individual has a right to free speech, they owe a duty not to violate harmonious relations amongst their society or abuse minorities. In a case decided by the Swedish Supreme Court concerning a pastor’s speech deriding other religions, the Court stated that citizens have a duty to avoid making “statements that are unjustifiably insulting to others and constitute attacks on their rights.”
American judges would rebuke such a conclusion, asserting that private individuals have an absolute right to say whatever they wish regardless of its offensive quality, and the government has no right to enforce a duty upon them.
When one looks to the trends in developing countries, most have realized that human progress does not come in the form of isolation but through cooperation and active involvement in one’s community. This is evidenced in economics through social welfare programs that interfere with the free market to establish a safety net for the most disadvantaged in the society. Likewise, outside the U.S., legal frameworks have also reflected the need for governments to “interfere with the free market of ideas” when speech is meant to attack socially vulnerable groups or propagate religious or racial discord.
While the U.S. allows for hate speech as a necessary evil to free speech, it also allows for this right through its overall negative rights constitution. This differs from international conventions and other constitutions which recognize the right to free speech but attach a duty to exercise the right respectfully of the community. Therefore, there is reason for developing nations like Pakistan to look beyond the U.S. for legal guidance in developing their freedom of speech protections.

Waris Husain, JD
Writer, Dawn News Group / The Friday Times
Director on the Board, Americans for Democracy and Justice in Pakistan
LL.M. in International Law Candidate, Washington College of Law

NOTE:This is a cross post.

Wisdom Of Youth

This is a Pakpotpourri Exclusive

By: Sherbano Tajammal Hussain

If Youth were a man, he’d be a rather naïve young gentleman.
If Youth were a man, he’d convince himself that he knows everything, despite the fact that in his short-lived existence, he has seen nothing.
If Youth were a man, he’d believe that he would live on forever and ever—and that nothing, absolutely nothing, would tear him off from the face of this planet.
Why, if youth were a man, he’d be the most impressionable, vain and over-confident individual that one would ever come across in life.
Youth would be many things but one could never hope to find even a trace of wisdom in youth.
For the truth is, Youth is still at that stage in life where he is learning about the world in general.
He is not even a fully formed person yet.
He sets idealistic goals for himself, hoping to one day surpass his predecessors for surely, according to him, he can do what they did—only better.
As a man, Youth would be inspired.
But wise? No. Youth is too reckless, too immature, too foolish to be wise.
Honestly, though, can we blame Youth for being the way that he is?
Adults, however, tend to view him with contempt.
For what does Youth know about life?
He is too gullible.
And utterly and hopelessly unexposed to the harsher realities of life.
Yet, the point which people tend to overlook here is that when one is young, one cannot possibly be wise! For Youth lacks experience and the true teacher of wisdom is experience!
The fact is, adults judge Youth harshly because they themselves forget what it was like to be young. They forget that they, too, had colossal dreams and aspirations stored in their hearts—dreams and aspirations which were so colossal that they seemed larger than life itself!
In the words of J.K Rowling, ‘’Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels but old men are guilty if they forget what it was like to be young.’’
Yes, Youth is not wise.
But should Youth be ashamed of this?
Youth should embrace this period of foolishness and learn from his mistakes for learning from one’s mistakes is the true sign of wisdom.

The writer is a student of A Levels at a leading school in Lahore.She won a full scholarship from her school based on straight A’s in her O Level results.

Mazari Resignation: The Middle Class Problem In Pakistani Politics

Text of Mazari’s resignation letter:
Dear Imran,

It is with great sadness and disappointment that I am writing to let you know I have been compelled to leave PTI. As you know, when you came to see me at the time you had just formed PTI, I had made a commitment to you that I would join PTI only whenever I was able to join direct politics, especially electoral politics. I totally agreed with your vision for change, especially in the context of foreign policy which has always been a central focus of mine for over 40 years. So it was with absolutely no hesitation that I came to see you in 2008 after the elections PTI boycotted. I joined PTI with no bargaining for any position. All I sought was an assurance that the same ideals, again especially in terms of change and foreign policy, still prevailed.

I worked for the Party and tried to help any way I could – be it with Omar Cheema in the media or with the administration of the Islamabad office as well as formulating an alternate viable foreign policy narrative for the Party. The most encouraging and vital aspect of PTI at the time was the driving sense everyone had that we were going to be the harbingers of change not only in terms of nationalist policies for Pakistan but also in a new egalitarian non-elitist political culture. In fact this egalitarianism prevailed throughout the party beginning with yourself, which allowed for a truly democratic interaction in the Party.

In addition, your appeal of change was your own style of politics where you reached out directly to the masses of the electorate. It may have taken a long time but the Lahore 2011 jalsa was the game changer for Pakistan’s electoral politics. Unfortunately after the Lahore Oct 2011 jalsa, after which you, like ZA Bhutto, could have built up your party’s existing leadership including the large group of middle class and professional followers you had into potential “electables” who would directly interact with the people, you chose to open the floodgates for old traditional “electables”.

So, after trying to accept the new PTI realities for some time, I feel in all honesty I cannot go along with this post-Lahore PTI for the following reasons:

This shift in moving from directly reaching out to the electorate to using intermediaries – the so-called “electables” – between the people and yourself has gradually turned the PTI into a traditional political party with all the excess baggage that that connotes. No doubt some of these “electables” are indeed financially clean, but to effectively hand them control of the Party was unwarranted. After all if they were so skilled and committed to principles then why were they unable to formulate policies to improve the country? Most had been Party hopping and had occupied public offices for substantive time periods yet they represented no stream of change or an alternative narrative to the status quo. The energy policy of PTI reflects this status quo mindset as does the economic policy which is effectively purely a fiscal policy set to please the IMF! A whole critique can be made of the economic policy but the main point is that it has no relief for the common man, including a total absence of any reduction in utility rates. It is strange that while you have been critiquing GST and indirect taxation consistently and correctly, the PTI economic policy has done a total reversal on this position – reflective of the policy shifts being made in PTI.
A new culture of money has sprung up with big money taking over Party programmes. The plane and helicopter dependency is one reflection of this but so are other disturbing happenings like the donation of Rs 50 lakhs by one individual to some ISF leaders directly – ostensibly for aiding the membership drive – instead of it going via the Party account.
The membership drive itself through membership booklets has some serious questions hanging over it and I did try to raise these in the PSC meeting on the issue but to no avail. I still maintain that by selling the booklets we allowed the rich members to purchase huge amounts of the booklets and then make their members with no check on whether these books were being filled simply to build up local support for the intra party elections at Union and District levels or whether the members being enlisted were genuinely believers and supporters of PTI! Also rumours abound about motorbikes and other gifts being given by the big money players to people who managed to make a certain number of members. In other words, the intra-Party elections are not going to be held on a level playing field by any yardstick!
The reality is that today PTI has been effectively taken over by traditional politicians reflecting big money and/or feudal “sardars”. As if that is not disappointing enough, retired civil and military bureaucrats have also found senior niches in the Party. Tragically none of these new entrants can bring about the change which PTI had been promising.
To make matters worse, our think tanks which contain some of the most senior technocrats have been totally ignored in policy making despite some very competent people being present there like Mr Pervez Butt who headed our PAEC for many years. All these competent people have been either totally ignored or treated with utter disdain by the big money players.
As for the incident in Rajanpur, I maintain my position that you could have driven the one hour distance from DG Khan to Rajanpur and I had offered Mr Tareen for your group to stay overnight at my village if you could not make it to Mr Tareen’s farm in Lodhran. The next day you had to go to Sindh and my village was much closer and Mr Tareen has an airstrip next door in Jamaldinwali so his plane could have come to pick your party up. That I made the critical speech before our people in Rajanpur was necessary as I felt their pain – since they had waited from 11 am right uptil 4 45 pm! Many were flood affectees and to simply suggest that they should be reassembled from across the district the next day was not possible.
Sadly, instead of resolving the issue amicably, your social media and their “trolls” chose to use filthy abuses against my daughter which compelled her to leave the party; and you chose to adopt a vengeful posture by serving me with a show cause notice and then sending a message that I should make a public apology and retract my statement. Since I maintain I did nothing wrong and since there was nothing incorrect in my statement about the takeover of the Party, I will not dignify the show cause notice with a response – especially since the points cited in it also happen to be factually incorrect.
I have never doubted your integrity or commitment but unfortunately you are being overwhelmed by those who have never had an ideology in all the years they were in politics or the bureaucracy. It is not enough to simply have faith in you because a Party is defined by more than one man – it is defined by its collective leadership.
I hope that we are not reduced to abuse and name calling on the social media again as it will not do anyone any good. I do not want to reduce myself to personal attacks and we refrained from such filth even when my daughter was being subjected to filthy abuse. But there are limits to everyone’s patience.
If PTI really does choose to revert to directly relating to the masses, its original character and ideology of change and justice, I will be there to serve the Party in any way I can. For me coming into electoral politics through PTI was simply to affect national agendas in a way that qualitatively changes Pakistan for the better. Sadly, the commitment to change, that made us all in PTI develop a comradeship and bond that was unique, is withering away fast in all but name. So it is with a heavy heart that I leave PTI knowing that the only change PTI has brought has been in yourself and the nature of the collective leadership.
Shireen M Mazari


The resignation of Dr. Shireen Mazari from PTI underlines the difficulty of introducing a new political culture in Pakistan, where a failed political system is choking creativity, pushing Pakistan’s best and brightest out of the country and leaving a corrupt and inept elite to enjoy the spoils.

Dr. Mazari’s predicament is probably no different than the position of many Pakistani politicians from middle class background in other parties – Raza Rabbani, Syed Mushahid Hussain, Fozia Wahab, Sherry Rehman, Ahsan Iqbal, etc. They enter politics with difficulty and their chances of promotion inside their parties on merit to senior positions are bleak.

The only difference is that Dr. Mazari apparently refused to submit. Make no mistake, Mazari herself is from a feudal background but she pursued a career and a role in public life that does not conform to the feudal politics of her background. She is opposed to feudal monopoly on Pakistani politics. She is an accomplished academic and her political work on PTI’s platform went against the wishes of the feudal lords of her area Rajanpur, located at the intersection of Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan. Certainly no woman before her dared to politically challenge the feudals of her area.

Her surprise resignation from PTI was probably triggered by a little reported incident that occurred in her village in the third week of September when Imran Khan visited the region.


She had gathered around 1,000 poor peasants, most of them flood victims, to receive Khan as he arrived at the village. Apparently Khan was an hour’s drive away in the company of Jahangir Tareen, a wealthy feudal who had put his private jet at Khan’s disposal. Khan failed to show up and asked Mazari to ask the people to come again next morning. Furious, Dr. Mazari delivered a speech criticizing the influence of newcomers, turncoats who joined PTI after its sudden popularity surge. The next day the PTI chief passed by the village en route to Sindh.

The party issued Mazari a ‘show-cause notice’ and Imran Khan asked her to publicly apologize to Jahangir Tareen, according to Mazari’s letter of resignation.

Mazari’s complaint about the role and influence of the newcomers echoes the sentiments of many party members who feel old-style politicians – tested, tried and failed – have taken over a party that was supposed to introduce a more civilized form of politics in Pakistan.


Khan’s diehard fans argue that he won’t let failed politicians control his party. But this argument doesn’t cut much with the skeptics who feel Pakistan’s traditional feudal politicians are too shrewd and experienced for Khan and will eat him for lunch before he eats them for dinner.

And Mazari is a good case study. Refusing to submit to the newcomers, she began to face a series of challenges inside the party that come close to being harassment. She was being ignored for important assignments and a lobby was at work trying to create misunderstandings between her and Khan.

Nor is Mazari the only victim of the rising influence of traditional politicians inside PTI. The policy planning wings of the party and their technocrat members have largely been sidelined ever since the mass entry of feudal politicians.

Traditional politicians rushed to join the party early this year seeing the falling popularity of traditional parties, especially the ruling pro-US PPPP-MQM-ANP-PMLQ-PMLN coalition. These old politicians were also alarmed by the rise of the role of middle class Pakistanis–smart, patriotic and hardworking, who largely support PTI and Imran Khan.

But with the entry of traditional politicians, PTI is catching up on some unhealthy habits of other political parties like street violence and ugly political wall-chalking, things that PTI’s educated members shunned in the past.


Some lobbies within PTI are trying to portray Mazari’s departure as a consequence of the show-cause notice served to her after the village incident. But insiders know that Mazari resigned publicly at least twice in the past year due to policy differences. In her resignation letter she refers to the party’s positions on IMF loans and reminds Khan she joined the party only on the condition the party was committed to introducing new politics and new thinking into government.

Mazari’s departure does not hurt the party in any major way. But the moral dent is big. She represented the face of clean, new Pakistani politics, and her decidedly pro-Pakistan views on domestic and foreign policy issues make her widely respected by Pakistanis.

Apart from the traditional politicians, her exit will be well received by elements inside and outside Pakistan relieved at the fall of a strong voice for Pakistan on security and strategic issues.
The Article is a cross post from :

Incitement Protest, and Global Free Speech

By: Waris Husain
The violent protests that took place over the last week in response to a Youtube video defaming the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were carried out by a minut fraction of the Muslim World. While the law has well established methods across the globe to punish individuals for rioting, especialy when it causes deaths or substantial property damage, the more difficult question is whether the video that inspired the riots was a valid exercise of free speech.
On the one hand, the U.S. judiciary has an expansive view of free speech, which includes the right to offend others. On the other hand, the Court has granted the government excessive authority to limit certain civil liberties for the sake of national security in the aftermath of 9/11. When one considers the global reach of speech by American citizens to the rest of the world and negative impact it has had on U.S. interests overseas, an argument can be made that the realm of free speech should be reexamined to prohibit extreme forms of hate-speech.
In a classic constitutional analysis, the video that caused riots across the Muslim world was a permissible exercise of free speech. The U.S. Supreme Court protects the right to insult or offend others as they explained in Terminilo v. City of Chicago, “freedom of speech undoubtedly means freedom to express views that challenge deep-seated, sacred beliefs and to utter sentiments that may provoke resentment.”
However, as Justice Murphy explained, there are some forms of speech that “are no essential part of any exposition of ideas” and that their social value is “clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.” In Chaplinksy v. State of Connecticut, the Court stated that freedom of speech does not sanction “incitement to riot or that religious liberty connotes the privilege to exhort others to physical attack upon those belonging to another sect. When clear and present danger of riot, disorder, or other immediate threat to public safety, peace, or order, appears, the power of the state to prevent or punish is obvious.”
Historically, judges focus on the physical “proximity” of the speaker to his riotous audience. Therefore, the Court’s approach to free speech is limited to addressing situations in which hateful speeches are delivered in public places or offensive pamphlets are distributed.
However, offensive speech is much more mobile than ever before, but jurisprudence has not caught up to the speed of the internet age. To keep pace with globalization, the U.S. government has increased overseas involvement by investing billions in the creation and maintenance of embassies. This is especially true for Afghanistan, where the U.S. is also actively engaged in military operations. These phenomena have led some to question whether the U.S. should reexamine freedom of speech in relation to hate-speech and incitement of violence.
In a worthy law review article entitled “Shouting Fire in a Global Theater,” Timothy Zick states that speech the “originates inside the United States but crosses territorial borders may cause violence in distant locations, upset delicate foreign policy objectives and relationships, and aid foreign enemies.”
Mr. Zick points to several examples of Islamophobia in the U.S. that have directly impacted American interests abroad. In the case of Pastor Terry Jones, American military generals pleaded with him to stop his plan of burning a Koran, as it would cause a blowback of violence against troops in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the general’s apprehensions were correct as Jones’ actions incited violent protests across the country, damaging U.S. credibility and safety.
This was repeated to a greater extent in the protests that followed the release of a trailer for the movie “Innocence of Muslims.” Hundreds poured out to protest, many organized by extremist groups like Al Qaeda, to launch violent attacks on U.S. embassies from Sudan to Egypt. The cost was all the more apparent in Libya, where career-diplomat Chris Stevens was killed along with several colleagues due to an attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
The video gave extremist groups the political ammunition needed to drum up support for violent protests in front of American embassies. As a result, the film’s creator, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, went into hiding and is currently being questioned by the FBI. Nakoula stated that his intent in creating the film was to trick Muslims into watching it due to the innocuous title and incite a response. One of the film’s producers is Steve Klien, a Vietnam War veteran who distributes anti-Islamic propaganda and trained a militia in California to prepare for a holy war with Muslim “sleeper cells in America.”
When asked whether he would have withdrawn his support for the film knowing the violent reaction, Klien asserted, “I didn’t incite them. They’re pre-incited, they’re pre-programmed to do this.” Most importantly, Klien admitted that “we went into this knowing that something like this would happen.” This is significant because it shows that Klien and Nakoula’s intent in creating the film was to create a controversy and perhaps violent reaction so they could discredit Muslims in their community, and around the world.
For its part, the U.S. government has resoundingly rejected the video and its creators. A joint statement from the FBI and Homeland Security warned that “the risk of violence could increase both at home and abroad as the film continues to gain attention,” and “we judge that violent extremist groups in the United States could exploit anger over the film to advance their recruitment efforts.”
In a decision during World War I, the Court stated in Schneck v. U.S., that “when a nation is at war many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight.” In the aftermath of 9/11, the Supreme Court has deferred to the decisions of Congress and the President concerning national security, even when they limit freedoms. As such, the President could potentially have the power to punish hate-speech if it could be proven that the speech would directly affect American international interests.
In Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction under the Patriot Act of a group providing legal advice to separatist factions in Sri Lanka and Turkey. The U.S. government designated these factions as terrorist groups and argued that offering legal advice to them amounted to “material support” which was prohibited under the Patriot Act.
The group challenged the conviction on grounds that the law violated their right to freedom of speech, which the Court rejected. The Court explained that while Congress could not ban independent forms of expression that might assist terrorist groups, they could limit expression that would “materially benefit” banned extremist organizations due to the effect on American interests abroad.
Justice Roberts wrote that ‘material support’ “helps lend legitimacy to foreign terrorist groups—legitimacy that makes it easier for those groups to persist, to recruit members, and to raise funds—all of which facilitate more terrorist attacks.” The controversies created by Jones and Nakoula have certainly lent legitimacy for extremists recruiting fighters in the Middle East, who use their radical hate-speech to mischaracterize Americans as a whole.
If the Supreme Court is willing to allow the punishment of a legal aid group that was assisting Sri Lankan and Turkish separatists, it seems logical that the government could prosecute individuals like Terry Jones, Steve Klien and Nakoula for publishing material that “materially supported” the cause of extremists like Al Qaeda.
President Obama and several other high level government officials have already stated that the publication of anti-Islamic hate speech has materially affected missions abroad by inspiring more extremists to join forces against the U.S. However, one must note that the government will be on a slippery slope if they broaden the definition of “material support” too greatly. Therefore, they should reserve prosecutions against hate-speech to very limited circumstances where a nexus can be shown to national security.

This is a cross post from Friday Times. Waris Husain, JD , is Features Writer, Dawn News Group.He is also Director on the Board, Americans for Democracy and Justice in Pakistan
LL.M. in International Law Candidate, Washington College of Law.

Coming: Book on Media in Pakistan:Part II(Excerpts)

By Yasmeen Ali

The Foreword of this book has been done by Dr Mehdi Hasan. He wears many hats . He is Chairman Council of Complaints of PEMRA. Also Chairman Human Rights Commission Pakistan. A name that needs no introduction.

I share here, an excerpt from the book, now only days away from its launch:
“I would first like to discuss Hate Speech here as a justified bar on the right to freedom of expression. “Hate speech is a communication that carries no meaning other than the expression of hatred for some group, especially in circumstances in which the communication is likely to provoke violence. It is an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and the like. Hate speech can be any form of expression regarded as offensive to racial, ethnic and religious groups and other discrete minorities or to women.”

However, Justice Wendell Holmes in the famous case Schenck v. United States(1919) clearly expressed his opinion that a restriction is legitimate only if it poses a real and clear present danger that relates to public interests or threat to safety.

U.S. Refuses to Extradite Bolivia’s Ex-president to Face Genocide Charges

Obama justice officials have all but granted asylum to Sánchez de Lozada – a puppet who payrolled key Democratic advisers

By Glenn Greenwald

September 10, 2012 “The Guardian” – – In October 2003, the intensely pro-US president of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, sent his security forces to suppress growing popular protests against the government’s energy and globalization policies. Using high-powered rifles and machine guns, his military forces killed 67 men, women and children, and injured 400 more, almost all of whom were poor and from the nation’s indigenous Aymara communities. Dozens of protesters had been killed by government forces in the prior months when troops were sent to suppress them.

The resulting outrage over what became known as “the Gas Wars” drove Sanchez de Lozada from office and then into exile in the United States, where he was welcomed by his close allies in the Bush administration. He has lived under a shield of asylum in the US ever since.

The Bolivians, however, have never stopped attempting to bring their former leader to justice for what they insist are his genocide and crimes against humanity: namely, ordering the killing of indigenous peaceful protesters in cold blood (as Time Magazine put it: “according to witnesses, the military fired indiscriminately and without warning in El Alto neighborhoods”). In 2007, Bolivian prosecutors formally charged him with genocide for the October 2003 incident, charges which were approved by the nation’s supreme court.

Bolivia then demanded his extradition from the US for him to stand trial. That demand, ironically, was made pursuant to an extradition treaty signed by Sánchez de Lozada himself with the US. Civil lawsuits have also been filed against him in the US on behalf of the surviving victims.

The view that Sánchez de Lozada must be extradited from the US to stand trial is a political consensus in Bolivia, shared by the government and the main opposition party alike. But on Friday night, the Bolivian government revealed that it had just been notified by the Obama administration that the US government has refused Bolivia’s extradition request:

“‘Yesterday (Thursday), a document arrived from the United States, rejecting the extradition of people who have done a lot of damage to Bolivia,’ leftist [President Evo] Morales, an outspoken critic of US foreign policy in Latin America, said in a speech.

“Calling the United States a ‘paradise of impunity’ and a ‘refuge for criminals,’ Morales said Washington turned down the extradition request on the grounds that a civilian leader cannot be tried for crimes committed by the military …

“Sanchez de Lozada’s extradition was also demanded by opposition leaders in Bolivia and they criticized the US decision.

“Rogelio Mayta, a lawyer representing victims of the 2003 violence, said ‘the US protection’ of Sanchez de Lozada was not surprising.

“‘It’s yet another display of the US government’s double moral standard,’ he said.”

Because he has yet to be tried, I have no opinion on whether Sánchez de Lozada is guilty of the crimes with which he has been formally charged (Bolivian courts have convicted several other military officers on genocide charges in connection with these shootings). But the refusal of the Obama administration to allow him to stand trial for what are obviously very serious criminal allegations is completely consistent with American conceptions of justice and is worth examining for that reason.

Let’s begin with two vital facts about the former Bolivian leader.

First, Sánchez de Lozada was exactly the type of America-revering-and-obeying leader the US has always wanted for other nations, especially smaller ones with important energy resources. When he was driven into exile in October 2003, the New York Times described him as “Washington’s most stalwart ally in South America”.

The former leader – a multimillionaire mining executive who, having been educated in the US, spoke Spanish with a heavy American accent – was a loyal partner in America’s drug war in the region. More importantly, the former leader himself was a vehement proponent and relentless crusader for free trade and free market policies favored by the US: policies that the nation’s indigenous poor long believed (with substantial basis) resulted in their impoverishment while enriching Bolivia’s small Europeanized elite.

It was Sánchez de Lozada’s forced exile that ultimately led to the 2006 election and 2009 landslide re-election of Morales, a figure the New York Times in October 2003 described as one “regarded by Washington as its main enemy”. Morales has been as vehement an opponent of globalization and free trade as Sánchez de Lozada was a proponent, and has constantly opposed US interference in his region and elsewhere (in 2011, Morales called for the revocation of Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize as a result of the intervention in Libya).

So, this extradition refusal is, in one sense, a classic and common case of the US exploiting pretenses of law and justice to protect its own leaders and those of its key allies from the rule of law, even when faced with allegations of the most egregious wrongdoing. If the Obama DOJ so aggressively shielded accused Bush war criminals from all forms of accountability, it is hardly surprising that it does the same for loyal US puppets. That a government that defies US dictates is thwarted and angered in the process is just an added bonus. That, too, is par for the course.

But there’s another important aspect of this case that distinguishes it from the standard immunity Washington gifts to itself and its friends. When he ran for president in 2002, Sánchez de Lozada was deeply unpopular among the vast majority of Bolivians as a result of his prior four-year term as president in the 1990s. To find a way to win despite this, he hired the consulting firm owned and operated by three of Washington’s most well-connected Democratic party operatives: James Carville, Stan Greenberg and Bob Shrum. He asked them to import the tactics of American politics into Bolivia to ensure his election victory.

As detailed by a 2006 New York Times review of a film about the Democratic operatives’ involvement in Bolivia’s election, their strategy was two-fold: first, destroy the reputations of his two opponents so as to depress the enthusiasm of Bolivia’s poor for either of them; and then mobilize Sánchez de Lozada’s base of elites to ensure he wins by a tiny margin. That strategy worked, as he was elected with a paltry 22.5% of the popular vote. From the Times review:

“‘[The film] asks a more probing question: whether Mr Carville and company, in selling a pro-globalization, pro-American candidate, can export American-style campaigning and values to a country so fundamentally different from the United States …

“‘It’s a very explosive film in Bolivia because it shows close up a very deliberate strategy,’ said Jim Shultz, an American political analyst in Bolivia who recently saw the film with a group of friends. ‘The film is especially explosive because it’s about a candidate – so identified with the United States and so hated by so many Bolivians – being put into office by the political manipulations of US consultants.’

“Mauro Quispe, 33, a cabdriver in La Paz, said he saw slices of the film on the television news, and it raised his ire. ‘I was stunned,’ he said. ‘He was being advised by the Americans, and everything they said was in English.'”

There’s no evidence, at least of which I’m aware, that any of these Democratic operatives intervened on behalf of their former client in his extradition pleas to the Obama administration, but it rather obviously did not hurt. At the very least, shielding a former leader deposed by his own people from standing trial for allegedly gunning down unarmed civilians takes on an even uglier image when that former leader had recently had leading US Democratic operatives on his payroll.

Then, there are the very revealing parallels between this case and the recent decision by Ecuador to grant asylum to Julian Assange, until his fears of political persecution from being extradited to Sweden are resolved. Remember all those voices who were so deeply outraged at Ecuador’s decision? Given that he faces criminal complaints in Sweden, they proclaimed, protecting Assange with asylum constitutes a violent assault on the rule of law.

Do you think any of the people who attacked Ecuador on that ground will raise a peep of protest at what the US did here in shielding this former leader from facing charges of genocide and crimes against humanity back in his own country? In contrast to Ecuador – which is fervently seeking an agreement to allow Assange to go to Sweden to face those allegations while simultaneously protecting his political rights – the US has done nothing, and is doing nothing, to ensure that Sánchez de Lozada will ever have to face trial. To the contrary, until Thursday, the US has steadfastly refused even to acknowledge Bolivia’s extradition request, even though the crimes for which they want to try him are plainly within the scope of the two nations’ extradition treaty.

Then there’s the amazing fact that Democrats, who understandably scorn Mitt Romney for piling up massive personal wealth while he advocates policies harmful to the poor, continue in general to revere these types of Clintonites who, arguably to a lesser extent, have done the same. Indeed, Democrats spent all last week wildly praising Bill Clinton, who has made close to $100m in speaking fees alone by traveling the globe, speaking to hedge funds, and advocating globalization and free trade.

In this case, one finds both the prevailing rules and the prevailing orthodoxies of American justice. High-level leaders in the US government and those who serve their interests are exempt from the rule of law (even when accused of heinous acts of terrorism); only leaders who run afoul of US dictates should be held accountable.

Even in the civil case against him, an appellate court ultimately ruled that he was immune from damages or civil lawsuits, overturning a lower court ruling that there were sufficient allegations of genocide and war crimes against him to allow the suit to proceed. As usual, US federal courts are the leaders in ensuring that the most politically well-connected are shielded from the consequences of their acts.

Relatedly, we find the prevailing sentiment that asylum is something that is only to be granted by the US and its western allies against unfriendly governments. The notion that one may need asylum from the US or the west – or that small Latin American countries unfavorable to the US can grant it rather than have it granted against them – is offensive and perverse to all good and decent western citizens, who know that political persecution is something that happens only far away from them.

The protection of this accused former leader will likely generate little controversy in the US because it was the by-product of the actions of both the Bush and Obama administrations, and because it comports so fully with how American justice functions. The only surprising thing would have been if there had been a different outcome.

If the US felt compelled to adhere to the same set of rules it imposes on everyone else, then the obvious answer would be “yes”. But the point demonstrated by this episode (and countless others) is that the US clearly feels no such compulsion.

UPDATE [Mon.]: Several people have questioned why “genocide” is the appropriate charge for the crimes that occurred here. That is but one of the charges levied by Bolivian prosecutors and courts, and as the Bolivians seem to recognize, that term has a different meaning under their domestic criminal law than it does under international law. International law professor Kevin Jon Heller yesterday suggested that while “genocide” would not apply to these acts under international law, the term “crimes against humanity” — for indiscriminately shooting unarmed protesters — seems clearly appropriate.

This article was published in:

LAUNCHING: Media & Media Laws Book:PART I(Of Extracts)

A Pakpotpourri Exclusive

By: Yasmeen Ali

Launching in a few days. The book on Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Analysis in Pakistan. This book tries to address questions raised in every sphere. It is not another “theory book” expounding concepts. It moves beyond discussing concepts to what issues exist in the world of communications in Pakistan. What are the questions that need to be addressed by relevant authorities in different mediums of communication and their possible solutions too, are offered.


John Swinton, the doyen of the New York press corps, upon his
retirement, made the following speech(Excerpt):

“There is no such thing, at this stage of the world’s history in America, as
an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you
who dare write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know
beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for
keeping my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. Others
of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who
would be foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets
looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one
issue of my papers, before twenty four hours, my occupation would be
gone. The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth, to lie outright,
to pervert, to vilify, fawn at the feet of Mammon, and to sell his country
and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly
is this toasting of an independent press?….”


Christopher Warren, President IFJ states, “A free press must be held accountable for its conduct but criminal defamation laws threaten the liberty of journalists and the fearless nature of a truly free press. Meanwhile, outrageous civil defamation damages suits threaten the economic viability of media organizations.”


A well- known quote, largely attributed to Voltaire, is originally of Evelyn Beatrice Hall, who wrote under the pen name of S.G Tallentyre, known for her biography of Voltaire titled, “The Friends of Voltaire”, Hall, wrote in that biography, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is the tenet on which the very principle of right to freedom of expression rests.