Muslim Riots Reach Europe – Part I
Free Speech Under Threat
by Soeren Kern
September 19, 2012 at 5:00 am
“I can imagine there would be good reasons to outlaw the film.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a reversal from two years ago, when she said, “Free speech is one of the greatest treasures of our society.”
The protests mark the beginning of a process of “intimidation.” — Marine le Pen, President, National Front Party, France
Protests over an American-made anti-Islamic YouTube film, Innocence of Muslims, have spread to Europe. Muslim rioters have clashed with police in several European cities, and more demonstrations are being planned. The protests are part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about the amateur film, which ridicules Islam and depicts the Muslim Prophet Mohammed as a fraud, a madman and a sexual deviant.
Muslims in many European countries are calling on governments to outlaw the controversial film. They are also pressing elected officials to enact anti-blasphemy laws that would criminalize the criticism of Islam. As most European countries lack American-like First Amendment protections, the momentum is building for the imposition of legal curbs on free speech when such speech is perceived to be offensive to Islam.
In Belgium, police using pepper spray and batons arrested more than 200 Muslims in the northern city of Antwerp after clashes at a demonstration against the film. The protest in the Borgerhout district of the city was organized by an Islamic fundamentalist group called Sharia4Belgium. The protest was organized via a text message which read: “We are ready to work with our souls and hearts to fight for our beloved prophet, even if death comes to meet us. Whoever has love for the Prophet must be present.” In Brussels, police arrested more than 30 individuals who participated in two separate protests — one in the Sint-Joost-ten-Node district, and another one in downtown Brussels near the American embassy.
In Britain, some 300 Muslims protested in central London outside the American Embassy. The crowd included many radical Muslims associated with the hardline group, Hizb ut-Tahrir; they shouted slogans and held placards, saying, “America — Get Out of Muslim Lands.” The gathering, which consisted mostly of men but also some women and children, listened to speakers who condemned the film, U.S. foreign policy and the “oppression” of Muslims.
In France, police in Paris arrested 152 Muslims for taking part in an unauthorized, impromptu protest on September 15 at the Place de la Concorde near the American Embassy; there were a number of clashes, with four police officers hurt.
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said he would prevent any further anti-American demonstrations sparked by the anti-Islam film. “I have issued instructions so that this does not happen again,” Valls told France 2 television. “These protests are forbidden. Any incitement to hatred must be fought with the greatest firmness.” Valls also said that among the roughly 250 protesters, there were some groups that “advocate radical Islam.”
Nevertheless, Muslims have now issued a call via text messages and social media for new protests to be held on Saturday, September 22, at 2pm at the Trocadero district in Paris. The President of the anti-immigrant National Front party, Marine Le Pen, said the protests mark the beginning of a process of “intimidation” by Muslims.
In Germany, major Muslim umbrella organizations have warned that the movie could “endanger the public peace” and lead to “street massacres” in German cities. The chairman of Germany’s Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek, has also called for a legal ban on the film within the Federal Republic. “I do think that we must use all legal means to ban the film,” Mazyek said in an interview with ARD television. Mazyek continued that the video had the goal of “sowing discord and hatred,” and therefore “I would use all means possible to outlaw the film.”
German political leaders are now equivocating about their commitment to free speech. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, commenting on the anti-Islam movie, said, “I can imagine there would be good reasons to outlaw the film” – a reversal of her statement of just two years ago, when, commenting on the Danish cartoon controversy, she declared: “Free speech is one of the greatest treasures of our society.”
Separately, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said he would consider all legal options to ban public showings of the anti-Islamic film. He said Islamic extremists such as the Salafists are likely to incite violent protests within Germany, which Friedrich called a “highly dangerous” situation.
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has also pleaded for a ban on the movie, arguing that freedom of expression has its limits. “The abuse of a religion that is likely to disturb the public peace is forbidden to us,” he said in an interview on Deutschlandfunk German radio. He also argued that a ban on the film would send the message that “Germany does not stand behind right-wing radicals who insult other religions.”
Section 166 of the German Penal Code already restricts free speech when it involves “insulting religion or belief.” In a landmark Section 166 case in 2006, for example, a German retiree in Lüdinghausen was sentenced to 12 months in prison for writing the words “Koran, the holy Koran” on toilet paper and mailing it local mosques.
In Norway, Muslims are planning to hold several demonstrations to protest the anti-Islam movie, including one event due to take place in front of the American embassy in Oslo on September 21. Oslo police said they intend to approve the application for the embassy demonstration, but will also be on hand themselves.
In Spain, the national Islamic Commission, a Muslim umbrella group, says it is organizing events in all major Spanish cities to “raise awareness about Islam and its prophet in a truthful manner.” The group has also asked the United Nations to issue a resolution calling for the “respect of all religious beliefs.”
In Switzerland, Muslims in the city of Bern have received authorization from city officials to hold a demonstration near the American embassy on September 22. The event is being organized by the Central Islamic Council of Switzerland, a conservative Islamic umbrella group, together with two other Islamic organizations. At least 200 individuals are expected to protest “for our Prophet Mohammed and the protection of religious feelings.”
Muslim Riots Reach Europe: Part II
by Soeren Kern
October 3, 2012 at 5:00 am
Abu Assad al-Almani asks Muslims in Germany to attack any German citizen who supports the film by “cutting their heads from their bodies and capturing it on film so that it is accessible to the public, so that the whole of Germany, and even the whole of Europe, knows that their criminal games will be thwarted by the sword of Islam.”
Muslim protests over an American-made anti-Islamic YouTube film, Innocence of Muslims, have spread to more European cities. Muslim rioters had initially clashed with police in Belgium, Britain and France, but since then, protests have spread to Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Norway, Serbia and Switzerland.
In Germany, while thousands of Muslims took to the streets in various cities, the biggest demonstration took place in the Dortmund, where 1,500 Muslims holding Turkish flags marched through the city center on September 22. In Hanover, protests involved about 1,000 Muslims on September 23. In Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony police reported protests involving 1,600 people. Protests were also reported in Bergisch Gladbach, Cuxhaven, Münster, Freiburg and Karlsruhe.
A radical Islamist, Abu Assad al-Almani, has called for bombings and assassinations in Germany after it emerged that the actor who plays Mohammed in the anti-Islam movie was allegedly German. In an 8-page document, entitled “Settling Scores with Germany,” and posted on the Internet on September 25, Abu Assad states: “In addition to the ugly cartoons, now the Americans have produced a film in which those pigs poke fun at our dear prophet and insult him.”
Abu Assad continues: “The one who played our noble Messenger was a German;” he then calls for revenge attacks. He asks Muslims in Germany to attack any German citizen who supports the film by “cutting their heads from their bodies and capturing it on film so that it is accessible to the public, so that the whole of Germany, and even the whole of Europe, knows that their criminal games will be thwarted by the sword of Islam.”
The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) says the document has been produced by a group called the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), the European propaganda arm which supports Al Qaeda and other radical Islamic organizations. The BKA says it is taking the threat “very seriously.”
In Berlin, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has postponed at the last minute a poster campaign aimed at countering radical Islam for fear it might have incited violence by extremists. The posters had been due to go up as of September 21in German cities with large immigrant populations. The posters were aimed at those who suspected that a friend or family member might be drifting towards radical Islam.
In another sign that German officialdom is coming unhinged by political correctness, the ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) lashed out at Baden-Württemberg’s Integration Minister, Bilkay Öney, for stating what many Germans believe is obvious, namely that “Islam tolerates no criticism.” She also said it was easier to dialogue with Muslims in Germany because they are relatively well educated. “In other parts of the world,” she said, “some take to the streets and set fire to embassies.”
CDU regional director Thomas Strobl rebuked Öney, a Turkish-born German politician, saying: “What Mrs. Öney says is surprising and shocking. Such remarks are unacceptable, as they emphasize what divides us, instead of linking and integrating.” Strobl wondered how Öney, who is a Muslim, could hold such politically incorrect views about Islam.
Elsewhere in Germany, more signs emerged that the threat of Muslim violence is endangering free speech in Germany. Development Minister Dirk Niebel (FDP) called for a ban on broadcasting the anti-Islam video in Germany. “Such a film should not be shown. We should not be adding fuel to the fire,” he told the newspaper, Bild. “The person who demands limitless freedom of expression has no idea what conflicts can be provoked by it,” Niebel said. His comments follow similar statements by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich.
In Greece, the center of Athens (recently dubbed the “New Kabul”) turned into a war zone (videos here) on September 23, when more than 1,000 Muslims — mostly immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh — hurled bottles and other objects at police, who were trying to prevent the rioters from descending on the American Embassy.
Protesting Muslims, chanting “All we have is Mohammed,” gathered in Omonia Square holding banners reading, “We demand an immediate punishment for those who tried to mock our Prophet Mohammad.” Shouting “Allah is Greater,” they then assaulted police with stones, bottles and slabs of marble they broke from the sidewalks.
When Greek riot police used tear gas to control the protesters and protect the security zone they had established around the embassy, infuriated Muslims responded by vandalizing streets and buildings in downtown Athens, as well as by setting fires to trash bins, smashing shops and display windows and vandalizing automobiles. Around 30 Muslims were arrested.
Also in Athens, Muslim inmates at the Korydallos prison (Greece’s main prison, in which an estimated 70% of the inmates are Muslim) went on a rampage and protested the anti-Islam video by burning mattresses, sheets and clothing. Security officials at the prison brought the situation under control after using teargas to force the rioting inmates to return to their cells.
In Austria, some 700 Muslims descended on the American Embassy in the Alsergrund district in downtown Vienna on September 22. They carried banners and shouted slogans of protest against the film, and called for the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate. The protests were well organized: some Muslims wearing orange vests were waiting at the nearby metro station to guide protestors toward the embassy. According to the Austrian newspaper Tageszeitung Österreich, one young woman wearing a headscarf said, “The film has triggered such a rage in me, I had tears in my eyes.” Other protesters wondered how it was possible that the film portrayed “our beloved prophet as a child molester and misogynist.”
In Norway, in front of the American Embassy in Oslo on September 21, more than 150 radical Islamists gathered, shouting, “This world needs another Osama.” Separately, hundreds more Muslims gathered at Youngstorget Square in central Oslo to protest the anti-Islam film. Oslo’s imams were joined in the protest by the city’s Conservative Mayor Fabian Stang, as well as Lutheran Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme, who said in a speech: “With this peaceful protest we want to maintain and strengthen our unity. As believers we understand each other.”
In Italy, the Interior Ministry announced on September 25 that it had expelled two Libyan jihadists who were urging attacks against Western targets in revenge for the film denigrating Mohammed. Police said the Libyans, aged 26 and 28, had been in a hotel in Rome for several months, receiving medical care after being injured during the Libyan conflict. Police said they were expelled after they “began activities of proselytizing and propaganda to jihad within the Libyan community.”
In Serbia, several thousand fans from a local football club in the country’s Muslim-majority Sandzak region protested against the film on September 21. Defying a ban on political slogans at the march, supporters of Torcida Sandzak football club waved banners reading, “The Prophet is in my heart” and “Freedom for Palestine, Afghanistan and Libya.” There was a heavy police presence at the march, where protesters also waved the flags of Turkey and Bosnia.
In Spain, the Islamic Commission, a Muslim umbrella group, has sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon demanding the enactment of an international law that would outlaw blasphemy “so that no attack against religious sentiment will go unpunished.”
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.