Islamists Take Lawfare to Europe Creating ‘Spiral of Silence’

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A discussion paper (German and English) published by the Germany-based Gustav Stresemann Foundation—a think tank dedicated to the preservation and advancement of liberal democracy in Europe—warns that national and international Islamic organizations are increasingly putting pressure on Western politicians gradually to criminalize any critique of Islam.

The author of the report, the German political scientist Felix Strüning, provides a meticulously detailed analysis of the Islamic lobbying effort—by means of a "human rights lawsuit"—to silence Thilo Sarrazin, a prominent German banker who has criticized the refusal of Muslim immigrants to integrate into German society.

During an October 2009 interview with the Berlin-based culture magazine Lettre International, Sarrazin said:

"A large number of Arabs and Turks in this city […] have no productive function except for the fruit and vegetable trade […] The proportion of births among Arabs and Turks is two to three times higher than their corresponding proportion of the population. Large parts [of this population] are neither willing to integrate nor capable of integrating. The solution to this problem can only be to stop letting people in […] except for highly qualified individuals and not provide social welfare for immigrants anymore […]."

"Integration is an effort of people who integrate themselves. I do not have to accept someone who does nothing. I do not have to accept anyone who lives from the state, rejects this state, does not reasonably provide education for his children and constantly produces new little girls in headscarves. This applies to 70% of the Turkish and 90% of the Arab population in Berlin. Many of them do not want integration."

The Turkish Union in Berlin-Brandenburg (Türkischer Bund Berlin-Brandenburg, TBB) responded by pressing criminal charges against Sarrazin due to alleged incitement-to-hatred (Volksverhetzung). However, German prosecutors concluded that Sarrazin's statements were protected by the freedom of expression and they ceased their investigation.

The TBB then took its lawsuit to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which was tasked with determining whether Sarrazin's statements violated the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

In February 2013, CERD decided that Sarrazin's statements "contain ideas of racial superiority, denying respect as human beings and depicting generalized negative characteristics of the Turkish population."

CERD also stated that Sarrazin's statements were "incitement to racial discrimination" because he favors refusing social welfare benefits for Turks and would (with the exception of highly qualified individuals) generally prohibit immigration.

More importantly, CERD criticized Paragraph 130 of the German Criminal Code, the so-called incitement-to-hatred paragraph (Volksverhetzungsparagraf), which protects the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression unless such speech is "capable of disturbing public peace."

By contrast, the ICERD has a far lower threshold for determining when speech becomes hate speech. For example, the UN convention does not include the stipulation that such speech must be "capable of disturbing public peace." As a result, Germany has come under pressure from CERN to change its domestic law in order to bring it into conformity with the UN convention.

According to Strüning, if Germany were to remove the legal threshold of "capable of disturbing public peace" from its domestic law, it would be possible to prohibit even fact-based statements about Islam or Muslims, which would amount to "an irreversible curtailment of the right to freedom of expression."

Although the German government has so far refused to reopen the Sarrazin case, Strüning argues that "CERD demonstrates yet again the imminent dangers to the freedom of expression and other fundamental rights in Europe and the US when representatives of states, which clearly have a completely different understanding of human rights, are allowed to make judgments in the United Nations." According to Strüning:

"Nation states obviously feel compelled to check whether existing laws have absolute validity or if an adjustment is needed … Dealing with the Muslim immigrant group very clearly presents a completely new political challenge because many Muslims very effectively preserve and hand down their cultural and religious values internally and represent them confidently outwardly."

Strüning writes that German political authorities are increasingly bending to pressure from German Islamic organizations by adopting Muslim definitions of "Islamophobia" in public discourse, thus creating legal uncertainty as to "who can say what about Islam and Muslims in Germany."

For example, German authorities have officially confirmed that they are monitoring German-language Internet websites that are critical of Muslim immigration and the Islamization of Europe.

The Hamburg branch of the German domestic intelligence agency (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV) is studying whether German citizens who criticize Muslims and Islam on the Internet are fomenting hate and are thus criminally guilty of "breaching" the German constitution. Meanwhile, the Bavarian branch of the BfV has warned Germans not to "equate Islamism with Islam."

Strüning concludes:

"Critics of Islamic ideology and its organizations are constantly confronted with lawsuits and have to legally defend themselves against the accusations of blasphemy or incitement-to-hatred. Even if it does not come to a conviction, such processes cost a lot of time and money, which in many cases includes one's reputation and possibly even his or her job. Thus, also in the West, we are experiencing an increasing de facto application of Islamic law in matters of Islam."

Already today Germans can see that the so-called "spiral of silence" works in relation to Islam. "In a representative study in Germany, over half of the people surveyed admitted to not daring to criticize Islam or Muslims publicly," Strüning writes.


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.

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org