It’s a curious thing. On any given day, throw a stick in the general direction of The Left and you’ll hit someone who’s advocating the arrest of President Bush or the suppression of “neocon” ideas, what have you. But chances are, those same friends on the left will also be advocating that someone with deep connections to terrorists “should be heard” and that their “root causes” must be understood and addressed.
The NYT’s Adam Liptak (seen here opposing photo IDs for voters, here feigning surprise that President Bush nominates an AG who supports Bush policies, and here carrying some water for Mike Nifong) takes up the freedom of speech for terrorists cause with more subtlety than that. He highlights two terror-related speech cases in the US. Not very surprisingly, Liptak takes the view that the US is obliged to give a platform to its worst enemies from around the world in the name of free speech here.
Titled “Say What You Like, Just Don’t Say It Here,” (get it–we’re not really free in speech unless we let the world’s worst say it on our own soil) Liptak selectively uses past cases to postulate about current policy.
Two cases pending in federal court in Manhattan will soon test how far the government can go in keeping Americans safe from what a State Department manual calls the “irresponsible expressions of opinion by prominent aliens.”
One case concerns a decision by the Bush administration to bar a Muslim scholar from visiting the United States. The other is a criminal prosecution of two Brooklyn businessmen for transmitting Hezbollah’s television station on their satellite service.
The government’s actions in these cases are reminiscent, civil liberties groups say, of another era. For about four decades that coincided roughly with the cold war, the United States routinely barred intellectuals and literary figures from visiting here based on their political views. Graham Greene, Gabriel García Márquez and Doris Lessing were all excluded.
No mention of Vladimir Posner, the Communist apologist who appeared repeatedly on Phil Donahue’s show to promote the Kremlin view during the Cold War, or of the hundreds of US enemies that we allow entry to speak at the UN, Columbia, etc. Liptak cherry-picks a few writers to make the case that a man considered “terrorist royalty” ought to be allowed onto US soil to take up a professorship at Notre Dame and to speak in support of soft Islamism.
The spirit of the old law, the McCarran-Walter Act, was revived after the Sept. 11 attacks. The USA Patriot Act of 2001, for instance, allowed the government to deny visas to people who had used their “position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity.”
The government invoked that law in 2004 when it denied a work visa to Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss philosopher and Muslim intellectual. As a consequence, Professor Ramadan had to give up a teaching appointment at, in the words of The Guardian newspaper, “that hotbed of Muslim extremism, the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.”
In the three years preceding the denial, Professor Ramadan had visited the United States 24 times, lecturing at Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton — and the State Department.
Three academic and literary groups sued the government last year over the denial, saying they had a First Amendment right to hear from Professor Ramadan. “There is something so dangerous in keeping writers out of the country because they don’t support the government,” said Francine Prose, the president of the PEN American Center, one of the plaintiffs. “Tariq Ramadan is the voice of reason, of logic, of toleration and common sense.”
A familiar tactic of the left: Demonize the Patriot Act (passed with overwhelming bipartisan support) and leave out the context about the figure in question that matters. In Ramadan’s case, that’s a lot to leave out.
* He has praised the brutal Islamist policies of the Sudanese politician Hassan Al-Turabi. Mr. Turabi in turn called Mr. Ramadan the “future of Islam.”
* Mr. Ramadan was banned from entering France in 1996 on suspicion of having links with an Algerian Islamist who had recently initiated a terrorist campaign in Paris.
* Ahmed Brahim, an Algerian indicted for Al-Qaeda activities, had “routine contacts” with Mr. Ramadan, according to a Spanish judge (Baltasar Garzón) in 1999.
* Djamel Beghal, leader of a group accused of planning to attack the American embassy in Paris, stated in his 2001 trial that he had studied with Mr. Ramadan.
* Along with nearly all Islamists, Mr. Ramadan has denied that there is “any certain proof” that Bin Laden was behind 9/11.
* He publicly refers to the Islamist atrocities of 9/11, Bali, and Madrid as “interventions,” minimizing them to the point of near-endorsement.
And then there are these two bullet points.
* Intelligence agencies suspect that Mr. Ramadan (along with his brother Hani) coordinated a meeting at the Hôtel Penta in Geneva for Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy head of Al-Qaeda, and Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheikh, now in a Minnesota prison.
* Mr. Ramadan’s address appears in a register of Al Taqwa Bank, an organization the State Department accuses of supporting Islamist terrorism.
Ramadan’s grandfather founded the Muslim Brotherhood, which gave rise to al Qaeda among other terrorist groups dedicated to the destruction of, among other things, our constitutional right to freedom of speech. He is a Swiss citizen largely because his family made themselves enemies of the Egyptian regime as radical Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. Does the United States owe such a man a platform from which call for our destruction? The NYT’s Liptak seems to think so. He also seems to think that the Hezbollah Channel should be broadcast to Muslim communities and viewers within the US 24/7.
Lawyers for the defendants in the television case, Javed Iqbal and Saleh Elahwal, say the case against them, similarly, is “nothing less than a full frontal assault on the fundamental values inscribed in the First Amendment.” The men are charged with providing material support to Hezbollah, the radical Islamic Shiite group in Lebanon, by making its television station, Al Manar, available in the United States.
In a brief filed in July, the government said, in an echo of the Ramadan case, that the satellite case was only about business dealings and “has nothing to do with speech, expression or advocacy,” adding that “the defendants remain free to speak out in favor of Hezbollah and its political objectives.” But they may not transmit Al Manar’s message.
And there’s a good reason for that. As the idea of assimilating dies, and as technology and ease of air travel make assimilation less necessary for immigrant populations, a channel like Al Manar can easily become a tool for radicalizing Muslims worldwide. People who moved here from the Middle East and other Islamic regions may turn to Al Manar out of a sense of nostalgia for the “old country,” only to receive indoctrination that can turn them into jihadist killers. The US is under no obligation to allow such messages to be broadcast here, and it doesn’t restrict anyone’s freedom of expression to keep foreign enemies’ ideologies off the airwaves.