The skies over New York are thick with chickens coming home to roost for the Obama Administration. No sooner had President Obama delivered his oration to the U.N. General Assembly—in which he both defended the principle of free speech and denounced the exercise thereof if it hurts Muslim religious feelings—than he was attacked by other speakers.
The problem is that the Administration’s position on free speech is ambiguous or—depending on your point of view—hypocritical. On the one hand, the White House endorses free speech; on the other, it supports measures to clamp down on free expression when it offends Muslims. The Administration’s own obsessive focus on denouncing the Innocence of Muslims YouTube video has helped create the problem. So has the Administration’s support of U.N. Human Rights Council anti-blasphemy Resolution 12/16.
Leaders of several Muslim countries sensed the weakness of the American position and were emboldened. They have pledged to use this session of the U.N. General Assembly to further advance the banning of perceived anti-Muslim expression.
- Egypt’s president, Mohammad Morsi, vowed, “Insults against the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, are not acceptable. We will not allow anyone to do this by word or by deed.”
- Yemen’s president, Abdurabu Mansur Hadi, added, “These behaviors find people who defend them under the justification of the freedom of expression.… These people overlook the fact that there should be limits for the freedom of expression, especially if such freedom blasphemes the beliefs of nations and defames their figures.”
- Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, stated, “Before I take up my speech, I want to express the strongest condemnation for acts of incitement of hate against the faith of billions of Muslims of the world and our beloved prophet, Muhammad.… The international community must not become silent observers and should criminalize such acts that destroy the peace of the world and endanger world security by misusing freedom of expression.”
Not content to be forgotten, the megalomaniac Julian Assange jumped into the fray. He spoke via video from his hideout in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he is seeking protection and “political asylum” from rape charges.
Assange accused Obama of defending free speech in the Arab world in an address to the United Nations on Tuesday while continuing to “persecute” WikiLeaks. In fact, Assange pointed to himself as evidence that Obama has “done more to criminalize free speech than any other U.S. president.”
The White House ought to be in a frenzy of strategizing how to walk back from this policy disaster in the making, as freedom of expression comes under concerted attack at the United Nations.