By: Richard Zafrani
“This is Mohammad… If there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions.”
This ominous message is not exactly what visitors to Community Magazine’s website (www.communitym.com) expected to see when they visited our homepage on Thursday afternoon, August 27th. But the thinly veiled threat, along with a video of a bearded man at a podium espousing Muslim ideals, is precisely what they got, thanks to a successful hacking by a group calling itself “Knigdom [sic] Islamic Morocco.”
In contrast to the vast majority of Muslims throughout the world who seek peaceful coexistence, a small percentage of radical Islamists wage Jihad with the West – in one form or another. And this high profile and ever growing segment may have already won the first battle against free expression.
According to the FBI, the webjacking of CommunityM.com is but one of hundreds of attacks each month by off-shore Islamist groups bent on disrupting internet sites that promote pro-Israel policies or warn of the dangers of fundamentalist Islam. Possible motives behind the specific targeting of Community include the fact that the magazine’s audience hails mostly from Arabic countries, and the large Muslim population in Brooklyn, where the publication is centered. The attack was not believed to be connected to any of the previous Islamist threats that have been directed at the magazine – the most serious of which was an email threatening to “bring Jihad on you,” after publication of a May 2007 cover story entitled “Your Personal War on Terror”.
That same week, the website of IDT, a successful, Jewish-owned global technology company, fell victim to a cyber invasion. As reported by Yeshiva World News, the hacked page featured an image of the Iranian flag and a threat concerning the company’s alleged policy towards Iranian Virtual Visa cards.
Last winter, during the Gaza War launched by Israel in response to the endless shelling of its southern cities, hackers seized control of the website of Israeli radio station 102 FM. Users who clicked on one of the site’s icons were treated to a message condemning Israel’s military actions, calling for Israel’s destruction, and warning of continued attacks on Israeli internet sites. The page also featured photographs of burning U.S. and Israeli flags, and of injured Palestinian children. In that same month, Islamists hijacked several blogs on the craftmarketer.com server, replacing the content of the invaded pages with anti-Israel and anti-U.S. vitriol. And a group operating under the name “the Ayyildiz team” seized control of the website of Uganda’s defense ministry, posting messages condemning what they called Israel’s “genocide” against the Palestinians.
In another incident, a group calling itself “Lebanese Shee’a Hackers” destroyed a page on Facebook belonging to teenager Todd Snider. The site, which Snider created in the summer of 2008, was entitled “I Wonder How Quickly I Can Find 1,000,000 People who Support Israel,” with the intention of generating a strong, united, pro-Israel front online. The group attracted 180,000 members by mid-February, when webjackers obliterated the site’s content and replaced it with obscene and threatening pro-Islamist propaganda. As reported in an article in the Front Page Magazine website, the menacing message was datelined in South Lebanon, and warned users against joining Snider’s pro-Israel movement. Snider claimed that hundreds of enraged group members petitioned Facebook to rescue the page. Inexplicably, Snider said, Facebook did nothing to stop the attack or restore his site.
More Islamist hi-tech mischief was reported by an Albanian-language newspaper in Kosovo this past summer. The newspaper’s website was disrupted for 10 hours on Tuesday, August 10th. The invaders left a message urging the “anti-Islamic newspaper” to stop “ridiculing” Muslims.
Not surprisingly, the paper had not been ridiculing Muslims. What kindled the ire of the hackers, it seems, was the paper’s coverage of a court case in North Carolina, where a Kosovo citizen and six Americans were standing trial on suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks in Jordan, Pakistan, Israel and Kosovo. The newspaper had simply published transcripts and photographs used by the prosecution as evidence of the group’s violent plans.
The Other Jihadists
The centuries-old term “jihad,” or “holy war,” is usually used in reference to the Islamists’ violent, military struggle against the “infidels” (non-Muslims) with the intent of forcefully spreading Sharia (Muslim law) throughout the world. But while long ago this was achieved solely through conventional warfare, the new realities of modern times have brought about a change in strategy. In addition to bloody massacres of civilians and armed aggression, today’s jihadists also work through cyber terror, intimidation, and media manipulation.
Aside from the outward attacks on the web, among the hallmarks of these modern-day Jihadists is the intimidation of those who write or publish content deemed offensive to Muslims. This tactic received widespread media attention in 1989, when Iran’s religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (religious ruling) ordering Muslims around the world to kill British novelist Salman Rushdie. Rushdie’s 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, whose title refers to a series of passages from the Koran, was considered an affront to Islam. Though Rushdie has lived to tell the story, the response among Islamists was telling – and frightening. Two large bookstores in London that carried the novel were bombed on April 9, 1989. Other bombings targeting British bookstores took place later that spring. Here in the United States, the FBI was notified of no fewer than 78 bomb threats against bookstores in early March, 1989, 30 of which were aimed at the B. Dalton chain.
Numerous countries around the world, including democratic nations such as India and South Africa, banned the book out of fear.
More recently, another wave of violence followed the publication of a series of cartoons in the Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper four years ago. The cartoons, drawn by different artists offering their impressions of Mohammed, were introduced by a brief essay explaining their purpose – to curb the disturbing trend of reluctance among free countries to criticize Islam:
The modern, secular society is rejected by some Muslims. They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where one must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule. It is certainly not always attractive and nice to look at, and it does not mean that religious feelings should be made fun of at any price, but that is of minor importance in the present context… We are on our way to a slippery slope where no-one can tell how the self-censorship will end. That is why Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten has invited members of the Danish editorial cartoonists union to draw Muhammad as they see him…
The newspaper’s editors could not possibly have foreseen the extent to which their observation would be proven correct. Fires were set to the Danish embassies in Syria, Lebanon and Iran, deadly rioting erupted throughout the Muslim world, and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip burned the flags of Denmark and other European countries. Fatwas were issued calling for the execution of the cartoonists and the editor of Jyllands-Posten, all of whom reportedly live in fear to this day.
London Freedom is Falling Down
Islamist censorship-through-intimidation raised its ugly head yet again last year, in response to a novel written by journalist Sherry Jones, entitled The Jewel of Medina. The book presented a fictional, yet glorified, account of an elderly Mohammed’s marriage to a nine-year-old girl. Random House, a well-respected American publishing company, had paid $100,000 for publication rights, but cancelled its plans just days before the book’s scheduled release in August, 2008. In an official statement given by Publisher Thomas Perry, Random House explained in eloquent and delicate terms that they cancelled publication because, quite simply, they were scared of Islamist violence: “We stand firmly by our responsibility to support our authors and the free discussion of ideas, even those that may be construed as offensive by some. However, a publisher must weigh that responsibility against others that it also bears, and in this instance we decided, after much deliberation, to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel.”
Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch and author of several books on the Islamist threat, presented this rather frank analysis of Random House’s decision, in an essay published at HumanEvents.com: “Random House was smart enough to figure out, in these post-Salman Rushdie, post-Muhammad cartoons, post-Pope Rage days that publishing a book that Muslims find offensive could be hazardous to the health of a good many people.” Spencer also noted how Random House’s capitulation is characteristic and symptomatic of the fear instilled by Islamists: “It is becoming increasingly common for Americans to bow to pressure from Muslims to accommodate Islamic practices and mores. It is also becoming common for the specter of violence to inhibit discussion of the elements of Islam that jihadists use to justify terrorism.”
The story of The Jewel of Medina does not end here. One month later, the London-based Gibson Square publishing house decided to publish the novel, for the noble reason described by publisher Martin Rynja: “There has to be open access to literary works, regardless of fear. As an independent publishing company, we feel strongly that we should not be afraid of the consequences of debate.”
Unfortunately for him, those “consequences” did not take long to surface. Just three weeks after Gibson Square announced its plans to publish the novel, Rynja’s London home was firebombed.
In a different article on the Jewel of Medina affair, Robert Spencer cites the following, sobering observation from British author Kenan Malik: “In the 20 years between the publication of The Satanic Verses and the withdrawal of The Jewel of Medina, the fatwa [against Salman Rushdie]…has become internalized. Not only do publishers drop books deemed offensive but theaters savage plays, opera houses cut productions, art galleries censor shows, all in the name of cultural sensitivity.”
The potential long-term repercussions of this trend, according to Spencer, are grim: “Beyond the issue of this novel, if the people in America, Britain and elsewhere who are threatened by the global jihad and Islamic supremacism are not willing to stand up and fight for the ability to hold in conscience to views that differ from those that Muslims wish us to hold, then all is lost. The jihadists are willing to go all the way – to give up their very lives – in their quest to control ours. For them, no price is too high.”
A Frightened Media
A summary of Daniel Pipes’ compilation entitled “Media Admits Censorship due to Islamist Intimidation,” which lists a handful of famous instances since 2006 where Western media companies admittedly censored themselves due to Islamist intimidation.
Feb. 10, 2006 Boston Phoenix listed the following as the first of three reasons not to publish the Muhammad cartoons: …fear of retaliation from the international brotherhood of radical and bloodthirsty Islamists who seek to impose their will on those who do not believe as they do. This is, frankly, our primary reason for not publishing any of the images in question. Simply stated, we are being terrorized, and as deeply as we believe in the principles of free speech and a free press, we could not in good conscience place the men and women who work at the Phoenix and its related companies in physical jeopardy. As we feel forced, literally, to bend to maniacal pressure, this may be the darkest moment in our 40-year publishing history.
March 29, 2006 Borders Books admitted its fears when it refused to sell an issue of the magazine Free Inquiry which contained four of the Muhammad cartoons: For us, the safety and security of our customers and employees is a top priority, and we believe that carrying this issue could challenge that priority.
April 6, 2006 Comedy Central channel, in a generic letter sent to viewers who complained that an image of the Muhammad cartoons had been deleted from “South Park,” wrote: Comedy Central’s belief in the First Amendment has not wavered, despite our decision not to air an image of Muhammad. Our decision was made not to mute the voices of Trey and Matt or because we value one religion over any other. This decision was based solely on concern for public safety in light of recent world events.
Aug. 28, 2006 Berkeley Breathed’s Opus comic strip was yanked by the Washington Post for two weeks when the ever-searching and faddish Lola Granola character became an Islamist. Fox News explained: …the strips were shown to Muslim staffers at The Washington Post to gauge their reaction, and they responded “emotionally” to the depiction of a woman dressed in traditional Muslim garb and espousing conservative Islamic views.
Nov. 19, 2007 Grayson Perry, a Turner Prize winner and former Times columnist, admitted: I’ve censored myself. The reason I haven’t gone all out attacking Islamism in my art is because I feel real fear that someone will slit my throat.
Mar. 28, 2008 LiveLeak.com, the British internet site that hosted the Geert Wilders film Fitna, which was viewed by over 3.6 million people, replaced the film after one day with an explicit cry against censorship: Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature, and some ill-informed reports from certain corners of the British that could directly affect the safety of some staff members, Liveleak has been left with no other choice but to remove Fitna from our servers… This is a sad day for freedom of speech on the net, but we have to place the safety and well being of our staff above all else… We stood for what we believe in, the ability to be heard, but in the end the price was too high.
Apr. 2, 2008 British Broadcasting Corporation was accused by English comedian and writer Ben Elton of giving in to Muslim pressure. He talks of “the genuine fear that the authorities and the community have about provoking the radical elements of Islam. There’s no doubt about it, the BBC will let vicar gags pass but they would not let imam gags pass.” He said the BBC might pretend that this hesitancy had something to do with moral sensibilities. “But it isn’t. It’s because they’re scared.”
Aug. 13, 2009 Yale University Press bows to pressure in their decision not to print the Mohammad cartoons in a book about the subject. Patricia Cohen provides details in “Yale Press Bans Images of Muhammad in New Book”: Yale University Press consulted two dozen authorities, including diplomats and experts on Islam and counterterrorism, and the recommendation was unanimous: The book, The Cartoons That Shook the World, should not include the 12 Danish drawings that originally appeared in September 2005. What’s more, they suggested that the Yale press also refrain from publishing any other illustrations of the prophet that were to be included.
Playing the Islamophobia Card
While Islamists loath the Western ideals of freedom of expression and tolerance of the point of view of others, in an ironic twist, their sympathizers and apologists use these very same ideals in a twisted attempt to vilify anyone who criticizes just about anything associated with Muslims. Capitalizing on the West’s affinity for open-ended tolerance, “moderate” Muslim groups engage in Jihad through the seemingly benign means of public relations and legal action. Cries of “prejudice” and “Islamophobia” have proven exceedingly effective in silencing critics of radical Islam and whistle-blowers seeking to alert the free world to the threats it poses.
Last year, Dutch politician Geert Wilders filmed a short movie entitled Fitna, aimed at exposing hate-filled passages from the Koran and demonstrating how the book encourages Muslims to despise those who violate its teachings. Wilders described the film as “a call to shake off the creeping tyranny of Islamization.”
Alarmingly, the critical response to Fitna came not only from Islamists, their sympathizers and apologists, but also from the judiciary in Wilders’ own country, the Netherlands. A Dutch court ordered state prosecutors to try Wilders for “inciting hatred and discrimination, based on comments by him in various media on Muslims and their beliefs.” Somehow, disapproving of another religion has become illegal on the grounds of “inciting hatred and discrimination.” Following the judge’s order, Dutch prosecutors filed hate speech charges against Wilders in January of this year. The next month, Wilders was denied entry into England.
A similarly sorrowful ordeal was endured by the popular Canadian columnist and author Mark Steyn, who writes regularly about the menacing threats of radical Islam. Last year, Steyn, together with the board of Maclean’s magazine, was brought by the Canadian Islamic Congress before several Canadian human rights commissions. The accusations had to do with an article Steyn published in Maclean’s entitled, “The Future Belongs to Islam.” The article, which warned of the growing demographic threat of Islam, was viewed as “flagrantly Islamophobic” and as subjecting Canada’s Muslim population to “hatred and contempt.”
The complaints were dismissed, but the Ontario Human Rights Commission, while claiming it had no jurisdiction to hear the case, conceded that the article in question was “Islamophobic” and accused Steyn of “promoting prejudice.”
The case was also brought before Canada’s federal Human Rights Commission (CHRC), which likewise dismissed the complaints. In response, Maclean’s applauded the decision but decried the vulnerability of writers and publishers to this kind of suffocating legal intimidation: “And we continue to have grave concerns about a system of complaint and adjudication that allows a media outlet to be pursued in multiple jurisdictions on the same complaint, brought by the same complainants, subjecting it to costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars, to say nothing of the inconvenience.”
The Islamists and their supporters have succeeded in manipulating two of the free world’s cardinal values to suit their needs: free speech, and multiculturalism. They rely on free speech to unabatedly spew their anti-Western diatribes, and appeal to multiculturalist sympathies to silence their critics, accusing them of prejudice. The result is free reign for the Islamists to disseminate their teachings, while their opponents are forced to keep quiet.
The First Islamist Victory
“When I tell people that America has already begun to enact Sharia law, they look at me like I’m crazy,” says Ibrahim Haddad, a Lebanese-born professor of Islamic Studies. “But when I ask them to name one major US newspaper that printed the Muhammad cartoons instead of bowing to the Muslim law against such depictions, they pretty much fall silent – because none did.” Haddad points out that while books like the Da Vinci Code – a fictional story about the secret lineage of Yeshu – were regarded by many devout Christians as highly offensive, no major bookstore pulled them off the shelves. In contrast, fictional books like the Jewel of Medina, which are not in any way offensive to Muslims, are effectively banned, “as if by an Islamic leader’s religious decree.”
Though laws against offending Islam may not be officially legislated in America, Haddad contends that the de facto policy among all US publishers to self-censor these materials out of fear from radicals is virtually indistinguishable from the Sharia laws on the matter in theocratic Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia.
In effectively curtailing Americans’ first amendment rights, “the Islamists have succeeded in beheading the constitution,” Haddad concludes in a colorful analogy. “Whether publishers are silencing their writers because of legislation or fear, the result is the same: one of our most precious liberties has already been lost to Islamist intimidation.”
In light of this new reality, it should come as no surprise that the decision to run this piece was made amid extreme hesitation. Having received threats in the past, Community Magazine has instituted additional security measures prior to the publication of this story, including the arming of certain staff members. These precautions notwithstanding, numerous revisions were made to tone down this article somewhat so as not to raise the ire of those who would resort to violence. And like so many other American magazines, the infringement of our free speech rights was palatable as we concluded that the pictures of Muhammad that are discussed in this article dare not be published here, out of fear for the personal safety of our staff.