Freedom from Religion—Rights and National Security

by Amos Guiora

In response to the previous comments, I very much appreciate the justified concern raised regarding my identification of the danger posed by religious extremists. Prof Movsesian is, of course, correct that non-religious terrorism (the groups he identifies) is also a contemporary reality. However, where we disagree is that I believe the greatest (not only) danger is posed by religious extremists and my proposal addresses that threat. That said, Prof Movsesian is also correct that solely identifying religious extremist speech raises (obviously) important constitutional issues; in that vein, including non-religious extremist speech in the ‘posing a danger’ category is certainly viable.

 However, as i previously commented, the present danger is largely posed by religious extremist speech in Houses of Worship. In that vein (in response to Rev Lentz’s comment) I propose law enforcement engage in monitoring and surveilling of a Houses of Worship if information is received that the faith leader  is inciting his/her particular congregation to violence; if justified the faith leader can be prosecuted based on the available evidence.

 The deep reluctance of law enforcement/prosecutors in the US, Israel, UK and Netherlands (with whom I met while researching the book) is the clearest manifestation of what I previously referred to as the granting of immunity to religious extremists actors. In that vein, I suggest that religious extremist speech that has the ability—in the name of the divine as interpreted by the faith leader—must be defined as ‘unprotected speech’ based on the possibility that an individual in that specific audience might act.

Because many religious extermists speak in ‘code’ –what I believe Prof Borgen refers to as ‘metamorphical speech’—it is incumbent upon law enforcement to develop a sophisticated understanding both of religion and religous speech. Otherwise, it will be extremely difficult to truly understand the message intended by the speaker. What is essential to my proposal is recognizing the extraordinary power of extermist faith leaders in all three monotheistic faiths and the willingness of indiviudals to act on their words.

In the Israeli context, the impact of the ‘pulsa danura’ (see previous comment) issued against Rabin could have been minimized had concrete measures been taken against the Rabbi’s who were openly inciting against Rabin. It is important to note that the speakers were religious extremist faith leaders (not far right secular Israelis as Prof Movsesian suggests in his hypothetical) who clearly had the ability to incite (as they did) members of their community. Similarily, when a fatwa was issued by an imam in the Netherlands against an Islamic politician (for suggesting Islam must come to grips with homosexuality) the threat to that individual was direct and real; the literally unlimited freedom of speech extended to the imam directly threatened the politician (with whom I met the day the fatwa was issued) because of the very real possibility that someone in the imam’s congregation will act in accordance with the ‘religious dictate’. That same principle holds true for child brides in the Fundamental Latter Day Saints Church; underage girls are directly endangered by faith leaders who literally order their marriage to adult males predicated on religious belief (in that vein, a faith leader was convicted of being an accomplice to a rape though the conviction was recently overturned).

It is in response to these examples that I propose acting proactively to minimize the harm caused both to larger society (external) and members of a particular community (internal) by religious extremist actors. As Prof Cliteur correctly suggests religious extremists are intimately connected to divine commands; it is, as Prof Cliteur comments (in his response to Prof Movsesian) that distinction with respect to motivation and the power of the divine as interpreted by extremist faith leaders  that distinguishes religious extremist terrorism.

2 Responses

  1. Giving the state the power to arbitrate metaphors might be a slippery slope indeed. In that vein (ahem!), it might also be difficult to find enough sophisticated law enforcement officers to cover the number and scope of religious institutions with all the different cultural frames of reference and languages used there. Most cops with whom I’ve had any experience would be hard pressed to separate a Jobian allegory of suffering from an invocation to mug itinerant travelers.

  2. Please leave space for parody.  I woke up this morning thinking about AQ (Al-Qaeda), and AQI (Al Qaeda Iraq), AQAP (Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula) and a new one I just heard about in a kidnapping in Niger called AQIM (Al Qaeda Islamic Maghreb) and started to see this AQ thing as a branding process.

    So I imagined a Daily Show spoof (or Onion) which would be AQPL (Al Qaeda Peace and Love) in which the people being shown are hippies (training videos on how to throw frisbees, kiss of death (threatening person made to laugh by bunch of kids who jump on him and kiss him), employment video (why did you join? they had blankets man), recreational TEA parties, etc)).  The leader would be Nasreddine Hodja who is a well known figure in Middle East to Afghanistan as a comic figure in myriad stories and – of course – the videos he does would have peace symbols flowing under them.

    Then I thought of AQIDF – Al Qaeda Israeli Defense Force and imagine trying to hold a cell meeting but not being able to hold it anywhere because they were being surveilled by… Al Qaeda central and the IDF.  Metaphysical question would be for the entrance exam as to whether if one blew oneself up in AQIDF was that a win for AQ, for IDF, need sudden death overtime (oh, we got there already), or a replay (oh, problem).

    And, of course, instead of fatwas the hippies would issue Slim-Jimwas.

    This may seem to be gallows humor or completely inappropriate but while not young and being juvenile, the point is that in these dark times a bit of gallows humor felt needed.  Reminds me of the Serbs wearing Target t-shirts during the Nato bombing.

    No doubt I have offended millions of people with my strange humor, but this morning, in this serious space, it felt like a little levity was needed.

    Please delete if too much.


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