One of the world’s most influential Muslims is now calling on the United Nations – in light of the YouTube movie blamed for violent protests across the Mideast – to impose international restrictions on free speech, criminalizing any statement that impugns Islam.
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, a professor at King Abdul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia, is a member of several international organizations, including the Centre for Studying the Aims of Sharia in the U.K., as well as serving as the vice chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.
The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre ranked bin Bayyah No. 31 on its list of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world for 2011.
In a public declaration issued to several Islamic bodies, including the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, one of the largest Muslim mosques in the D.C. metro area and the U.S., bin Bayyah called upon “people of reason and understanding” to put a legal stop to statements that would offend Muslims and thereby threaten world peace.
“We ask everyone to ponder the ramifications of provoking the feelings of over one billion people by a small party of people who desires not to seek peace nor fraternity between members of humanity,” bin Bayyah wrote. “This poses a threat to world peace with no tangible benefit realized. Is it not necessary in today’s world for the United Nations to issue a resolution criminalizing the impingement of religious symbols? We request all religious and political authorities, as well as people of reason to join us in putting a stop to this futility that benefits no one.”
Bin Bayyah’s statement was titled a “Declaration Regarding the Offensive Video to Muslims,” a clear reference to the YouTube film, “Innocence of Muslims,” which has been widely – if controversially – blamed for inciting riots against embassies in the Middle East and the resulting death of four U.S. diplomats.
The Obama administration had similarly asked Google, the parent company of YouTube, to review whether “Innocence of Muslims” violates its terms-of-use policies.
Thus far, Google has refused to remove the video from YouTube, though it blocked access in some sensitive countries.
Pundits from a wide spectrum of news outlets have agreed the video is protected by free speech rights in the U.S.
Bin Bayyah’s statement continued, condemning the embassy attacks in the Middle East: “We implore you not to inflict violence upon anyone, whether foreign delegations or otherwise. You should not destroy property or flout the values and cherished principles that you defend, as attacking innocents, killing foreign diplomats and ambassadors contravenes religious and moral principles before it contravenes political ones.”
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