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Chilling Effect for Me, But Not for Thee
by Andrew E. Harrod
"I don't apply the same standards" as in the United States, the Muslim Harvard Law School professor Intisar A. Rabb stated at a November 21, 2013, Georgetown University conference with respect to "hate speech" restrictions and Islam abroad. In connection with her concern about an American Muslim's terrorism conviction "chilling speech," Rabb's acceptance of "just a different legal regime" abroad revealed troubling double standards towards Islam.
Raab addressed the final panel of "Muslim-Christian Relations in the 21st Century: Challenges & Opportunities," a controversial conference (see here, here, and here) marking the 20th anniversary of Georgetown's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU). Rabb opposed a recent appeals court conviction affirmation for Tarek Mehanna, as elaborated in an amici curia brief in Mehanna's appeal. Therein Rabb and others warned of a "serious chilling effect" on speech from convicting Mehanna for translating the book 39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad for the website at-Tibyan.
The federal government considered the book, website, and Mehanna's "disfavored political and religious beliefs" all supportive of Al Qaeda. The appellate opinion noted that Mehanna had a First Amendment right to praise Al Qaeda, but Al-Qaeda-coordinated advocacy was terrorism support. "Under the Government's theory," amici curia warned, "translating an al-Qa'ida text is lawful, as is espousing beliefs…supporting al-Qa'ida," but together these "legal acts gives rise to criminal liability," a particular concern for scholars researching terrorism.
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