"What we have to do with is an organized international provocation"

Synopsis of speech by Tony Seed, edited for publication, with some statistics added for substantiation, to the mass outdoor meeting of university students, professors and community members, 9 February 2006, St. Mary's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Brothers and sisters - Assamalam alaikum. I speak today as a Canadian and as a journalist. The blasphemous Muhammad cartoons have nothing whatsoever to do with journalism, freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

You are justly demonstrating against this so-called philosophy professor who has posted the cartoons. You raise the slogan, "Peter March Is A Fool, We Don't Want You In Our School", and "Defend the Rights of All!" Peter March is not merely a fool but a fool who is proud to carry out the behest of the big powers in the name of blind belief and prejudice. His behaviour is that of a provocateur. He is also not the issue, in the sense that what we have to do with is an organized international provocation. It behooves us to look at the method of operation behind the popularization of the Muhammad cartoons. Provocation is not innocent, it is not ignorant, it is not spontaneous, it is not foolish, it has a definite aim.Tony Seed

The chronology is instructive. The blasphemous cartoons of the prophet Muhammad were first published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on 30 September. These were not the freelance, creative work of artists, illustrators or cartoonists. They were commissioned by an editor, Flemming Rose, for a right wing newspaper which has the highest circulation in Denmark, 157,000 copies, and closely linked with the government. It is also reported that this editor was based on Washington for three years between 1996-99, and in October, 2004 returned there especially to write a eulogy of the neo-con Daniel H. Pipes, "The Threat from Islam." Who is Daniel Pipes? Pipes is a personal appointee of George W. Bush to the board of the US Institute of Peace, and chair of the so-called Free Lebanon Committee; its aim is to bring back the fascist Falange and restore the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon up to the Litani River. He spearheads the so-called Campus Watch against pro-Palestinian and progressive academics in the American universities. He is a proponent of the demagoguery of "Islamic supremicism.".

On 12 October ten ambassadors from countries with Muslim populations and the Head of the Palestinian delegation accredited to the state of Denmark wrote a formal letter of protest to the Prime Minister of Denmark protesting its publication, "as part of an ongoing smearing campaign in Danish public circles and media against Islam and Muslims." This prime minister who sends 500 Danish troops into the Middle East to occupy Iraq would not even meet with the ambassadors. So then, on 14 October, sixteen Danish Muslim organizations publicly condemned Jyllands-Posten.

In the month of October, only one publication, Al-Faqr in Egypt, published cartoons (six). This was during the elections there where the Moslem Brotherhood was poised to increase its votes. In the month of November, just two newspapers published cartoons. In the month of December, not one newspaper published the cartoons. In January, seven newspapers published them, up to January 22nd.

All these newspapers were in Scandanavia, four in Norway, three in Sweden, except for two German and a Belgian newspaper.

What changed? On January 13 the United States launched a military attack on the small village of Damadolanw of Islamabad, Pakistan. It justified the attack that it had "intelligence" that there was some "Islamic terrorist" there. Thirty villagers, including women and children, died -- a coordinated attack from the air using missiles fired from F-16 fighter aircraft and drones. It was the third US air attack on Pakistan in two weeks. Tens of thousands of Pakistanis, especially youth and students, demonstrated against US aggression. To make the act even more humiliating, the US did not even bother to inform the Pakistani authorities, its "ally".

On January 25 the Palestinian people elected the new Legislative Council. This is a historic election. The election was decisively won by the Change and Reform Slate sponsored by the Islamic Resistance Movement - Hamas. This slate even included a Christian Palestinian.

Palestinians declared No to Israeli Occupation, No to Starvation, Yes to Resistance; Yes to Self-Determination; No to corruption, Yes to Progress and Change. Seventy seven per cent of the Palestinian electorate voted, a very high percentage compared to Canada.

(Shouts of "Long Live Palestine!")

Within minutes George W Bush, who said he launched the invasion of Iraq in March, 2003 to spread "democracy" in the Middle East, declared he would not recognize the results of the election, an election legitimated even by Jimmy Carter. The very next day the Canadian prime minister designate Steven Harper followed suit, even though the government's own Election Observation Mission in Palestine had already publicly declared: "We expect the new legislative council to be substantially more representative of the current will of Palestinian voters than the one it will replace..."

(Shouts of "What democracy?")

What democracy? They demand the "democracy" which will give "a special position" to US imperialism and the interests of the Canadian monopolies. These failed states cannot even secure democracy for the people in North America, as we saw during and after Katrina.

(Shouts of "Racism! Racism!")

What followed? Between January 22nd and January 31st not a single newspaper reprinted these cartoons.

But, between January 31st to date, some 67 newspapers in 27 countries and counting reprinted these cartoons; 16 on 1 February, then another 14 on 2 February and so forth. These were not just in Europe, as we are told. They included several in the United States, and Le Devoir in Montreal, Canada.

Here is another event. That very same weekend, 2-3 February -- during which 30 newspapers reprint the insulting Muhammad cartoons on these two days -- the US, France, Britain, Russia and China, plus Germany met in London -- the P-5 meeting -- to take action against Iran. They take the decision to refer Iran to the UN Secuyrity Council for so-called violations of the nuclear proliferation regime. Military action against Iran is openly discussed. Yet in January, Merkel, the president of Germany, was in Israel on a state mission to sell it two used nuclear submarines.

Was this spontaneous? What is the pattern? All these countries reprinting the cartoons are members of NATO, many of whom have their own interests. Then there was Switzerland (3), Jordan (2), South Africa (1), Malaysia (1), Fiji (1), Indonesia (1), Israel (1), Brazil (1), and New Zealand (2). Not only that, without being actually reprinted, they are being widely promoted in Canada and elsewhere through a so-called "debate" on freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and now academic freedom.

Widespread protests by Muslims throughout the world broke out, including Palestine. Nine people died. Many people ask "just what is going on?" What sort of "cartoons" are these this that can lead to such tragedies, create such discord, so inflame passions?

Does one have to even view these cartoons to appreciate that they are vile, that they are calculated to be deeply offensive to believers of Islam? They attack the Muslim faith and the Prophet Muhammad. The most infamous depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a bearded terrorist, with bulging eyes and a bomb-shaped turban with a burning fuse. They attack the resistance movement, the anti-imperialist movement in the Middle East, as mass murderers. Another had him wielding a sword. Another showed him as a crazed, knife-wielding Bedouin. Another placed him at the gates of Heaven telling suicide bombers: "Stop. Stop. We have run out of virgins!'' They have nothing in common with self-censored cartoons for Danish childrens books. They are part of the infinite "war on terror".

Is it not fortuitous that they have emerged right at the moment the Bush administration is expanding its empire-building in West and Central Asia, into South Asia, widening its war of occupation of Iraq, involving more powerful nations such as Pakistan and Iran and its legitimate right to develop its own nuclear energy program, stigmatizing Syria, Lebanon, and North Korea, and as 2000 Canadian soldiers deploy to southern Afghanistan, on the eastern borders of Iran. Bush's new budget provides for $500 billion in military spending; Harper's for $20 billion, up from $11 billion in just five years.

What we have is disinformation, psychological warfare, organized at the highest levels in the name of the highest ideals. The truth will out. Following the "clash of civilizations", the "axis of evil", the aim is to split the peoples of the West and the East, to isolate the struggles against imperialist war and occupation, to portray the peoples of the East as backward, mediaeval, fanatical, extremist, and a threat to Europe and America, and to divert attention from war crimes in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan.

Provocation is the standard operating procedure of superpowers. Pretexts are invented, the victim is blamed every crime for which it is itself responsible.

George W Bush then defends "freedom of the press" and publicly accuses Syria and Iran for organizing protests against the Muhammad cartoons, as "extremists", and inflaming the Middle East.

Did George W Bush and Tony Blair not discuss in April 2004 (at the height of the resistance in Fallujah to chemical attacks) to themselves bomb the studios of al-Jazeera's in Doha, the capital of Qatar? (Al-Jazeera is now suing the Blair government.)

Far from "freedom of the press" what we have is the US pragmatic ethos where allegedly in the fight against a great evil, a lesser evil is not only acceptable but necessary. Whatever works in the fight against the evildoers is good. If provocation "works", if the bombing of villages "works", so be it. The end justifies the means.

The method of provocation and diversion demonizes and criminalizes on the basis of fabricated evidence all those who not agree to submit to its dictate. The target is a world view, a conscience, one's belief, to criminalize all those who dissent.

We have raised the slogan of "Defend the Rights of All!", and "An Injury to One Is An Injury to All!", and "All for One and One for All!"

(Shouts of "An Injury to One Is An Injury to All!", and "All for One and One for All!")

The right to conscience and to one's political or religious belief and values is a fundamental democratic right. It is a basic human right. Minority rights are not merely a matter of people of different national or religious beliefs as the government has declared in "anti-discrimination" or "hate crime" laws. It is a matter of protecting those who stand for their right to conscience whose cultures set different priorities of behaviours. Since 9-11, those of Arabic origin and Muslim belief have been singled out, criminalized and denigrated as never before. This aims to set a precedent for the entire polity. You know about security certificates, and now we have the no-fly list. Canadians will never accept this.

Yesterday the Canadian Islamic Congress issued a media communique about the composition of Harper's new cabinet. They warned the public of the establishment of a police state in Canada, the attack against civil liberties. It is speaking out on the rights of all. Where was this reported in the "free press'? Nowhere. Not a single line. So where are the so-called Canadian values of "freedom of expression", "tolerance" and "balance"?

This philosopher claims academic freedom. Freedom for what and freedom from whom? This philosopher does not even know that the principle of academic freedom belongs to those who fought against mediaevalism, for science, for reason, for enlightenment and knowledge. It is this philosopher who has turned his back on some of the most important ideals of universal justice that animated the century of Enlightenment. He says he wants to warn believers against "blind faith." But he is only waning against one faith. To converts this principle into an a blunt instrument to attack personal religious belief, to contribute to criminalizing conscience, is to be a dogmatist, a follower of blind faith, a promoter of racist prejudice.

But he then claims higher ideals: "I am just your classic liberal," he says. "I did not intend any harm. I did not intend any insult. I am for dialogue."

A five-year-old knows that when you throw a rock at a human being it will hurt and cause pain. This is classic 19th century liberalism, the separation of intent or motive and effect: "I occupied your country, I didn't intend to kill you. That is collateral damage." The end justifies the means. That is the philosophy of US pragmatism, the truth is what works.

The philosophy of this professor would be pathetic and pitable except that this is the ethos espoused by all the ideologues of all the ruling parties in Canada, the Michael Ignatieffs, for whom "torture works" and its use should become routine albeit "regulated", or the Tom Flanagans for whom the "uncivilized" First Nations have a "special position" as sovereign nations and should be assimilated as they are merely immigrants like everyone else.

The students justly asked him: "Will you apologize?"

"No!", he declares. "My motives are pure."

This is called white man's burden, great empire chauvinism. Far from being the voice of moderation or aetheist scepticism, it is pure, irrational extremism. Freedom of expression which damages the interests of humanity is not freedom. Freedom is the cherished aspiration of all humanity. Freedom that does not live, that is not based on justice and right, freedom that is not defended, is not freedom.

What can we say about the "free press"? He posted the cartoons on his office door in the philosophy department, isolated from the world. The university told him to take them down. This egomaniac then phoned the media. In one day he is all over the Chronicle Herald, the CBC and CTV, the Toronto Star, Calgary Herlad, Vancouver Sun, and front page news in the National Post. Look at this media grovelling at his feet today. What a despicable feeding frenzy! This is not a media of responsible journalism, of enlightenment, civilization and freedom, but a mean-spirited, monopoly media filled with disinformation and provocation.

All democratic journalists should stand against such uncivilized behaviour.

Accountability begins at home. No-one should have the right to disinformation.

Thank you for listening. Let us deepen and broaden this discussion.

Defend the Rights of All! An Injury to One Is An Injury to All! -- All for One and One for All! Long live Palestine! Canada Out of the Middle East!

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