Recently, French Islamists (presumably) firebombed the office of French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo for its speech. Simultaneously, Charlie Hebdo’s website was also taken down in a cyber-attack by a Turkish hacker. The firebombing and hacking occurred just one day after the magazine, which has a history of equal opportunity offensiveness, cheekily announced that the Islamic Prophet Mohammed was going to be a guest editor for this week’s edition, “(i)n order fittingly to celebrate the Islamist Ennahda’s win in Tunisia and the NTC (National Transitional Council) president’s promise that Sharia would be the main source of law in Libya.”
The weekly’s publisher, Stephane Charbonnier, stated that for this special edition the magazine would be rebaptized “Sharia Hebdo” as a pun on Islamic Sharia law, and would feature on its cover a picture of Mohammed saying: “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter!” Not surprisingly, Charlie Hebdo’s announcement immediately prompted threats from Islamists in France who oppose any depiction of Mohammed, however benign, as blasphemy. And just a day later, the firebombing followed.
There is really nothing new to see here. Since the Salman Rushdie affair, Islamists have steadily ramped up their pressure against free speech in the West. Any type of speech that offends their delicate Islamist sensibilities is quickly denounced, and the person (or persons) issuing it is then threatened with defamation lawsuits, violence, or even death. Increasingly often, the Islamists follow through on their threats. And just as often, those in the West cave — usually before any violence occurs — and censor themselves or apologize for their own speech.
Remember the Danish cartoons and the resulting Muslim riots? Remember the threats against South Park and Comedy Central? Remember Molly Norris going “ghost” for her suggestion of an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”? Remember the slaughter of UN workers in Afghanistan because Terry Jones burned a Koran in Florida? Remember … well, there are just too many examples to remember.
There is also nothing much new to write here. As I have already written:
At some point in the future, the U.S. [and the West in general] is going to have to make a hard choice. We can stand up to Islamist driven bullying, or we can fold our tents and give them the power to dictate what we can say or do (at first only about Islam, but later about everything).
The French get this, at least when it comes to Islamist violence directed against free speech. The publisher of Charlie Hebdo vowed to stand his ground and to publish his magazine with Mohammed on its cover. He did. In fact, he printed an extra 175,000 copies after its first print run of 75,000 sold out. Then, he and his coworkers made plans to further tweak the Islamists, with a new cover for the next week’s edition that features a cartoon of a Muslim man and a man labeled Charlie Hebdo locked in a homosexual kiss. (Some media have reported that this new cover is also a depiction of Mohammed. This does not seem to be the case.) Hundreds of Frenchmen, both ordinary and famous, attended a demonstration in Paris “in defense of the right to blaspheme.” The French prime minister, various other government ministers, the mayor of Paris, and many other prominent Frenchmen all condemned the firebombing attack, and strongly defended Charlie Hebdo’s right to free speech. French supporters of Charlie Hebdo even included Frenchmen who “at one time or another, have threatened the magazine with defamation suits.”