The internationally notable Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy last week took a can of spray paint and began spray-painting over an ad in the Times Square subway station that she didn’t like. Eltahawy painted the ad until a supporter of the ad got in between her and it; shortly thereafter, Eltahawy was arrested, charged with criminal mischief, and spent the night in jail. That a prominent journalist would stoop to this crude act of vandalism is noteworthy in itself, but even more striking is the fact that so many on the Left are applauding her for it.
The ad read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.” It was created by my colleague Pamela Geller and sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), of which I am associate director. The mainstream media has widely circulated the claim that this ad is somehow referring to and demeaning of all Muslims, even though the words “Muslim” and “Islam” never appear in it, and it is quite clearly referring to those jihad terrorists who commit acts of savagery against Israeli civilians and then celebrate those acts.
Nonetheless, whether as part of their ongoing efforts to demonize and marginalize all those who speak out against jihad, or out of visceral hatred for Israel, or both, Leftist and putatively “moderate” Muslim writers have enthusiastically praised Eltahawy’s vandalism and called for more ads to be defaced. Cyrus McGoldrick of the New York chapter of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) exulted about Eltahawy’s vandalism: “THIS is GOLD.”
Christina Abraham, the “civil rights director” of Hamas-linked CAIR’s Chicago chapter, went even farther, tweeting that “what some might call hate ads,” Eltahawy “sees as a blank canvas. everyone should do the same.” Ironically, Abraham describes herself in her Twitter profile as a “human rights enthusiast.”
Likewise the Islamic supremacist writer Reza Aslan, who enjoys a widespread reputation as a “moderate Muslim” despite being a Board member of the National Iranian American Council, which has recently been established to be a mouthpiece of the Iranian mullahcracy, was enthusiastic about the vandalism and wanted more. “Hey New York!,” he tweeted: “How many racist ads are left unscathed? Get busy.”
Despite (or perhaps because of) this enthusiastic and unapologetic thirst for violent suppression of the free speech of others, Aslan frequently speaks on college campuses and in other prominent liberal fora. He is the epitome of the new Leftist spokesman who increasingly has no problem with violently suppressing the free speech of his opponents, and cheerfully owns up to wanting to do so.
This contempt for the freedom of speech is rapidly becoming commonplace on the Left. Washington Square News is the student newspaper of New York University, but it is editorially and financially independent from the university, and has a circulation of about 60,000 in lower Manhattan — one of the nation’s foremost epicenters of the far Left. An indication of how quickly the restriction of the freedom of speech has become a fashionable opinion among the Leftist intelligentsia at universities and elsewhere came last Wednesday, when the News ran a piece calling for restrictions on the First Amendment.
Referring to the AFDI ads, author Faria Mardhani wrote: “The decision that the United States must now make is whether hate speech like this should be legal. Do values of free speech override the values of equality and of preventing profound personal offense to any singular group? Was the First Amendment passed with the intention of grouping very diverse people into one entity and then vilifying them?”
In the 1930s, when the Nazis were taking power in Germany, brownshirt storm troopers regularly terrorized Hitler’s foes, shouting them down when they spoke, vandalizing their messages, and even physically threatening them. We are rapidly approaching the same situation, not due to a resurgence in “right-wing extremism,” but because of the Left’s increasingly positive attitude toward thuggery. Hundreds of people have hailed Eltahawy on Twitter and elsewhere as a hero, and many have echoed the calls from Aslan and Abraham to imitate her vandalism. When Geller or I or any other speaker who opposes jihad terror and Islamic supremacism speaks on a college campus, it’s a scene that could easily have taken place in 1934 in Berlin or Munich: we have to go with bodyguards and prepare to be shouted down by self-righteous thugs.
Left fascism like that displayed by Mona Eltahawy and her supporters increasingly threatens the freedom of all Americans. If their cavalier attitude (at best) toward the freedom of speech is any indication of their respect for human rights in general, if they do succeed in forcibly silencing all their foes and come to a point where they are able to exert their will unchallenged, the tyranny that will result will make Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot look like pikers.