Islamic jihadists tried to commit mass murder at the American Freedom Defense Initiative/Jihad Watch Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest that Pamela Geller and I hosted in Garland, Texas, last Sunday. Media pundits across the political spectrum have decided: it’s our fault. We provoked them, you see.
“Of course we have a right to draw what we want, but we also have an obligation not to be irresponsibly provocative,” said the ex-Catholic author of Why Catholics Are Right, Michael Coren.
“It’s needlessly provocative,” said New York Representative Peter King, whose hearings on Muslim radicalization back in 2011 were widely termed “provocative.” He said he thought our event was “insulting someone’s religion.”
Coren and King were expressing the dominant view, which is essentially that if Pamela Geller and I had just left well enough alone, all would be well. The police officer who was shot in the ankle by one of the jihadis would still be walking without difficulty, and the two jihadis, Ibrahim (formerly Elton) Simpson and Nadir Soofi, would still be breathing air.
The unspoken assumption here is that if only we hadn’t cooked up this cartoon exhibit, Simpson and Soofi would no doubt be on their way to becoming loyal, patriotic, law-abiding American Muslims, living demonstrations of the compatibility of Islam and democracy and of the ability of America to embrace people of diverse perspectives. All we have to do to achieve this utopia is just give a little. And what non-Muslims have to give is the right to draw and publish cartoons of Muhammad. After all, why would anyone want to be “provocative”?
The first problem with this rosy little scenario is that these jihadis in particular, and Islamic jihadists in general, are already “provoked.”
Ibrahim Simpson wasn’t “radicalized” by our cartoon contest.
Long before it took place, he was in touch with jihad terrorists who encouraged him to carry out a jihad attack. If he hadn’t opted to attack our heavily guarded event, he might have chosen a softer target, as did his fellow jihadists Amedy Coulibaly, who murdered four Jews in a kosher supermarket in January, and Man Haron Monis, who took hostages (of who two were subsequently killed) in the Lindt Chocolat Café in Sydney, Australia last December.
What’s more, the Islamic State, to whom Simpson pledged allegiance before his attack, is already “provoked.”
On September 21, 2014, long before our event was scheduled or even thought of, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad Adnani issued a lengthy and remarkable statement calling Muslims in the West to jihad.
In it, he said that the West was not as strong as it seemed to be: It was, rather:
… a conceited and brash encampment of falsehood, which demonstrates itself to be powerful, and subduing, one that no conqueror can dominate nor any defender withstand. But the reality is they are fearful and terrified, humiliated and left with a weak plan, shaken and defeated, despite their uninhibited movement throughout the lands.
He declared that the warriors of jihad would overcome this weak force:
We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted. This is His promise to us; He is glorified and He does not fail in His promise. If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.
He called for jihadis to commit mass murder:
If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be …
The weapon didn’t matter, only the outcome:
If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him. Do not lack. Do not be contemptible. Let your slogan be, “May I not be saved if the cross worshipper and taghut (ruler ruling by manmade laws) patron survives.” If you are unable to do so, then burn his home, car, or business. Or destroy his crops.
If you are unable to do so, then spit in his face. If your self refuses to do so, while your brothers are being bombarded and killed, and while their blood and wealth everywhere is deemed lawful by their enemies, then review your religion. You are in a dangerous condition because the religion cannot be established without wala’ [loyalty to believers] and bara’ [disavowal of unbelievers].
An Islamic State e-book, Black Flags for Rome, sketches out a scenario in which Islamic State partisans sow murder and mayhem on the streets of Europe and America. It contains advice on how to obtain weapons and instructions on how to build bombs.
In the face of this threat, which is only growing, is not being “provocative” really going to accomplish anything?
When the Islamic State boasts of the West’s societal and cultural weakness, is it really wise to give them another example of it?
But why add fuel to the fire? Precisely because the jihadis have threatened to kill those who draw Muhammad, and made good on that threat in January in the Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine. To stop drawing Muhammad in the face of these threats and violence will only send the signal that threats and violence work — and that will bring even more threats and violence.
Drawing Muhammad is a crime in Islamic law, not in American law. To refrain from doing so is to accept the authority of Islamic law even over non-Muslims — which is exactly what the jihadis are trying to assert. No wonder they think we’re weak.
King is right that drawing Muhammad is “insulting someone’s religion.” But it is the murderous jihadis who made this question the flash point of the defense of the freedom of speech, not Pamela Geller and I. It is they who, by their determination to murder those non-Muslims who violate their religious law on this point, have made it imperative that free people signal that they will not submit to them. If we give in to the demand that we conform to this Sharia principle, there will be further demands that we adhere to additional Sharia principles. It is ultimately a question of whether we will submit to Sharia, or stand up for freedom.
At Garland we were standing. In the aftermath, it is clear that a huge segment of the Western political and media elites are ready, if not eager, to kneel, not daring to “provoke” their new masters.