The editors of Charlie Hebdo, Wilders and Geller need to be defended not because they are right about everything they say, write or draw. They aren’t right about everything as is inevitable with anyone who ignores nuances and seeks to inflame rather than analyze and illuminate. But, contrary to many of the talking heads on television today, they aren’t the problem. The problem is that a variant of Islam that commands the loyalty of hundreds of millions around the globe thinks it is okay to kill those who blaspheme against Islam. It is that faith that leads terrorists to cut off the heads of non-believers and to wage a war of conquest across the Middle East that threatens the security of the region and the United States. Nor is it a coincidence that this same not insignificant splinter of Islam is also promoting vicious anti-Semitism and helped fuel a rising tide of Jew hatred across Europe.
So, just as it is offensive to speak of the slain editors of Charlie Hebdo as being unworthy of our defense because of their harsh views, it is just as inadmissible for today’s discussion to center on whether or not Wilders or Geller are too provocative or show bad taste in their attacks on Islam. That may be hard for some in the Muslim world to accept. It may also be equally hard for many on the left, both here and in Europe, who have wrongly come to accept the idea that Islam may not be offended because it is a victim of imperialism and the West or the Jews who must always be seen as the villain. But the struggle against intolerant Islamism is one that hinges on the right and even the necessity to make it clear to the world that Muslims must learn to tolerate other views of their faith. Free speech can’t be sacrificed to Islamist sensibilities. Until it is safe for Wilders and Geller to speak without massive security measures, let us hear no more about the evils of Islamophobia.
The “I support freedom of speech but…” approach is a curious one for the media to take, especially since:
You know who does a crap-ton of “sure-to-offend” stuff? The media. All day, every freaking day. Give me a break.
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) May 4, 2015
But then, as Charles C.W. Cooke writes at NRO, “the Bill of Rights Would Never Pass Today.” And as we’ve seen since early 2009 when the Tea Party initially emerged, the media are very angry that “the wrong people” have the right to free speech. They have been for many years, but today gave them the opportunity to really drop the mask. The rest of us should be glad the media aren’t disguising their hatred of the First Amendment today, and very worried about what they’ll do next to weaken or eliminate it.
Update: Andy McCarthy writes, “it will not do to blame the messenger for the violence:”
The shooting last night was not caused by the free-speech event any more than the Charlie Hebdo murders were caused by derogatory caricatures, or the rioting after a Danish newspaper’s publication of anti-Islam cartoons was caused by the newspaper. The violence is caused by Islamic supremacist ideology and its law that incites Muslims to kill those they judge to have disparaged Islam.
Christians were offended by Piss Christ, but they did not respond by killing the “artist” or blowing up the exhibiting museum. If any had, they would have been universally condemned for both violating society’s laws and betraying Christian tenets. In such a case, we would have blamed the killers, not the provocative art. There can be no right against being provoked in a free society; we rely on the vigorous exchange of ideas to arrive at sensible policy. And the greater the threat to liberty, the more necessary it is to provoke.
As McCarthy writes, “You may not like the provocateurs’ methods. Personally, I am not a fan of gratuitous insult, which can antagonize pro-Western Muslims we want on our side. But let’s not make too much of that. Muslims who really are pro-Western already know, as Americans overwhelmingly know, that being offended is a small price to pay to live in a free society. We can bristle at an offense and still grasp that we do not want the offense criminalized.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Beast’s Dean Obeidallah condemns Geller in the form of defending her “Right to Hate.” I’m sure he’s equally incensed by this earlier mockery of religion — as Photoshopped by the Daily Beast.