A review of The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Free Speech (and Its Enemies), by Robert Spencer, Regnery Publishing, 2017, 274 pp.
Twenty-four years ago, the late Mervyn Hiskett, renowned British scholar of the history of jihad and Islamization in sub-Saharan Africa, turned his attention to the looming impact of Islam on his own Britain and Western societies more broadly, including the United States. In his 1993 Some to Mecca Turn To Pray, he articulated presciently the Islamic conundrum now enveloping us, which requires an immediate response if we still cherish individual liberty:
As is so often the case when considering Islam, one has to concede the power of certain of its ideas. But when it comes to having these ideas advocated within our own shores, and as alternatives to our own institutions, one must then ask oneself: Which does one prefer? Western secular, pluralist institutions, imperfect as these are? Or the Islamic theocratic alternative?
And if one decides in favor of one’s own institutions, warts and all, one then has to ask again: How far may the advocacy of Islamic alternatives go, before this becomes downright subversive? And at that point, what should be done about it? Finally, do liberal, democratic politicians have the political and moral guts to do what is needed, or will they simply give way, bit by bit and point by point, to insistent and sustained pressure from the Muslim “Parliament” and other Muslim special-interest lobbies like it?
Robert Spencer’s concise, lucid analysis, The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Free Speech (and Its Enemies), validates Hiskett’s gravest concerns about Islamic subversion: the relentless campaign to abrogate our most basic, unique Western liberty — free expression. With characteristic erudition, attention to detail, and wit (see text box on p. 28, “Did Any Of Them Have Eating Disorders? Those Can Make You Crazy,” from this video), Spencer chronicles how free speech in Western societies has been dangerously eroded by what Hiskett aptly termed “the Muslim ‘Parliament’ and other Muslim special interest lobbies,” in full collaboration with statist Left cultural relativists.
The grotesque harmonic convergence between mainstream, totalitarian Islam — epitomized by Sharia “blasphemy” law — and the “democratic” totalitarianism of the Left, derived from Robespierre and the Jacobins through Communist ideologues and leaders Marx, Lenin, and Stalin, is an underlying, recurrent theme of Spencer’s urgent presentation. Indeed the latter, “Dr. Crankley’s Children” (per Whittaker Chambers’ acid 1948 discussion of the Communist legacy on the 100th anniversary of the publication of Marx’s manifesto), and their “softer” statist minions of our era, bear at least as much responsibility for the erosion of Western free speech as institutional Islam and its pious Muslim votaries. Spencer elucidates how, despite superficial appearances of being oddly conjoined:
… endeavoring to weaken and destroy the freedom of speech, leftists in the United States have found ready allies in the Muslim community. Many observers have remarked that the Left and Islamic supremacists make strange bedfellows: the former advocate a moral libertinism; the latter are attempting to impose a repressive moral code. What binds these unlikely allies is a shared taste for authoritarianism. Both parties want to stifle dissent, and in doing so both find themselves fighting the same foes. Why not join forces?
All 13 of Spencer’s carefully arranged, remarkably compendious chapters have germane (even pathognomonic!) titles, including 10 epigrams:
Chapter 1, “Just Stay Quiet and You’ll Be Okay”
Chapter 2, “Tailored in an Appropriate Way”: Can Free Speech Really Be Restricted in the United States?
Chapter 3, “Now Obviously This is a Country That is Based on Free Speech, but…,”: The U.S. Government vs. Free Speech
Chapter 4, The “Hate Speech” Scam
Chapter 5, “Peer Pressure and Shaming” to Rein in Free Speech
Chapter 6, “Is That Being Racist?”: Americans Learn Self-Censorship
Chapter 7, “Irresponsibly Provocative”: The Erosion of Free Speech From Rushdie to Geller
Chapter 8, “Can’t We Talk about This?”: The Death of Free Speech in Europe
Chapter 9, Catholics Against Free Speech
Chapter 10, “Not Conducive to the Public Good”: Free Speech Dies in Britain and Canada
Chapter 11, The New Brownshirts
Chapter 12, “The University Prides Itself on Diversity”: Administrators vs. Free Speech Chapter 13, “Facing the New Totalitarianism”: Fighting Back for the Freedom of Speech
Spencer traces the living Islamic law imperative to brook no criticism of the Muslim faith, or its prophet founder, to both canonical traditions of Muhammad and the Koran (9:14-15) itself, which exhorts Muslims to wage jihad to punish the “offending” infidels. Muhammad in effect created his own “Dead Poets Society” comprised of victims (men and women, elderly and young) slain at his behest by his most ardent early Muslim followers, for perceived “insults” to Islam’s prophet. Citing the contemporary example of the Islamic State of Pakistan (and the plight of Pakistani Christian, Asia Bibi), Spencer asks: to assure a “future free of offense to Islam,” what exactions will “our leftist politicians, media elites, and much of the Western intelligentsia” be willing to impose upon their own citizens?
For saying, “I believe in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your prophet Muhammad ever do to save mankind?”, a Christian woman named Asia Bibi is on death row in Pakistan, where “wounding [Muslims’] religious feelings” is a crime and blaspheming Muhammad is punishable by death. Pakistan doesn’t have the First Amendment. Americans in the United States are in no danger of execution for testifying to their religious beliefs. But the Asia Bibi case illustrates the utter futility of attempting to keep Muslims from ever being offended — unless we are willing to give up our right to freedom of speech entirely.
Americans should not be complacent about First Amendment protections. Reminding readers that the divide separating “treasonous and seditious speech and speech that is simply unwelcome to the government” has proven controversial throughout U.S. history, Spencer avers:
The Sedition Act [of 1791] and the Espionage Act [of 1917] demonstrate the U.S. government has placed severe restrictions on the First Amendment’s protection of the freedom of speech in the past, and indicate that it could do so again in the future. This history also shows that the First Amendment protections of free speech are most likely to be curtailed in a time of serious and imminent threats to the nation. That time may be upon us now.
Spencer emphasizes one particularly alarming Obama administration reaction to the 9/11/2012 jihad massacre at Benghazi — “scapegoating a video [and subsequently the videographer] criticizing Muhammad” — which illustrates such curtailment, “placing the onus on freedom of speech.” He adds: “The unmistakable implication was that if only Americans would not criticize Muhammad, attacks of this kind wouldn’t happen.” Worse still, two days following Barack Obama’s surreal Islamic blasphemy law-compliant pronouncement to the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2012, that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” America’s first Sharia blasphemy law victim, Egyptian Coptic Christian Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, producer of the Innocence of Muslims video, was arrested, declared a “danger to the community,” and imprisoned without bail. He was incarcerated for 12 months.
Devoid of First Amendment equivalent laws, governed by Left statists marinated for decades in cultural relativist claptrap ideology, and subject to the same forces of Islamization by Muslim immigrant populations, Western Europe, as Spencer demonstrates, including Britain as well as Canada, is even further along the trajectory towards self-inflicted full compliance with Sharia blasphemy law.
Perhaps the most illuminating and disheartening chapter of The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Free Speech (and Its Enemies) chronicles progressive Western supplication to Islam since Ayatollah Khomeini’s February 14, 1989 fatwa condemning novelist Salman Rushdie to death for his The Satanic Verses, and its perceived insults to the Muslim creed and Islam’s prophet. Spencer provides an especially astute observation regarding a follow-up Khomeini fatwa denying Rushdie any leniency for repenting, and offering a reward for any non-Muslim willing to execute the beleaguered author:
The invitation to non-Muslims to murder Rushdie was significant: Khomeini was inviting non-Muslims to share Muslim sensibilities regarding Rushdie’s alleged offense, and trying to induce them to do so by the prospect of financial reward. It would take years for this invitation and foreigners and non-Muslims to kill Rushdie to evolve into the “shaming,” as Hillary Clinton would put it, of those who dared to decline to participate in the de facto implementation of Islamic blasphemy laws. Clinton’s “peer pressure an shaming” imperative demonstrated that, in the two decades between the Rushdie fatwa and her endorsement of UNHRC 16/18 [i.e., the United Nations Human Rights Commission’s “defamation of religion” resolution which riveted upon Islam and was aggressively lobbied for by the UN’s Muslims nation members], non-Muslims had become the principal enforcers of Sharia blasphemy law in the West.
Drawing upon his shared experience with journalist and activist Pamela Geller in the wake of the May 3, 2015 Garland, Texas, jihadist attack on a staid exhibit of historical and contemporary depictions of Muhammad, Spencer concludes:
It is not an offensive act, but ultimately an act in defense of Western civilization to show Islamic jihadists that their violent threats will not cow me and that I will not allow violent intimidation to rule the day, and that I will not offend them in any larger sense by treating them as if they were demented children who cannot control their actions and must necessarily kill in the face of being offended. It was the murderous jihadis who made drawing Muhammad the flash point of the defense of free speech, not Pamela Geller, and I.
It is they who, by their determination to murder 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 that 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 a huge segment of the Western political and media elites are ready, if not eager to kneel, daring not to “provoked” their new masters.
A quarter century after Hiskett’s Cassandra-like warning about the liberty-crushing peril of acquiescing to Islam within Western societies, Robert Spencer has meticulously documented its most dire consequences: de facto elimination of free speech criticism of the Muslim creed — and, ultimately, free expression, overall. Spencer’s courageous and irrefragable analysis is simultaneously a tocsin of imminent calamity, and a clarion call to action in defense of free speech, our most fundamental, keystone liberty. Western freedom-loving citizens must help bring his message to American political and religious leaders before our liberties are transmogrified by the global Muslim “umma,” seeking unabashedly (since 1981) to impose “The Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights,” i.e., Sharia totalitarianism.