June 6, 2017

QUESTION ASKED: At What Point Is Islamist Rhetoric a Crime?

Jim Geraghty:

Yesterday on Twitter, Sam Hooper gave me a little grief – perhaps deserved – for my comments on the day’s Three Martini Lunch podcast generally supportive of U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal of new measures in response to the recent Islamist terror attacks.

Hooper asked, “should someone be arrested for saying ‘I want to overthrow the US government and establish an Islamic state?” Not for actually doing it, mind you, but merely for saying the words. Are saying those words aloud a crime? If so, aren’t we getting unnervingly close to the concept of “Thought Crimes”?

It’s fair to ask that question; it’s entirely possible that my perspective on terrorism right now is emotionally clouded by the thought of those ten children, and 22 people overall, went to an Ariana Grande concert one night and never came home. Indeed, it would be odd and unnerving and inconsistent with our traditions of free expression to arrest and imprison someone for the mere expression of the thought.

(On the other hand, if you’re going to have a hate crime law the way the United Kingdom does, it’s pretty ridiculous to not apply it to someone who’s preaching violence against infidels.)

But when we’ve witnessed and endured Islamist terror attack after Islamist terror attack in one Western city after another, isn’t it fair to ask how many who call for an Islamist overthrow of the government and imposition of Sharia law are truly harmless?

This is a gray area for liberal (in the classic sense) governments. But perhaps it would clarify our thinking if we imagined what steps would be permissible and advisable if parts of the Islamic world were at actual war with the West — which they are.

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