Belmont Club

Spy versus Spy

Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Daniel Huff believe that there ought to be a Federal Law prohibiting death threats against individuals condemned for blasphemy.  Ali herself is under a sentence of death. Recently “Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris, who proposed an Everybody Draw Muhammad Day'” received Islamic death threats for her trouble.  It’s getting to be a crowd. Dozens of people are said to be hiding from similar threats all across Europe. The Norris case shows the phenomenon has well and truly crossed the Atlantic. Ali and Huff believe that new laws should be enacted to make deterrence and legal retribution more effective.

A federal law would do two things. First, it would deter violent tactics, by focusing national attention on the problem and invoking the formidable enforcement apparatus of the federal government. Second, its civil damages provision would empower victims of intimidation to act as private attorneys general to defend their rights.

But it wouldn’t fix the fundamental problem, which is the lack of will in Western goverpnments and their cultural elites that results in a minimal response to the blasphemy death threats. If the determination to oppose the death threats existed then neither Ali nor Huff would have to lobby for such laws. They would either be already enacted or unnecessary. Laws are the consequence of political will as well as the mainspring for their enforcement. Their absence is like Sherlock Holme’s dog that did not bark in the night.

Instead of waiting for the authorities to act, some individuals have proposed the equivalent of an “underground railroad” that will hide and protect individuals who evade death threats. These already exist to a greater or lesser extent. The FBI itself advised Seattle artist Molly Norris to do just that: lead the clandestine life.

[Molly Norris] on the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI … is, as they put it, “going ghost”: moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity. She will no longer be publishing cartoons in our paper or in City Arts magazine, where she has been a regular contributor. She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program—except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab.

This is tantamount to urging individuals to form their own passive underground or at least join one. If the FBI wants Norris to under, but refuses to put her in a government system, it necessarily implies that individuals have to set up their own network of safe houses, identities, secure travel arrangements, etc because the government is either unwilling or unable to defend them. That takes care of the defense. One thing an “underground railroad” cannot legitimately do, however, is take the physical offensive against their tormentors. That would constitute a law enforcement problem.

However, they could go on the virtual attack. What those under death threat could do is launch legal action from the relative safety of their underground redoubts, aiming to dismantle the above-ground infrastructure that supports their jihadi hunters. They could also devote their time under cover to developing open-source intelligence based on publicly available material. In that way, an underground versus underground war could be launched without violating any laws.

An “underground railroad” that asymmetrical with respect to their pursuers in that they’ve forsworn violence has certain advantages. It allows them to present themselves as legitimate. But the advantages of their jihadi pursuers are also considerable: they have access to military style training, unlimited violence. They have access to substantial funds and are supported, at least objectively, by the Left.  All the same, every campaign of persecution creates its own nemesis. By threatening violence against those who disagree with them the Jihadis are creating the thing they should fear most: a cadre of uncompromising opponents who won’t give up because they can’t.