by Adam Turner*
Recently, French Islamists (presumably) firebombed the office of French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo for its speech. Simultaneously, Charlie Hebdo‘s website was also taken down in a cyber-attack by a Turkish hacker. The firebombing and hacking occurred just one day after the magazine, which has a history of equal opportunity offensiveness, cheekily announced that the Islamic Prophet Mohammed was going to be a guest editor for this week’s edition, “(i)n order fittingly to celebrate the Islamist Ennahda’s win in Tunisia and the NTC (National Transitional Council) president’s promise that Sharia would be the main source of law in Libya.”
The weekly’s publisher, Stephane Charbonnier, stated that for this special edition the magazine would be rebaptized “Sharia Hebdo” as a pun on Islamic Sharia law, and would feature on its cover a picture of Mohammed saying: “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter!” Not surprisingly, Charlie Hebdo‘s announcement immediately prompted threats from Islamists in France who oppose any depiction of Mohammed, however benign, as blasphemy. And just a day later, the firebombing followed.
There is really nothing new to see here. Since the Salman Rushdie affair, Islamists have steadily ramped up their pressure against free speech in the West. Any type of speech that offends their delicate Islamist sensibilities is quickly denounced, and the person (or persons) issuing it is then threatened with defamation lawsuits, violence, or even death. Increasingly often, the Islamists follow through on their threats. And just as often, those in the West cave — usually before any violence occurs — and censor themselves or apologize for their own speech.
Remember the Danish cartoons and the resulting Muslim riots? Remember the threats against South Park and Comedy Central? Remember Molly Norris going “ghost” for her suggestion of an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”? Remember the slaughter of UN workers in Afghanistan because Terry Jones burned a Koran in Florida? Remember … well, there are just too many examples to remember.
There is also nothing much new to write here. As I have already written:
At some point in the future, the U.S. [and the West in general] is going to have to make a hard choice. We can stand up to Islamist driven bullying, or we can fold our tents and give them the power to dictate what we can say or do (at first only about Islam, but later about everything).
The French get this, at least when it comes to Islamist violence directed against free speech. The publisher of Charlie Hebdo vowed to stand his ground and to publish his magazine with Mohammed on its cover. He did. In fact, he printed an extra 175,000 copies after its first print run of 75,000 sold out. Then, he and his coworkers made plans to further tweak the Islamists, with a new cover for the next week’s edition that features a cartoon of a Muslim man and a man labeled Charlie Hebdo locked in a homosexual kiss. (Some media have reported that this new cover is also a depiction of Mohammed. This does not seem to be the case.) Hundreds of Frenchmen, both ordinary and famous, attended a demonstration in Paris “in defense of the right to blaspheme.” The French prime minister, various other government ministers, the mayor of Paris, and many other prominent Frenchmen all condemned the firebombing attack, and strongly defended Charlie Hebdo‘s right to free speech. French supporters of Charlie Hebdo even included Frenchmen who “at one time or another, have threatened the magazine with defamation suits.”
If only the American press were as brave. Paris Time magazine’s bureau chief Bruce Crumley showed nothing but disdain for Charlie Hebdo‘s free speech:
Okay, so can we finally stop with the idiotic, divisive, and destructive efforts by “majority sections” of Western nations to bait Muslim members with petulant, futile demonstrations that “they” aren’t going to tell “us” what can and can’t be done in free societies? Because not only are such Islamophobic antics futile and childish, but they also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists their authors claim to proudly defy in the name of common good.
James Kitfield, National Journal‘s security correspondent, echoed Crumley. Christopher Dickey, the Paris bureau editor at Newsweek, tried to deflect the blame to the far right in France, because, he said, it rather than the Islamists had the most to gain from the attack. A major left-wing American website, the Huffington Post, “deplor(ed) the conversation that followed the attack on Charlie Hebdo‘s offices” because it did not “sufficiently condemn the ‘disrespectful’ publication, but rather suggested — shockingly — that satire be considered an acceptable ‘part of the French tradition.’” And even the mainstay of U.S. journalism, the New York Times, has been mute on the threat to free speech.
I am shocked to be saying this, but the U.S. needs to emulate the bravery of the “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” when it comes to standing up for free speech against Islamist violence. Otherwise, Islamists will continue to be emboldened and crank out new things Westerners cannot speak about. Just recently, in Switzerland, in America, and in Egypt, some Muslims have declared that another form of speech portraying the Christian cross is also a problem. In Egypt, the Islamists have even threatened and killed Copts for having it. Considering the Islamists’ rabid anti-Semitism, it is also probably safe to say that any Jewish religious symbols are considered even more of a provocation. And now, in something that probably needs to be seen to be believed, the humor-challenged Muslim radicals in the Middle East have discovered that certain toy guns are blasphemous to Islam.
Just wait until this madness spreads to the U.S. Do we really want these kinds of people determining what we can say about anything?
Adam Turner is a former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee for national security issues and is currently staff counsel for The Legal Project.
Related: Europe, Extremists, Free Speech, Islam, Media/Blogsphere