From Rushdie to Geller: The Steady Erosion of Free Speech

From Rushdie to Geller: The Steady Erosion of Free Speech, by Robert Spencer.

When the Islamic Republic of Iran called for his death for insulting Islam, Salman Rushdie became an international hero of free speech. Later defenders of this fundamental freedom, however, have not fared as well …

Rushdie was hailed as a hero, a living martyr for the freedom of speech. Writer Christopher Hitchens noted, “We risk a great deal by ceding even an inch of ground to the book-burners and murderers.” Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz denounced Khomeini’s fatwa as “intellectual terrorism”. …

It may have been the high-water mark of pop culture support for the freedom of speech.

On the evening of May 3, 2015, I was standing next to Pamela Geller at the venue of our just-concluded American Freedom Defense Initiative/Jihad Watch Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest in Garland, Texas, when one of our security team ran in and told us that there had been a shooting outside. It is safe to say that if the jihadis had succeeded in their aims, we would both be dead.

Since that day, Pamela Geller has never been safe; she is now the Islamic State’s number one target in the United States. ISIS quickly issued a communiqué on the Garland attack, including a death fatwa against Geller. The threat was reinforced by subsequent jihadi attempts on Geller’s life. …

The response now from the elite? They’ve learned to shut up and not criticize the seventh century culture from Arabia:

“It’s needlessly provocative,” said New York Representative Peter King, whose hearings on Muslim radicalization in 2011 had themselves been widely termed “provocative.” King said he thought our event was “insulting someone’s religion.”

Coren and King were expressing the dominant view. Other more prominent voices soon piled on, including even voices on the right …

After being on the receiving end of a chorus of condemnation from the media, Geller was harshly questioned by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. Geller told Camerota, “The fact that we have to spend upwards of $50,000 in security speaks to how dangerous and how in trouble freedom of speech is in this country. And then we have to get on these news shows, and somehow we are, those that are targeted, those that were going to be slaughtered, are the ones who get attacked speaks to how morally inverted this conversation is.”

The dominant line was essentially that if Pamela Geller and I had just left well enough alone, all would have been well.

There is a fundamental misunderstanding and denial about a fundamental incompatibility:

The erroneous assumption behind the widespread condemnation of Muhammad cartoons is that to make America compatible with Islam, all we have to do is give just a little. What non-Muslims have to give up is the right to draw and publish cartoons of Muhammad. And surely that’s not so great a sacrifice. Why insist on being gratuitously “provocative”?

The problem with this rosy little scenario is that the jihadis are already “provoked.”

It was the murderous jihadis who made drawing Muhammad the flash point of the defense of free speech, not Pamela Geller. 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 the 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.

“Islam” means “submit”. It’s not a secret.

hat-tip Stephen Neil