Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Bedrock Issue

"Whoever insults the message of Mohammed is going to be subject to capital punishment." - Anjem Choudary (source)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. (1st Amendment)

"Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of the EU's values, as is respect for all religions, Christianity, Islam, Judaism or laicism," said commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger in a press conference today. (source)

The last few days as the Islamic world has tried to shout down the mere quoting of a 14th century author quoted by the Pope, and in doing so, proved the point the long dead writer had tried to make, that Islam uses violence and coercion to get its point across, and we see they also use it to keep people in line.

Over the last few years we have seen Islam used as a blungeon by those who follow various Salafist groups: rage unleased over a group of cartoons, made worse by an Islamist preacher sneaking in a particuarly vile one in the messages that swept around the world at the spead of the internet to make his case louder. We've seen people gunned down, like Theo Van Gogh, because they've been outspoken.

In the last few days, we've seen plenty of rage stirred up by the pope's quoted words:

• In Britain, while leading a rally outside Westminster Cathedral, Anjem Choudary of Al-Ghurabaa called for the pope "to be subject to capital punishment," the Daily Mail reported.

• In Iraq, the Mujahideen's Army threatened to "smash the crosses in the house of the dog from Rome," the Jerusalem Post reported, and other groups made blood-curdling threats.

• In Kuwait, an important Web site called for violent retribution against Catholics.

• In Somalia, the religious leader Abubukar Hassan Malin urged Muslims to "hunt down" the pope and kill him "on the spot," the Age reported.

• In India, a leading imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, called on Muslims to "respond in a manner which forces the pope to apologise," according to the Daily Telegraph.

• A top Al Qaeda figure announced that "the infidelity and tyranny of the pope will only be stopped by a major attack," the Times of London reported. (source)
A nun was killed, churches bombed, the pope hung in effigy and the cross burned in various protests. Evidently for some, the only way they know how to refute the accusation that Islam is violent is to act violently.

But the real aim of this is to inflict their values upon the West, a region that has long had a history of freedom of speech, religion, expression, and the press. As one writer notes in the WSJ Opinion Journal article today, "As with Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses," which millions of outraged Muslims didn't bother to read (including Ayatollah Khomeini, who put the bounty on the novelist's life), what Benedict XVI meant or even said isn't the issue. Once again, many Muslim leaders are inciting their faithful against perceived slights and trying to proscribe how free societies discuss one of the world's major religions."

We have here an attempt, through threat, violence, temper tantrum, and intimidation to inflict Salafy style Sharia rules about how you can talk about Islam on the West. If we give into this, an attack on some of our most bedrock ideas, freedom of expression and freedom of belief, we will be opening a pandora's box, because there will be more to follow.

This is an issue that affects both the right and the left - the right to discourse, to analyze, to disagree, in that give and take that marks our culture. This is an attack by people who want to bully us into silence. If this is truly who we are, what we believe in, it's time to speak up for it. We need more of us to say, "This attack on our right to speech will not pass," and we need to mean it. We will pay the consequences if we don't.


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