In her latest Washington Times column, “Preserve free speech,” Diana West puts her finger on the problem with National Review’s Rich Lowry’s facile dismissal of books which, in his view, attempt to “discredit Muhammad and Islam.”
Of greater concern is the philosophical battle National Review declined to fight, and the reasons the magazine declined to fight it. According to National Reveiw Editor Rich Lowry’s post at National Review Online, because the magazine’s book service is put together by an independent publisher, and since the CAIR-provoking copy wasn’t written by a National Reveiw staffer, Mr. Lowry saw no capitulation in removing the Menezes book at CAIR’s behest. (National Review this week returned “The Sword of the Prophet” to its bookstore.) “In contrast,” he wrote, “Robert Spencer and some others on the right feel very strongly that it is important to discredit Mohammed and Islam as such in order to win the war on terror. That’s certainly their prerogative, but it is not the tack National Review has taken.”
This statement reveals an unnerving disconnect. The study undertaken by Mr. Spencer and kindred Islamic scholars isn’t calculated to “discredit Mohammed and Islam” — as if “discrediting” Mohammed and Islam would convince jihadis to make peace to begin with. The fact is, a thorough examination of the expansionist, religious-cum-political ideology of Islam is vital to any successful defense against its jihadist expression. Ignoring facts about Mohammed and Islam, given their role in animating terrorism, would be like ignoring facts about Marx and Communism in that earlier ideological struggle National Review championed — worse, even, considering the inspiration Muslims draw from the personal life of Mohammed.
But what may be most damaging about National Review’s act of reference-cleansing is that it helps legitimize CAIR’s drive to tar all criticism of Islam as “hate speech” and thus squelch it. This, of course, was roughly what an Australian court ruled against Preacher Scot. It can’t happen here? Maybe not. But the only way to preserve freedom of speech is to speak freely.