Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald explores further the limits of free speech, exploding some common misconceptions in the process of replying to a commenter here:
A poster here at Jihad Watch has made the following absurd assertions, which are, unfortunately, widely held:
1. Did publisher Rose [Flemming Rose of Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper in which that handful of anodyne cartoons appeared] have the right to publish those cartoons, as a matter of free speech? Absolutely.
2. Did he act responsibly in doing so, knowing that homicidal maniacs would probably go absolutely nuts if he did, destroying property and probably killing people? In no possible way.
3. Did he act responsibly in deliberately extending the middle finger to Sunni Muslims in general, and not merely to those who attempted to intimidate him? Was his decision to do so any more tolerant than Islam itself? Absolutely not.
4. Could he have challenged the attempted intimidation of the Jihadists without deliberately and intentionally insulting the religious beliefs of moderate and Jihadist alike? With the greatest of ease.
5. Did Rose’s publication of those cartoons advance or retard the cause of pluralism? Absolutely the latter. Respect for the convictions of even those we disagree with is absolutely crucial to pluralism.
6. Does Rose have blood on his hands? You bet your sweet bippy.
7. Is this a free speech issue? No way.
Let’s dissect this, paragraph by numbered paragraph.
Paragraph 1 assures us that yes, Flemming Rose had a perfect right to publish those cartoons, “as a matter of free speech.” But by the time we have arrived at Paragraph 7, this has been stood on its head, and the poster answers his own question — “Is this a free speech issue?” with “No way.” So the Danish paper had a right to exercise its free speech, but this is not a “free speech” issue.
What is it then? Let’s start with the next paragraph, paragraph #2.
We are immediately confronted with that adverb “responsibly.” All of a sudden we have entered a world where the right of free speech has been modified by a very powerful, because so very vague, adjective: “responsibly.” You may exercise your right of free speech, but you must do it a certain way. You must do it — “responsibly.” So all of a sudden the burden is now on you, the one who wishes to exercise that right of free speech.
And what now should be taken into account by you is that some will take offense. And despite the classic formulation of the right of free speech offered by John Stuart Mill in “On Liberty”– the right to free speech must include the right to give offense — all of a sudden we have been transported to a different universe, where we must calculate the fanaticism of those who might take offense. And if they turn out to be fanatical enough, murderous enough, as they have proven to be in the case of these Muslim mobs, then it is “irresponsible” to have offended them in the first place. We should have “foreseen” how they would behave. In Anglo-American law, students of contracts will remember all about that: Hadley v. Baxendale. Q.E.D.
Was that Danish newspaper acting “irresponsibly”? Not at all. It was, of course (and stated openly) that it was putting to the test its right, the right of all Western peoples living under Western laws and guarantees, the right to still exercise freedom of speech. It wanted to see if Muslims were going to try to control, and limit, its exercise even within Europe. The cartoons were anodyne. The business about Muslims never permitting images of the man they call (but we Infidels do not, and are under no obligation to do so) the Prophet, is false. There are Muslim images of the Prophet all over the place, and if one consults the book “The Islamic World” put out by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (by Stuart Cary Welch, an expert on Mughal miniatures and other examples of Islamic art) one will find a discussion on p. 95 of just how common were certain images of Muhammad, such as those of him ascending to the Seventh Heaven on his strange steed al-Buraq during the Miraj or Night Journey.
Flemming Rose has testified that he had no idea that such a reaction — the economic boycott of Denmark, the recall of ambassadors, the crazed mob attacks on Danish consulates and embassies and, in a general anti-Infidel fit, on the embassies of the United States and other Western countries — was forthcoming. He could not have foreseen, and did not foresee — and it is wrong to blithely assume that Western men, rational and modest, would ever have assumed, that there would follow the publication of the cartoons the display of primitive and murderous fanaticism that did follow. He had no way of knowing that there would follow the total destruction of the last Christian church in Benghazi and the harrying out of all those Italians who still remained, and the burning down of churches in many Muslim countries, and the murder of an Italian priest in Turkey, and dozens of Christians in northern Nigeria, and so much more. Were the Danes supposed to understand that that is how Muslims all over the world would behave, that their governments would whip them up for various reasons, including the main reason — to divert attention from the local lords of misrule (the poverty in Libya, the stampede at the hajj in Saudi Arabia, the general mess all over Dar al-Islam, with the ever-present all-purpose answer: whip up hatred of the Infidels)? It is false to accuse the Danes of knowing in advance that all this would happen. Danes everywhere are now under a collective death threat all over the Muslim world. Flemming Rose himself has fled the country; who knows where those cartoonists, on whose heads bounties have been placed by assorted imams, now live? Do you think they, or Rose, or Jyllends-Posten, had any idea? Did you have any idea this would happen? Are we not continually astonished at how Muslims behave? Would you have predicted, five years ago, that someday Muslim websites would use as a recruiting tool, so proud were they of it, the videotaped decapitation of the Berg boy in Iraq, or of Daniel Pearl in Pakistan? Would any Infidel have predicted any of this?
Paragraph #3 — to call the brave refusal to kowtow, to submit, and instead to heed all the ex-Muslims such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ibn Warraq, “extending the middle finger” (as you put it so crudely) is asinine. Only such people correctly identified the problem, as did Flemming Rose. Only they told the world that this was a deliberate and sustained attempt to force dhimmitude on Europe, to make it change its laws and customs, under Muslim threats of violence and more than threats, actual acts. To be unable to see that this is hardly to “give the finger” to the Sunnis. Why, pray, to “the Sunnis”? Didn’t the Shi’a in Iran also riot, even though they are, as perhaps you were alluding to, more at ease with images of Muhammad? There was no “giving of the finger” to anyone. Every appearance by every Dane — Flemming Rose, or Juste, or Rasmussen, was entirely dignified.
Paragraph #4: You say there was another way to have challenged the atmosphere of intimidation and self-censorship that, it was felt, had descended upon Denmark and much of Western Europe. It was a way that could have been found “with the greatest of ease.” Strangely, you do not tell us how the beliefs of “moderate and Jihadist” Muslims might affect their reaction to the cartoons. And that itself is a very peculiar phrasing, since it implies that “moderate” Muslims, whom you do not define, do not believe in the Jihad — but Jihad is a duty laid out, clearly and repeatedly, for all Muslims. Any Muslim who claims not to believe in Jihad, not to believe that is in the duty, collective and sometimes individual, to participate in the relentless campaign to spread Islam all over the world until it “dominates and is not to be dominated,” is simply not a “moderate” Muslim but no Muslim at all. Jihad is central to Islam; it is practically the Sixth Pillar of Islam, as Muslim commentators have noted. See, and read deeply in, the texts of the Muslim Quranic commentators, assembled in The Legacy of Jihad. Then read, if you wish, the overwhelming scholarship by Western students of Islam also collected in that indispensable volume: indispensable both by itself, and because it will now allow scholars to follow suit, and to collect and publish all the real scholarship on Islam from the period 1880-1960 that has been allowed to be deliberately ignored, as if such people as Schacht and Abel and Margoliouth and Snouck Hurgronje and Lal and all the others simply were irrelevant, when their scholarship is impeccable, and they are a constant source of embarrassment and anguish to the apologists who have infiltrated the ranks of MESA Nostra and are now in charge of teaching young Americans about Islam. These apologists are moving heaven and earth to keep both the full texts (and intrepretative guides, such as naskh or abrogation) of Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira, away from the students, and also to keep those students either pre-brainwashed to mistrust real scholarship, or not even to allow them to find out about such scholarship.
Paragraph 5 tells us that the right of free speech should not have been exercised because Rose did not advance, but retarded, the cause of “pluralism.” What does this mean? Islam does not believe in pluralism. It never has. It never will. It believes that “Islam is to dominate and is not to be dominated.” The entire history of Islamic conquest and subjugation of non-Muslims, whether Jews or Christians, Zoroastrians or Hindus, Buddhists or Confucians, shows that that is meant. Islam is not to co-exist as an equal with any other faith — so the Western idea of “pluralism” has no meaning. If “pluralism” is taken advantage of in the Western world by Muslims, that is only temporary, until such time as they are numerous enough, and powerful enough, to bring about the changes in local laws, customs, manners, and understandings that will allow Islam to dominate and Muslims to rule. There is not a single counter-example to this in the long 1350-year history of Muslim conquest, from Spain to East Asia. And one can see, today, in all the lands where Islam rules, the emptying out of the non-Muslim populations, from the Hindus who over the last 50 years have had to leave Pakistan and Bangladesh, to the steady elimination of the Christians in Turkey over the past century, to the constant persecution, and sometimes mass murder, of Christians in the Sudan, in Nigeria (the Biafra war, fought in self-defense against what Col. Ojukwu carefully described as a “Jihad”), and indeed the assault on Maronites in Lebanon, Copts in Egypt, the Christians who managed to remain in Algeria and Libya and elsewhere in the Maghreb, and all kinds of other non-Muslim populations wherever they happened, unhappily, to find themselves under rule by Muslims.
“Respect for the opinions of others” has nothing to do with pluralism — or rather, no one deserves respect just because they exist. What if a belief is not worthy of respect? Why should Infidels respect for one minute a belief-system as antipathetic to art, music, free and skeptical inquiry, and to their own beliefs, to their own desire to live unmolested and unsubjugated — why does Islam deserve the respect of Infidels? Doesn’t the contents of a particular belief-system first have to be analyzed? Are we not entitled to withhold respect, which is not a party-favor that one simply distributes like confetti?
And even if this or that belief or system somehow merited “respect,” that does not trump the right to exercise free speech. One may deplore a cartoon as exhibiting bad taste, or see through the obvious sensationalism of such non-art works as Serrano’s Piss Christ. But one does not shut it down or make death threats. Had Muslims simply quietly expressed some kind of dignified sorrow at those cartoons, or ignored them altogether, one might think of them differently today. As it is, whatever modicum of respect some might have had has been completely lost in the worldwide display of murderous rage, and the taqiyya sentiments of the so-called “moderates” (e.g. Ihsanoglu of the O.I.C.), with their transparent nonsense and attempts to throttle, through the passage of laws, the right of free speech recognized in the Western world and by the rest of the civilized world. That right, of course, is not recognized by any Muslim country — they respect, and adhere to, a document quite different from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights, which makes every individual right subject to Islam and the Shar’ia — which is to say, subject to the principles and Holy Law of Islam. And those principles flatly contradict every single one of the rights of individuals which the advanced world takes for granted.
Most grotesque of all, in this grotesque effort, is the blaming of Rose and not the fanatical mobs, for the “blood” of those killed: “Does Rose have blood on his hands?” asks the poster. And he does not stay for anyone else to answer, but answers himself, in the unseemly style with which he seems quite satisfied: “You bet your sweet bippy.”
So it was Rose who was responsible for the murder of the Italian priest in Turkey, and not the Turkish boy who shot him. It was Rose who beat to death those Christians in northern Nigeria, including that priest and several young children. It was Rose who led the charge and set fire to those churches in Nigeria and Benghazi, in Libya, and in Indonesia and Pakistan, and Rose who led the charge on the Danish embassies and consulates, and American embassies and French embassies, and whatever else could be found that represented the “Infidels” who are always and everywhere to be blamed for everything, if you view the universe through the prism of Islam.
And that is how this poster and so many other wise heads in the Western world have put the entire burden of the victims, living and dead, animate and inanimate, of the deliberately whipped-up hysteria and hate exhibited by Muslim mobs all over the world, on the frail shoulders of the fearless Danish editor, Flemming Rose. Rose’s crime was to stand up for free speech. In this he was seconded by others, though not by the pusillanimous major newspapers, not by The New Duranty Times in what is its least finest hour since its scant coverage of the Nazi murders of Jews in the 1930s and then, at industrial strength, in the 1940s (see Professor Laurel Leff’s books).
And this is how, having started with the question: Did Rose “have the right to publish those cartoons, as a matter of free speech?” and then answering it “Absolutely,” the poster managed, by the crazed and cruel (il)logic of his posting, to end up declaring that in fact that “right” is not existent, he did not “absolutely” have that right at all, or rather, he had the “right” but had no right to exercise the right. In this the poster lays bare the logic of all those in the West who have begun by affirming that of course they value the freedom of speech, but“¦
In other words, you must realize that you “absolutely” have the right but you have no right to exercise the right. You may not exercise it precisely to the extent that those who may take offense will be primitive, fanatical, murderous. And the more murderous, primitive, fanatical they are, the more cunningly and meretriciously their assorted lords of misrule harness that hysteria and hate to divert attention from those examples of misrule, and onto the hated Infidel. That Infidel is hated because Qur’an and Hadith and Sira have prepared Muslim minds to hate the Infidel. They have inculcated from early on the need, the right, the positive duty (yes, “absolutely”) to hate that Infidel, not to take him as a friend (or only feigningly so, to promote Islam), not to do him favors, not to see him as anything but a creature who stands in the way of the spread of Islam, and hence to be conquered, not necessarily through military means, but through any means that present themselves (economic boycott and bribery, Da’wa, demographic conquest, propaganda of every kind) and that prove most effective.
So by the poster’s logic, one should still exercise that right of free speech. But be sure you do not use it to offend anyone who, in taking offense, has a demonstrated propensity to burn down embassies and churches and other buildings, and beat people to death, or shoot a priest or two. That wouldn’t be right. And you, like Flemming Rose, would have only yourself to blame.
No, make sure that you offend only those whose reaction, upon taking offense, might be to write a letter to the editor. Or nurse a private sorrow. You know — take a look at how Christians and Jews have behaved when they or their beliefs have been mocked in some way. So they are fair game. Buddhists too. Hindus as well — except when they are maddened, in India, by some Muslim outrage that goes beyond free speech, such as when Hindu pilgrims on a train are burned alive. What cruel and cynical casuistry. What indifference to free speech, the product of centuries, tossed overboard in order — in order to make peace, or rather to appease, those who wish to impose their view of what we can say, what we can write, what we can publish, in our own lands.