I received an email tonight that epitomizes various tendencies we have seen many times before. A Muslim writes in telling me that he has been very “docile,” that he does not support Osama, but now my actions have driven him around the bend. And what exactly have I done now? Why, it’s worse than bombing a village “to get osama’s deputy”: I have defended the cartoons of Muhammad and published them at my website.
This is a common displacement of responsibility. Of course, it rings hollow. If he has really been a peaceful fellow, he will be able to put up with a few cartoons. And this man certainly does have “every right to slur [my] parents and [my] lineage and [my] belief” — I get a good many emails every day, most of them unprintable, that do just that. While I may not think too highly of those who sent them, I am not going to kill them or threaten to do so. I may despise the artist who depicted Jesus Christ as Osama bin Laden, but that is the sort of thing that happens in a free society. I want others to have the same freedom to express themselves in better ways, even if they may give offense — but that requires all to be willing to put up with things that offend them. Living in a free society involves both the freedom to give offense and the patience to be offended.
Of course freedom of expression does have limits, but the limit is not and cannot be that that which offends some group is out of bounds. That would rule out virtually everything. The woman in the picture above is exercising her right to speak freely, and she is saying something extraordinarily offensive. In fact, it is a genuine threat. Should she be killed? Jailed? Arrested? Threatened? No, none of those.
Let her talk — but a society with a sane interest in self-defense would keep an eye on her and her friends. She has announced her approval of what she characterizes as an impending mass murder. Anyone who did so in any other context would be monitored. That’s all. Now: how does that compare to these cartoons? Did the Danish cartoonists who drew Muhammad announce their approval of mass murder? Did they recommend killing Muslims or anyone? No. Some of them noted the connection between Islam and violence, a connection jihad terrorists have been anxiously reminding us of day after day after day. And they dared contravene a law which binds none of them as non-Muslims and Danish citizens: the Islamic restriction against drawing the Prophet. If that is going to bring the violent response that the lady above and the writer below hint at, well, it was going to come eventually and would have come sometime with or without the cartoons.
I didn’t start it, I am not nurturing it, and I do blame the Muslims who have issued threats of violence, beaten up innocent people, burned flags, called for an International Day of Anger and reacted so disproportionately to the cartoons in other ways. As Ibn Warraq has noted, we in the West have nothing to apologize for and should not apologize. Indeed, we must not apologize, if we would remain free and not be cowed by threats and intimidation. We must not apologize if we hope to preserve the very freedom by which this girl in London and the gentleman below threaten us, and by which all of us can speak and write and think what we believe is true, without submitting to any totalitarian lockstep.
Make no mistake: cartoon rage is a totalitarian impulse, a threat to the basic foundations of our society.
let me introduce myself. iam a well educated muslim engineer. iam a very patient man who does not get emotionally upset easily. i did not get angry when US recently bombed a village to get osama’s deputy. iam also against the principle of osama and his principles. if your jihad watch is against monitoring the ideology of the likes of osama then iam supporting you, but please tell me how do you justify the support given by your website for the newspapers who published the cartoons of the prophet. in what way is that jihad watch. publication of these cartoons have angered the muslims all over and so am i. if you are telling me that freedom of expression means writing and telling anything and everything about anybody regardless of the feelings of the party concerned then do you mean to say that i have every right to slur your parents and your lineage and your belief, and by doing so as per you iam just expressing by freedom of speech. iam mystified.
today i have realised that jihad watch is nothing but hate site of islam in the garb of freedom. but remember one thing your fear is correct islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, how am i sure of it because iam a muslim convert. on the last note this is my first time iam involving myself in these type of issues. just think if insulting our prophet can bring out so much reaction from me who has been docile all this years, then think what this will do to hardcore jihadis from whom you are afraid of. you have started it, you are nurturing it and don’t blame the muslims for their actions because not everyone are like me who will spend fifteen minutes and write a e-mail to you and address you as Sir.