Astounding. But alas, not surprising. in “Narcissism on Stilts,” Harold Evans in the New York Sun (via Melanie Phillips, with thanks to PRCS) recalls what happened at the Guardian’s Hay-on-Wye Festival this year:
Something similar happened at this year’s Hay-on-Wye festival, sponsored by the Guardian, where a five-person panel discussed “Are there are any limits to free speech?” One of the Muslim panelists said if anyone offended his religion, he would strike him. A lawyer, Anthony Julius, responded that Jews had lived as minorities under two powerful hegemonies, Christian and Muslim, and had been obliged to learn how to deal nonviolently with offense caused to them by the sacred scriptures of both. He started by referring to an anti-Semitic passage in the New Testament “” which passed without comment. But when he began to list the passages in the Koran that denigrate Jews, describing them as monkeys and pigs, the panelists went ballistic. One of them, Madeline Bunting of the Guardian, put her hand over the microphone and said words to the effect, “I am not going to sit here and listen to any criticisms of Muslims.” She was cheered, and not one of the journalists in the audience from right or left uttered a word about free speech “” not hate speech, mind you, but free speech of a moderate nature.
It is understandable that the leaders of the Muslim community are sensitive to a stereotype of Muslims as enemies of the people. The vast majority “” in Britain and certainly here “” are decent, law-abiding citizens, and they deserve our sympathy and respect. But it is undeniable that terrorist crimes are committed by Muslims, and leaders in their communities have an obligation to denounce the jihadists. Symptomatic of the moral queasiness is the protest in Britain by 38 Islamic organizations, together with three members of the House of Commons and three of the House of Lords, who blame terrorism not on the jidhadists but on the foreign policy of Tony Blair and George Bush.
This attitude is, at the least, unhistorical. Islamic radicals were using Afghanistan as a base to plot murder, climaxing in 9/11, long before the ill-judged invasion of Iraq. In fact, they were plotting when the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was moving to a peaceful resolution. By attacking Mr. Blair instead of Osama bin Laden, the protesters in the Muslim community and their nursemaids in news organizations give the radicals a free pass and feed a sense of grievance among perennially disgruntled youth. Maybe the latest terrorist news “” a plot to flood the subways under the Thames “” will give second thoughts to all those well-meaning battalions of left and right and leaders of the Muslim community who have yet to see an anti-terrorism measure they approve.
The free pass is extraordinary in light of the deaths in Britain, the conviction last week of a man plotting to blow up the London subways, and the public warning last week by the head of British intelligence, who traditionally remains anonymous, that 30 more plots were in the offing.
These are the topics that should be worrying the press and broadcast organizations “” that for all their brilliant staffers, resources, and reputation for authenticity, they can be fooled, and it is left to investigative Web sites to shout foul. In the Lebanon war this past summer, celebrated newspapers and television stations worldwide carried pictures showing that Israel had targeted two International Red Cross ambulances “” a fabrication of Hezbollah that investigative Web sites ultimately exposed.