In National Review today I participate in a Symposium, “Not Child’s Play,” on the Muhammad Teddy Bear Madness in the Sudan:
This incident is another attempt to strong-arm the West into shying away from, and even prohibiting, any critical examination of Islam, precisely at a moment when jihad terrorists use Islamic texts and teachings to justify violence. If you can’t name a teddy bear Mohammad without calls for blood, you certainly can’t call for a critical reevaluation of the Islamic texts and doctrines that jihadists use to justify violence and make recruits among peaceful Muslims.
The OIC and other Islamic entities began calling for blasphemy laws after the cartoon riots of 2006. But the prohibition of blasphemy, whether it takes the form of teddy bears, cartoons, or books about Islam and Mohammad, has no place in a free society. Freedom of speech must encompass the freedom to annoy, to ridicule, and to offend, or it is hollow. The instant any person or ideology is placed off-limits for critical examination and even ridicule, freedom of speech has been replaced by an ideological straitjacket.
Will the West acquiesce in the Islamic world’s efforts to place Islam beyond criticism, when it needs to be reexamined and reformed more than ever? Or will we stand up and defend ourselves and our societal principles of free speech and free inquiry? The teddy-bear incident, as ridiculous as it is, only underscores the urgency of these questions.
All the contributions — by luminaries such as Bat Ye’or, Andrew McCarthy, and Daniel Pipes — are worth reading. Read them all.