Why we did it, and what’s at stake, as explained in my talk at the notorious AFDI/Jihad Watch Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest. Transcript as published in FrontPage:
Below are the video and transcript to Robert Spencer’s speech at the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest, sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative and held in Garland, Texas.
Robert Spencer: Geert Wilders mentioned that the PEN Writers Association that was founded in order to defend the freedom of expression is giving an award to the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists — Pamela spoke about this as well — and that 145 of the members of PEN, including some very prominent writers — Joyce Carol Oates, who you may’ve heard of, and some others — have pulled out. Because they say that it is manifesting cultural arrogance. They said that the French manifested cultural arrogance in drawing Muhammad and allowing Charlie Hebdo to draw Muhammad.
They don’t seem concerned about the cultural arrogance of the assassins who murdered these cartoonists in the name of a blasphemy law that the cartoonists did not hold. They didn’t care about that imposition of one culture over another; they only cared that the French were following their own long tradition of free expression.
Now, that’s a terrible thing for an organization that’s designed to defend the freedom of expression. It’s a terrible descent. And it bespeaks a descent in our whole culture in general.
You will see around the room — you probably have already noticed as you were coming in — that we have some of the entries into the cartoon contest blown up. And we also have interspersed some historical images of Muhammad.
Now, it’s very noteworthy — take a look as you’re going out this evening — take a look at some of these, because you’ll find them very interesting. Some of them are ancient Persian images made by Muslims. And nobody got killed. Nobody got death threats. Nobody was called a racist. They depict Muhammad cursing women in hell, they depict Muhammad beheading the Qurayza Jews, of which he massacred between 600 and 900, according to his earliest biographer. These are depictions by Muslims of Muhammad.
Some of them you’ll see, his face is covered. But in some of them, he’s just depicted as he is in the cartoons that are more contemporary.
Even more important, there are some images you will find from earlier centuries in the West, when we did have more cultural confidence. Dante Alighieri, the author of “The Divine Comedy” — it’s a three-part allegory, one of the greatest poems in Western civilization, the great Italian poem. And he goes into hell and then into purgatory, and then into heaven.
And in hell, he meets all these people who’ve been damned to hell. One of them is Muhammad. Because Dante was a Christian. And he viewed Muhammad as somebody who had tried to turn people away from the truth faith and was thus condemned.
His depiction of Muhammad in hell was made into a fresco which is on the wall of a church in Italy. It’s been there for centuries. Now it’s under armed guard. It was never under armed guard in the 17th century, the 18th century, the 19th century. Only now.
Why is that? Because now Muslims are, in the first place, much more present in the West than they were. But they’re a much more aggressive presence in the West. And that is an aggression fueled in large part by our own cultural weakness.
A very good friend of mine told me right before I left for this event that — you’re just poking them in the eye, you’re trying to provoke them. You know, why are you doing that? You’re the one that’s being offensive. And this was a friend, you know, and I was kind of taken aback. And I had to stop and think — well, what exactly is wrong with that?
And what’s wrong with that is that this is only offensive because Muslims have made it offensive. This is only something, as Geert Wilders said, that needs armed guards because Muslims will kill you for drawing Muhammad. It would never be offensive otherwise.
Consider this — the murderers of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists had an accomplice. And as they were murdering the cartoonists, the accomplice went to a kosher supermarket in Paris and murdered four Jews. What have they done? They didn’t draw Muhammad. How did they offend Muslims? They offended Muslims by being Jewish.
Okay, so we have to not draw Muhammad, because that’ll poke them in the eye and offend them. And then we have to not be Jewish, because that will poke them in the eye and offend them. And then what? Okay, I guess pork and alcohol are right out. Okay, and then what? Take — humor, yes.
And the Islamic State — the Islamic State is beheading people and taking sex slaves, and subjugating the Christians under the hegemony of the Islamic law. And they’re doing it all on the basis of Koranic directives. And so that’s all Islamic. So I guess we can’t say a word about that. Because that would poke them in the eye and offend Muslims.
And you see, step by step by step, we’re ending up going in the direction of accepting Islamic law. And every Western media outlet that refused to publish the Muhammad cartoons was accepting Islamic blasphemy law.
And so I’d say it’s time for a little cultural self-assertiveness. In the 19th century, they didn’t have these problems. There’s the famous story that I’ll close with from the British Raj, the British colonization of India. And in India, the Hindus — not the Muslims, but the Hindus — had the practice of sati, where the widow, the wife of a man who had just died, would be thrown upon his funeral pyre and be burnt to death. And the British outlawed it.
And the Hindu delegation came to General Sir Charles Napier, who was the governor general of the area, and they said to him — you can’t outlaw this, this is our culture. And he said — oh, it’s your culture, oh. Well then, very well. You live out your culture. But we also have a culture. And our culture is that men who force women to throw themselves on fires will be hanged by the neck until dead.
So you live out your culture, and then we’ll live out ours.
In the West, we should be saying exactly that. Yeah, okay, you’re going to kill for people who draw Muhammad? Then we will protect people who draw Muhammad. And we will hunt you down and kill you for trying to kill people for drawing Muhammad.
The freedom of speech is not an end in itself. The freedom of speech was put into the Constitution as our fundamental protection against tyranny. If the governing authority or any power that rules in whatever way — and as Pamela noted, you want to know who rules over you, then find out who you cannot criticize. The people who have the clout, the people who have the power — if they are able to silence by the rule of law, by the force of law, those whose opinions they don’t like, then a free society is dead. Then they can do whatever they wish unopposed, and dissent is impossible.
And that’s what this is all about. This is not about insulting Muslims or offending Muslims or poking them in the eye, or even about drawing Muhammad, ultimately. It’s just that that’s where they’re making the line, and that’s where we’re going to stand. And we’re going to stand against tyranny and for freedom.
And so thank you so much for coming. And I will turn the proceedings over to Pamela to close the night’s event.