On September 11, 2001, Mohamed Atta told passengers on the hijacked jetliner racing toward the Twin Towers in New York: “Just stay quiet and you’ll be okay….Nobody move. Everything will be okay. If you try to make any moves, you’ll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.”
Atta’s words are emblematic of the global effort to destroy the freedom of speech, the fundamental bulwark against tyranny and the foundation of any free society. The war against free speech has been going on for decades. In 1989, the mullahs of the Islamic Republic of Iran declared war on this fundamental freedom when the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a death fatwa against Rushdie for his supposed blasphemy in The Satanic Verses. Rushdie went into hiding and was hailed in the West as a hero, a living martyr for the freedom of speech.
That was then. A lot has changed since 1989. When on May 3, 2015, two jihad terrorists traveled from Phoenix, Arizona to Garland, Texas in order to commit mass murder at our American Freedom Defense Initiative’s Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest, my colleague and fellow organizer of the event, Pamela Geller, was harshly criticized on both the Left and the Right (her critics included Donald Trump, Bill O’Reilly and Laura Ingraham). Few stood up for the freedom of speech; most took it for granted that Americans should curb their expression to avoid offending Muslims.
From Rushdie to Garland was a steep descent. Rushdie was hailed as a hero; Geller was excoriated — for doing the same thing. The victory of the foes of the freedom of speech is almost complete. Either America and the West will stand now against attempts to suppress the freedom of speech by violence, or will submit and give the violent the signal that we can be silenced by threats and murder. Right now it looks as if submission is the West’s choice.
After six months of deliberations, the Royal Theater in Copenhagen has decided against a play based on the Indian-British author Salman Rushdie’s controversial novel “The Satanic Verses”. For many, this reflects how Denmark is pandering to its growing Muslim population, and it is a painful reminder of Rushdie’s troubled relationship with Denmark.
Playwright Hassan Preisler, who is behind the idea of turning Rushdie’s 1988 novel into a play, believes that the national theatre is simply afraid to stage the performance because of its anti-Islamic sentiment and the possible storm it may stir.Morten Kirkskov, head of the theater’s dramatic department, who as late as January this year got in touch with Rushdie’s literary agent about copyright issues, said that fear had nothing to do with the decision.
“Fear played no role in our decision,” Kirkskov assured Danish Radio. “It never crossed our mind.”Even theater director Morten Hesseldahl guaranteed that the decision was not dictated by the still-boiling controversy surrounding “The Satanic Verses.”
“The world is full of controversial books. Just because a book is controversial and some say it is, it would not prevent us from staging it anyway. In this case, we have simply decided to set up two other novels in this period,” Hesseldahl said, as quoted by the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
Incidentally, this is not the first incident to have soured Rushdie’s relationship with Denmark. In late 1996, the Indian-born author was due to visit Copenhagen but then-prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen canceled the visit due to security reasons. Rasmussen’s decision was derided by Rushdie and others as far-fetched and made-up in order to secure a lucrative Danish cheese export deal to Iran, where a death warrant has been issued for the novelist. Rasmussen’s revocation was challenged by British intelligence, which stated that Rushdie did not pose a threat.This was regarded as a massive political blunder by Rasmussen, who later publicly apologized to Rushdie and re-invited the author back to Copenhagen. Rushdie triumphantly returned a few months later, humiliating Rasmussen by appearing in public drinking beer and clearly unconcerned about any security risk….