The response to the publication of some anti-Muslim cartoons in a French magazine has been swift. The West has quickly condemned the drawings while Muslims are making more threats. France has closed its embassies in 22 countries and the world is bracing for another round of violence in which the hurt feelings of offended followers of Islam will prevail over the right of free speech. But the only proper response to this latest entry in the unending cycle of apologies and atrocities is to say: enough. It is time for the West to stop treating Muslim complaints about their sensibilities as if these were serious arguments. They are not. As even the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman wrote this morning, Arabs and Muslims who are whining about not getting any respect should look in the mirror.
Let’s agree that gratuitous insults directed at any faith are inappropriate at best. At worst, they serve to help stir up hatred against targeted faiths and peoples. But the point of the cartoons published this week in Charlie Hedbo is pretty much the same as the satiric graphics that ran in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005: to skewer the self-censorship of the West in talking about an Islamist world that responds to any criticism with deadly force. That is a very different cup of tea than the vile garbage that emanates from official broadcast media and newspapers in the Arab and Muslim world about Christianity but most especially Judaism, Jews and Israel. It’s time for some Western leaders, especially those whose governments have been bending over backwards to speak of their concern for Muslim sensibilities, to make it clear that they are no longer interested in playing this game.
The White House has asked YouTube to review an anti-Muslim film posted to the site that has been blamed for igniting the violent protests this week in the Middle East.
WaPo reports that YouTube already said the video didn’t violate its terms of services on Wednesday, but it has restricted access to the film in Libya and Egypt.
Over the weekend, my friend Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, was forced into a parting of the ways with his magazine’s and website’s long-time contributor, John Derbyshire. The dismissal was due to an article Derbyshire wrote for a site called Taki Magazine, taking off from the killing of Trayvon Martin.
I’m not going to rehash here the offense committed by the Derbyshire piece. Suffice it to say that this article, like much of what appears on that website and others like it, purports to take a “scientific” view of race relations according to which, inevitably, black people are helpless against DNA that supposedly causes them at once to be dumber and more violent than white people. These sorts of arguments are usually offered in a specious more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone or with an excruciatingly knowing world-weariness that serves as a secret club handshake with all those who know and are willing to accept the uncomfortable truths revealed by “science.”
For the past several years, there have been two competing narratives about Islam in America. One put forward by groups that purport to represent believers in Islam and the liberal media would have it that in the post-9/11 era, American Muslims are besieged by a wave of hatred and violence (even though there is no statistical evidence to back up such claims). The other is one articulated by critics of Islam who argue that Muslims are demanding and getting accommodations from government and other institutions that are an unconstitutional establishment of Islamic or Sharia law. Advocates of this point of view are the driving force behind efforts to enact laws that would prohibit recognition or use of Sharia law in U.S. courts. This cause has often seemed to be, at best, the result of overblown fears because, unlike in Asia and Africa where Muslim efforts to make Sharia the law of the land, there is little danger of that happening in Oklahoma or other states where anti-Sharia statutes have been proposed.
However, every now and then a story pops up which makes such fears seem more reasonable. One concerns the assault by a local Muslim on a man wearing a costume during a Halloween parade in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, last year. The attacker said the costume depicted a zombie version of the Prophet Muhammad. The attack was recorded on film and witnessed by a police officer who promptly arrested the assailant, who was later charged with harassment. But, as legal scholar Jonathan Turley notes in his blog, the judge who heard the case not only dismissed the case on the grounds that the offense to Islam was not protected speech but also lectured the victim on the wrongheaded nature of his views. Judge Mark Martin’s decision was based on the idea that the assailant, one Talaag Elbayomy, was merely defending “his culture.” Turley, who posted a video of the assault and a partial transcript of the judge’s comments, concludes that Martin’s decision “raises serious questions of judicial temperament, if not misconduct.” But I would go farther and point out that the judge’s behavior seems to reflect a bizarre notion of Muslim entitlement that is by no means unrelated to the attempt to sell the country on the myth of a post 9/11 backlash.