What’s wrong with the following Associated Press headline? “Charlie Hebdo cartoon spurs French gov’t to order embassies, schools to close.”
Cartoons of Muhammad in the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo didn’t send France into lockdown. Their publication this week was a simple exercise in free speech on Islam, which Muslims in France and everywhere else in the world oppose as a violation of Islamic law (Shariah). It is Islamic rage over the fact that Islamic law is not dominant everywhere, all the time – Muslims’ signal weapon against a timid West – that drove French authorities to take security precautions, not the publication of cartoons.
What’s wrong with the following headline? “Cinemaniac: Feds question loon who set Muslim world on fire.” Again, this headline in the New York Post leaves the actual pyromaniacs out of the picture, instead demonizing an individual who made a film about Muhammad – his lawful right. Muslims set “the world” (American embassies) on fire in one more fit of jihad to punish a violation of Islamic law. Like other cycles of Islamic rage before it – whether the pretext is a Miss World pageant in Nigeria or cartoons in a Danish newspaper – this one, too, will temporarily abate, ready to flare up next time the point must be driven home: Criticism of Islam and its prophet is verboten.
This is no media flap. This is war. Islam is attempting to dominate the West by attacking the basis of the West – freedom of speech. Our leaders won’t tell us that because too many of them have already surrendered. They deplore the violence against our people and our sovereign territory, yes, but their priority is not to defend free speech but to see that Islamic speech codes are enforced. They have already decided to discard liberty for Shariah. The U.S. government and the Islamic bloc known as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) couldn’t be more in sync on this vital issue.
How to get around the First Amendment? Through “some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last year. She was speaking about the so-called Istanbul Process, the international effort she and the OIC are spearheading to see Islamic anti-“blasphemy” laws enforced around the world.
Since last week, the Obama administration has made not one but two attempts to persuade YouTube to remove “Innocence of Muslims,” the Islamic riot-button du jour. The administration has denounced and practically jumped up and down on the video clip as “the cause” of Islamic rampaging. (To its credit, YouTube owner Google so far has refused.)
Amid the rioting, President Obama called on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan for political support. Erdogan obliged by condemning violence against U.S. personnel in Libya, but he identified the video as “provocation” – indeed, all the more reason for blasphemy laws. When free speech “is in the form of a provocation,” Erdogan said, “there should be international legal regulations against attacks … on religion.” There should be domestic laws, too, he said, continuing: “Freedom of thought and belief ends where the freedom of thought and belief of others starts.”
That’s not how it works in the West. But such Shariah norms are what all of Islam – not just a “tiny band of extremists” – is pressing on us. A survey of the week’s news in the Islamic world reveals that whether terror kingpins (Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah and Indonesia’s convicted Abu Bakar Bashir) or Islamic scholar (Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayeb), whether smashing U.S. Embassy windows in Yemen or meeting in the offices of the Arab League, whether Pakistani lawyers or Hamas fighters, whether under U.S. sanctions (Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) or an Obama ally (Turkey’s Erdogan), the Islamic world is speaking in one voice. Criticism of Islam must be outlawed, and violators punished.
And more audaciously than ever. Just this week, an Iranian group increased the bounty on Salman Rushdie’s fatwa’ed head to 2.5 million euros for “insulting” Islam 23 years ago in his novel “The Satanic Verses.” The influential Union of Islamic Scholars, headed by Muslim Brotherhood spiritual adviser Yusuf al-Qaradawi, demanded that Pope Benedict XVI apologize for his 2006 address in Regensburg, Germany, linking Islam and violence. Egyptian cleric Ahmad Fouad Ashoush issued a fatwa (death sentence) against the cast and crew of “Innocence of Muslims.” The Pakistani government declared a national holiday for anti-U.S. protests. And the Egyptian government, still begging for U.S. cash, not only sentenced an Egyptian Christian to six years in jail this week for “insulting the prophet” (and Egypt’s president and a lawyer), it also issued arrest warrants for six U.S.-based Egyptians who made the “offending” film and pastor Terry Jones for promoting it.
This is what a world without the First Amendment looks like. In the eyes of the Obama White House, however, the First Amendment is just an obstacle to synchronicity with the Islamic world. They are right, of course. That makes it our lifeline to liberty.