Firebombing Free Speech In Paris

Muslims destroy a magazine’s offices after it satirized Muhammad.

Islamic supremacists have firebombed and caused extensive damage to the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine in Paris, after it ran an issue featuring Islam’s prophet Muhammad as the guest editor.

Some Muslims didn’t get the joke. Recently the magazine’s website was hacked; the hackers left this message: “You keep abusing Islam’s almighty Prophet with disgusting and disgraceful cartoons using excuses of freedom of speech. Be Allah’s curse upon you!” The firebombing followed shortly thereafter.

The destruction of the Charlie Hebdo offices is the ugly obverse of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s ongoing campaign to compel Western states to criminalize criticism of Islam, including discussion of how Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and supremacism. The objective of this campaign, of course, is to render Western countries mute and hence defenseless against the advancing jihad.

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the OIC’s secretary general, has explained that Islam is under attack and must be defended. That Islam would not be “under attack” were not so many Muslims committing acts of violence and hatred in its name does not faze him for one second. The OIC is dedicated to getting the United Nations to approve a “legal instrument” that would criminalize “Islamophobia,” which “cannot be dealt with,” Ihsanoglu declared, except through “a robust political engagement” – that is, restrictions on the freedom of speech. Abdoulaye Wade, the President of Senegal and chairman of the OIC, made this point explicit several years ago: “I don’t think freedom of expression should mean freedom from blasphemy. There can be no freedom without limits.”

Ihsanoglu has expressed his pleasure with the success of this campaign: “In confronting the Danish cartoons and the Dutch film ‘Fitna’, we sent a clear message to the West regarding the red lines that should not be crossed. As we speak, the official West and its public opinion are all now well-aware of the sensitivities of these issues. They have also started to look seriously into the question of freedom of expression from the perspective of its inherent responsibility, which should not be overlooked.”

The pressure to accommodate Muslim demands to place Islam off-limits to critical discussion has been met with widespread success. While this self-censorship is presented as an act of “tolerance,” in reality it is a deliberate erosion of core Western concepts of free expression, which is an indispensable foundation of the American Revolution and of republican government in general. And we are surrendering it, gradually and voluntarily, to those who seek to impose on us a value system that elevates the sanctity of Islam over freedom.

Last August, the International Islamic News Agency reported that Secretary of State Clinton had agreed to “coordinate” with Ihsanoglu on ways in which “defamation of religions” could be prevented – an operation that cannot possibly be performed without placing freedom of speech restrictions into law, and giving some government agency the power to determine what is “hate speech” and what isn’t.

Given Islamic supremacist groups’ universal tendency to characterize all honest discussion of Islam’s violent and supremacist texts and teachings as “hate speech,” that prospect should cause grave concern to every free person. It was to prevent such totalitarian coercion that the Founding Fathers formulated the First Amendment guarantee that Congress would make no law infringing upon the freedom of speech. That freedom stands as our fundamental bulwark against tyranny, preventing a ruler from stifling dissenting voices that call his rule to account. The First Amendment guarantee of the freedom of speech is the basis for all our freedoms, for without it all the rest could be taken from us, and not a word could be raised in protest.

While this legal jihad advances apace, some Islamic supremacists are not inclined to be patient. And so in advance of legal restrictions on speech about Islam, they resort to violence – as they did in Paris Wednesday morning. Yet Charlie Hebdo’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier, who is known as Charb, was defiant: “If we can poke fun at everything in France, if we can talk about anything in France apart from Islam or the consequences of Islamism, that is annoying.” Indeed, and far worse than annoying: it would spell the destruction of free society.

“We no longer have a newspaper,” Charbonnier added. “All our equipment has been destroyed or has melted” in the bomb blast. “We cannot, today, put together a paper. But we will do everything possible to do one next week. Whatever happens, we’ll do it. There is no question of giving in.”

Bravo. If only everyone in the West were similarly determined to stand for freedom.

The damage is done to Charlie Hebdo’s offices. Now comes the challenge. Will France stand up for the freedom of speech? Will France and the West capitulate to the calls that are sure to come in the wake of this bombing to stop “provoking” Muslims, and to effectively rule Islam off-limits for criticism? The worst aspect of this firebombing is that there are certain to be voices in the West over the next few days – some of them no doubt quite prominent and respected – who will call on Westerners to be more “sensitive” toward Muslims, and to end this unacceptable hurting of Muslim feelings by drawing cartoons of Muhammad and making him the honorary editor-in-chief of a comedy magazine.

Less numerous will be the voices telling the Muslim community in Paris, and Muslims all over the West, to grow up, and to stop reacting with firebombs and threats and murder to everything that offends them. The almost certain fact that such voices will be less numerous than those calling for “sensitivity” in the face of violent intimidation and thuggery is as good an indication as any that Western society is desperately ill, and that when it comes to Islam, leaders on both sides of the Atlantic have lost all sense of perspective. Before they regain it, we are certain to be in for some very rough days ahead – days that will make the firebombing of Charlie Hebdo look like a gesture of mild disapproval.

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