Free Speech vs. Fear

How Western press agencies are proving to Muslims that violence works.

Brisbane_charlie_hebdo_gathering_jesuischarlie_2015-01-08For those who don’t know, Charlie Hebdo is a satirical French weekly that has shown, time and time again, its courage in defending the speech rights of Western civilization to discuss and make fun of all subject matters.  Among its targets, it has made light of many of the major religions, including the Catholic Church, and Judaism.

But its efforts to ridicule Islam, radical Muslims, and Mohammed himself, have resulted in increasing violence and death for Charlie Hebdo.  In 2006, Hebdo first offended Islamists (i.e., radical Muslims) by reproducing the Danish Mohammed cartoons during that year’s international controversy.   Although many of the Danish cartoons were not deprecatory of Mohammed, the Islamists still objected to them, as they do not allow for any pictorial presentation of Mohammed.   These radical Muslims also threaten physical harm to any who depict them.  In 2011, Charlie Hebdo produced their own cartoons of Mohammed, which prompted Muslim radicals to firebomb the Hebdo offices.  But Charlie Hebdo stood tall, and with the help of sympathetic French press printed an extra 175,000 copies after its first print run of 75,000 had sold out.  Then, Hebdo further tweaked the Islamists with the following edition featuring a cartoon of a Muslim man and a man labeled Charlie Hebdo locked in a homosexual kiss.

Finally, on January 7, 2015, two Islamist gunmen entered the Charlie Hebdo offices with assault rifles and began firing at the employees.  The terrorists shouted that they were from al Qaeda in Yemen before they launched the attack, according to one witness.  Witnesses also said they heard the gunmen shouting “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” and “Allahu Akbar”.  In the end, the Islamists slaughtered 12 people (and counting), including Hebdo’s editor and several of its well-known cartoonists.

Over the next two days, these terrorists, and several other Islamist terrorists allied with them, took hostages, including at a Paris kosher market, and killed some of them, before they were neutralized by French troops.

In the immediate aftermath of these attacks, the international press and Western governments alike were awash with words of sympathy and support for Charlie Hebdo and the right to speak freely.   Even President Obama, whose Administration in the past has seen fit to cater to Islamist objections to free speech – see: his condemnation of the film of an American resident and the U.S.’s imprisonment of the Egyptian-born filmmaker, which the Administration blamed for instigating the Benghazi attack; the Administration’s complaints about, and pressure on, the Florida pastor who threatened to burn Korans; and Press Secretary Jay Carney’s 2012 statement on the earlier 2011 attack on Charlie Hebdo – produced a statement of relative strength:

The fact that this was an attack on journalists, an attack on our free press, also underscores that these terrorists fear freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  A universal belief in the freedom of expression is something that can’t be silenced because of the senseless violence of the few.

But this steadfastness will not last.  The point has long been made; watch what you say about Islam, Mohammed, Muslims, or radical Muslims.  Islamists have a three pronged strategy to silence any and all questions potentially critical of them and their faith.  Violence is only the most extreme component of that strategy.  They might instead (or also) resort to the initiation of legal proceedings, known as “lawfare” -- i.e., frivolous or malicious lawsuits which often do not even hope to succeed in court and are reluctant to reach discovery to avoid disclosing information, but which therefore seem intended, on charges of hate speech or defamation, to harass and financially crush the defendant; or to pressure applied based on political correctness, as with attempts to smear reputations by alleging “racism,” “Islamophobia,” or other epithets.  Unfortunately, the Islamists have been very effective with their strategy.

The Islamists were successful in silencing Charlie Hebdo.  And already, their success is spreading.  Jyllands-Posten, the brave Danish paper that initially produced the Danish Mohammed cartoons, announced that it will not republish Charlie Hebdo’s similar cartoons due to security concerns.   In the Jyllands-Postens editorial, they stated the violent attack – “shows that violence works.”

It certainly does.  And if the Charlie Hebdo violence doesn’t convince you, just ask Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris.  If you can find her.

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