This Valentine’s Day should be dedicated to the lovers of free speech who are living in cultures that are committing suicide.
It seems hard to believe, but it was 20 years ago today that the world was shocked to learn that some bearded cleric in Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini, could issue a death warrant against an author in Britain, Salman Rushdie, that would cause that writer to go into hiding and receive police protection for the next decade. Because the alleged offense was dressed up in the guise of insulting a religion, the leaders of other religions rushed to condemn the author for causing the trouble.
What have we learned from this?
Considering the history of the conflict between Islam and western liberal-democracies since that day, I would have to conclude very little.
Each time somebody raises their head to say or write or cartoon something about Islam, out come the religious fanatics in terrifying displays of violence and threats. But more frightening than this is the reaction of the authorities in western societies. They have taken their cue from the “leadership” displayed by the Christian and Jewish clergy towards Rushdie and have applied it to those who question either Islam or the wisdom of permitting large scale immigration from Muslim countries.
I saw Kathy Shaidle on TVO’s public affairs program, The Agenda, this week, making a point that the decline of Christianity as a popular religion has “caused” its replacement by Islam in western Europe. Not exactly. Large scale immigration of young Muslims contributes to this phenomenon, as well as aging, non-reproducing Europeans.
In Britain, it is the mouthing of the Christian clergy suggesting that Sharia law should be incorporated into Britain’s legal system that is contributing to the robustness of the Islamic project. The Christian and Jewish clergy continue to be an obstacle to understanding the threats to liberal democracy with all their nattering on about “the commonality of the faiths” and their inter-faith dialogues.
To parapharase the old Bob Dylan anthem:
Come priests, rabbis
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside raging
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a changin’
In Sweden, Belgium, France, Britain, Spain, Germany and especially the Netherlands, the “troublemakers” are suppressed to appease the angry Muslims. Muslims parade through the streets of European cities with posters and banners calling for the downfall of western societies and the replacement of their liberal-democracies with Islam and the odious Sharia law -- these would be the non-troublemakers, by the way, if you forgot to buy a program before the parade.
Politicians who speak on behalf of their constituents against this rising tide of Islamic hegemony are beaten by police or criminally charged with “disturbing the harmony” of the community. Their homes are invaded by police without warrants to remove symbols Muslims claim are offensive. At least one Dutch politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, fled to the United States when the state turned on her for raising issues that affected Muslim women in the Netherlands. Another, Geert Wilders, has been denied entry to a fellow member state of the EU, Britain.
Publishers in Britain have been forced to shred books about Muslims that might subject them to financially ruinous lawsuits from wealthy Arabs. One American publisher refused to print a novel about one of the wives of Mohammed for fear of reprisal by Muslims.
In Canada, the shameful human rights tribunals have been turned into state-supported fatwa-issuing organs for Islamic activists. Even reform-minded Muslims have been threatened with death by Muslim extremists (to date, nobody charged with the crime) and told to tone it down so that “harmony” will prevail. Despite the increasing boldness of Islamic advocates to choke off any rational discussion of Islam, Barbara Hall, Ontario’s Human Rights Commissioner, foolishly proposes even more legislation to provide better tools for Islamists to crush free speech.
Internationally, the Organization of Islamic Countries (57 members) has promulgated its own human rights code that declares the supremacy of Sharia law, notwithstanding their members prior agreement to the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights. As well, the OIC has obtained a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly to criminalize criticism of religion.
This step has enabled the state of Jordan to issue a warrant for the arrest of Geert Wilders for insulting Islam should he travel outside the territory of the Netherlands.
The mainstream media has been generally unhelpful to the cause of free speech. In Canada, they woke up very late in the game when the charade conducted by human rights tribunals against Mark Steyn and Maclean's magazine was well underway. The blogosphere was ahead of the curve on that one, and remains ahead of it.
When the MSM are not asleep at the switch they are thoughtlessly dismissing Islamic critics as a bunch of Islamophobes (bigots) – a term coined by Islamists as an aid to the politically correct police to further stifle commentary about Islam.
And they wonder why they are losing market share!
Even today, you will see pundits and columnists writing stuff like this: “Well, I don’t much like or agree with Mark Steyn or Geert Wilders, but I do support free speech.”
Why the Pontius Pilate posturing of washing your hands before making the statement about free speech? Can’t you just say that they are being unfairly targeted for their opinions, which, in a free liberal democracy they are supposed to be able to voice, without this politically correct preamble? What are you afraid of – Islamic retribution – other people in society who think there shouldn’t be free speech (people you should be shunning anyway) -- Barbara Hall?
Hmmm. On reflection, perhaps you should be afraid of Barbara Hall.
I see no silver lining.