Moderate Muslims are most in need of a robust defense of free speech, especially if it offends
L. Gordon Crovitz writes: ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” wrote biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall, summing up the view of her subject, Voltaire. The 17th-century French writer has been on many minds since last week’s Islamist atrocity in Paris. “As the news of the massacre sank in,” wrote historian Robert Darnton for the New York Review of Books, “I kept thinking of Voltaire and calling up his famous grin—lips curled and lower jaw stuck out, as if to defy anyone who might dare to pull a punch.”
“Moderate Muslims around the world most need a robust defense of free speech, especially if it offends. In the spirit of Voltaire, they’re taking great risks to challenge extremism.”
Many of us don’t share the sensibilities of Charlie Hebdo’s leftist politics and sometimes juvenile humor, but the terrorists who massacred its staff attacked a core component of French identity. “Free thought begetting light-hearted satire . . . is at the root of French character,” observed a 19th-century British history of French literature. French-style caustic satire is less common in the Anglosphere, but the Enlightenment in all forms enrages Islamists.
“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
In the 18th century, Voltaire was exiled and jailed and had his books burned. He sought ecrasez l’infame—to crush the infamous—by which he meant most forms of authority. He called Christianity “assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the most bloody religion which has ever infected this world.” He criticized Judaism and Islam. “Superstition sets the whole world in flames,” he observed. “Philosophy quenches them.”
“The many ‘Je suis Charlie’ signs and social-media hashtags show that popular support for free speech is ahead of politically correct university administrators and politicians. Brandeis University last year shamefully canceled an honorary degree for van Gogh’s Muslim associate on the film, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.”
Charlie Hebdo inherited that tradition. The Catholic Church has sued it more than a dozen times. Its murdered editor, Stephane Charbonnier, had said he hoped to carry on “until Islam is just as banal as Catholicism.” One cover featured a fundamentalist Muslim, an Orthodox Jew and the pope shouting in unison: “Charlie Hebdo must be veiled!”
Islamists can’t abide free speech. They issued a death sentence for Salman Rushdie for writing a novel, forced a Danish cartoonist into hiding, and murdered Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam for making a film. Read the rest of this entry »
From NR, The Editors: When, this spring, Brandeis University reneged on its commencement invitation to human-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, it revealed the cravenness that characterizes many of America’s leading institutions of higher education. The decision of Yale’s William F. Buckley Jr. Program to invite Hirsi Ali to New Haven as part of its speaker series has exposed the same quality in many of that school’s students.
“Even the most enthusiastic Ivy League shill should know that spending $55K a year to have one’s presuppositions obsequiously endorsed is a waste.”
In an open letter sent to Buckley Program student leaders, members of 35 campus groups say they feel “highly disrespected” by the September 15 lecture “Clash of Civilizations: Islam and the West.” The letter, drafted by the Muslim Students Association, lays out their complaints.
“But in our age of studious political correctness, where the inmates write the asylum’s curriculum, these students are happy to insulate themselves against any opinions from beyond the Old Campus Quad.”
They are concerned that “Ms. Hirsi Ali is being invited to speak as an authority on Islam despite the fact that she does not hold the credentials to do so.” They accuse Hirsi Ali of “hate speech” and express outrage that she should “have such a platform in our home.” “We cannot overlook,” they write, “how marginalizing her presence will be to the Muslim community and how uncomfortable it will be for the community’s allies.”
Their remedy, of course, is censorship. Read the rest of this entry »
Each week seems to bring another incident. Who will the thought police come for next?
How ironic that the persecutors this time around are the so-called intellectuals. They claim to be liberal while behaving as anything but. The touchstone of liberalism is tolerance of differing ideas. Yet this mob exists to enforce conformity of thought and to delegitimize any dissent from its sanctioned worldview. Intolerance is its calling card.
Each week seems to bring another incident. Last week it was David and Jason Benham, whose pending HGTV show was canceled after the mob unearthed old remarks the brothers made about their Christian beliefs on homosexuality. People can’t have a house-flipping show unless they believe and say the “right” things in their life off the set? In this world, the conservative Tom Selleck never would have been Magnum, P.I.
This week, a trail-blazing woman was felled in the new tradition of commencement shaming. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagardewithdrew from delivering the commencement speech at Smith College following protests from students and faculty who hate the IMF. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, this trend is growing. In the 21 years leading up to 2009, there were 21 incidents of an invited guest not speaking because of protests. Yet, in the past five-and-a-half years, there have been 39 cancellations.
For the Wall Street Journal, Ruth Wisse writes: There was a time when people looking for intellectual debate turned away from politics to the university. Political backrooms bred slogans and bagmen; universities fostered educated discussion. But when students in the 1960s began occupying university property like the thugs of regimes America was fighting abroad, the venues gradually reversed. Open debate is now protected only in the polity: In universities, muggers prevail.
Assaults on intellectual and political freedom have been making headlines. Pressure from faculty egged on by Muslim groups induced Brandeis University last month not to grant Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the proponent of women’s rights under Islam, an intended honorary degree at its convocation.
Ruth Wisse‘s book: “No Joke: Making Jewish Humor” (Library of Jewish Ideas) is available at Amazon.com
This was a replay of 1994, when Brandeis faculty demanded that trustees rescind their decision to award an honorary degree to Jeane Kirkpatrick, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. In each case, a faculty cabal joined by (let us charitably say) ignorant students promoted the value of repression over the values of America’s liberal democracy.
Opponents of free speech have lately chalked up many such victories: New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly prevented from speaking at Brown University in November; a lecture by Charles Murray canceled by Azusa Pacific University in April; Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state and national-security adviser under the George W. Bush administration, harassed earlier this month into declining the invitation by Rutgers University to address this year’s convocation. Read the rest of this entry »
“Once you get a taste for shutting people up, it’s hard to stop. Why bother winning the debate when it’s easier to close it down?”
The delightfully dyspeptic Mark Steyn writes: These days, pretty much every story is really the same story:
- In Galway, at the National University of Ireland, a speaker who attempts to argue against the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) programme against Israel is shouted down with cries of ‘Fucking Zionist, fucking pricks… Get the fuck off our campus.’
- In California, Mozilla’s chief executive is forced to resign because he once made a political donation in support of the pre-revisionist definition of marriage.
- At Westminster, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee declares that the BBC should seek ‘special clearance’ before it interviews climate sceptics, such as fringe wacko extremists like former Chancellor Nigel Lawson.
- In Massachusetts, Brandeis University withdraws its offer of an honorary degree to a black feminist atheist human rights campaigner from Somalia.
- In London, a multitude of liberal journalists and artists responsible for everything from Monty Python to Downton Abbey sign an open letter in favour of the first state restraints on the British press in three and a quarter centuries.
- And in Canberra the government is planning to repeal Section 18C — whoa, don’t worry, not all of it, just three or four adjectives; or maybe only two, or whatever it’s down to by now, after what Gay Alcorn in the Age described as the ongoing debate about ‘where to strike the balance between free speech in a democracy and protection against racial abuse in a multicultural society’.
I heard a lot of that kind of talk during my battles with the Canadian ‘human rights’ commissions a few years ago: of course, we all believe in free speech, but it’s a question of how you ‘strike the balance’, where you ‘draw the line’… which all sounds terribly reasonable and Canadian, and apparently Australian, too. But in reality the point of free speech is for the stuff that’s over the line, and strikingly unbalanced. If free speech is only for polite persons of mild temperament within government-policed parameters, it isn’t free at all. So screw that.
Brandeis sides with a spawn of Hamas over a champion of women’s rights.
Author’s Note: This week, capitulating to Islamic-supremacist agitation led by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Brandeis University reneged on its announced plan to present an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the heroic human-rights activist. In my 2010 book, The Grand Jihad, I devoted a chapter to the origins and purposes of CAIR, its roots in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hamas-support network, and its aim to silence critics of Islamic supremacism. In light of the continuing success of this campaign — despite a federal terrorism-financing prosecution that exposed CAIR’s unsavory background — it is worth revisiting that history. What follows is an adapted excerpt from that chapter.
Andrew C. McCarthy writes: In January 1993, a new, left-leaning U.S. administration, inclined to be more sympathetic to the Islamist clause, came to power. But before he could bat an eye, President Bill Clinton was confronted by the murder and depraved mutilation of American soldiers in Somalia. A few weeks later, on February 26, jihadists bombed the World Trade Center. The public was angry and appeasing Islamists would have to wait.
Yasser Arafat, however, sensed opportunity. The terrorist intifada launched at the end of 1987 had been a successful gambit for the Palestine Liberation Organization chief. Within a year, even as the body count mounted, the weak-kneed “international community” was granting the PLO the right to participate (though not to vote) in U.N. General Assembly sessions. And when Arafat made the usual show of “renouncing” terrorism — even as he was orchestrating terrorist attacks in conjunction with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other Islamist factions — the United States recognized him as the Palestinians’ legitimate leader, just as the Europeans had done. Arafat blundered in 1991, throwing in his lot with Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War, and that seemed to bury him with the Bush 41 administration. But Clinton’s election was a new lease on life. Read the rest of this entry »
Ayaan Hirsi Ali joined Megyn Kelly Wednesday night to react to Brandeis University rescinding the honorary degree they said they were giving her. Hirsi ALi blasted the “very feeble excuse” Brandeis gave and the way any critic of Islam is threatened with “violent repercussion” just for speaking out.
Hirsi Ali said, “For the last 12 years I have systematically been condemned by Muslim individuals… any time that I bring up the treatment of women in Islam.” She said that the people who protested the Brandeis honor cherry-picked from various interviews she’s done over the years “to fit their own narrative.” She also found it striking that Brandeis didn’t think to Google her ahead of time to learn what she’s actually said and only rescinded the honorary degree after the uproar.
Hirsi Ali pointed out that in the United States, if you insult Jews, Christians, Mormons, or what have you, the worst you get are angry letters. But, she continued, there is a “fear” of “violent repercussion” if you dare criticize Islam in any way.