The Jihadis Are Controlling Access To The Public Square

Abraham H. Miller Emeritus Professor, University of Cincinnati
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With guns blazing, two jihadis brought yet another despicable act of terrorism to America. The scene was Garland, Texas where the American Freedom Defense Initiative was holding an exhibit and cartoon competition featuring satirical portrayals of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Portrayals of the Muslim prophet are forbidden by Islamic law and draw outrage from Muslims.

One of the two gunmen is Elton Simpson, 30, a resident of Phoenix, and a man known to the FBI. Simpson was previously brought to trial on grounds of making false statements to federal agents about his intentions to travel overseas for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad. He was sentenced to probation and became another ticking Islamist bomb waiting to detonate.

The other gunman is Nadir Hamid Soofi, whose social media posts show a personal evolution toward Islamic fundamentalism and a desire to become a lone-wolf jihadi.

Both were killed by vigilant local police.

AFDI is a group run by Pamela Geller, who has devoted herself to exposing the threat of radical Islam to America. Whatever Geller hoped to accomplish with her controversial exhibit, the two gunmen, with their act of wanton violence, more than helped her surpass her loftiest aims.

The compliant Western mainstream media is already arguing that the exhibit, which is offensive to Muslims, should never have been produced. All the while we are finding new reasons to extol the virtues of self-censorship. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews with “terrorist expert” Evan Kohlmann seemed to reserve more criticism for the AFDI than for the terrorists. Kohlmann described the event as the proverbial screaming of “fire” in a crowded theater.

The Daily Mail’s photo of the Texas event blacked out the cartoons, and then it response to criticism that it had engaged in self-censorship, it pulled the entire photo.

In 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyhlands Posten published twelve cartoons of the Muslim prophet, which led to a wave of protest and violence in Muslim communities across the globe. More recently, on January 07, 2015, Islamist militants killed twelve people at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in retaliation for drawing satirical cartoons of the Muslim prophet. The attack on the Texas exhibit follows in that vein.

Clearly, no one need fear putting on a satirical musical called, “The Book of Mormon,” but it is doubtful anyone would dare to put on a similar musical about Islam. If there are any doubts about the consequences, we only have to look at what takes places when radical Muslims find offense.

Like it or not, the Islamists are winning. The cartoonist who drew the offensive cover of Charlie Hebdo will no longer draw the Islamic prophet.

Not only will the violence in Texas serve to intimidate others, it is also leading to an ongoing campaign to blame the victims of terrorism for incitement. One hundred and forty-five writers objected to the American PEN literary awards being given this year to Charlie Hebdo. The signatories, although small in number, are best-selling authors who condemned the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo, but apparently found that their sympathies for the insult to adherents to Islam trumped that concern.

These authors seem to forget that the same principles that give them the right to satirize and insult also give others that right. Popular speech needs no protection, and if we are to censor all speech that is insulting, nothing will be said because there will be no shortage of people who fill find an insult somewhere.

The best antiseptic to an insult is additional speech and debate, not violence.

It is too easily forgotten that where the hard jihad of the bomb and the bullet are absent, the soft jihad of the cry of hurt feelings and micro-aggression is quickly invoked. Witness the repeated attempts by Muslim student organizations to have universities ban the movie “American Sniper,” alleging that the movie glorifies the killing of Muslims and is a threat to their safety.

As anyone who has seen the movie knows, it does none of that.  If every group that could find offense in a film were to have a veto, even the Disney channel would not survive. After all, “The Lion King” was attacked as racist and marginalizing black people.

The same Muslim students who want a veto over “American Sniper” see no problem with using campus resources for their annual anti-Semitic hate fest known as, Israel Apartheid Week.

Try to attend a campus lecture by someone Muslim students do not want heard, and you will see organized disruption in action. Indeed, any controversial speaker whom Muslim students do not want heard will require a set of secure procedures that the TSA could envy. After going through the security barriers, the audience finds that the lecturer is repeatedly disrupted, and a phalanx of campus police is required to keep order. Anyone who has tried to hear Daniel Pipes, Michael Oren, Pamela Geller or other speakers, whose voices organized Muslim students find dissonant, knows this all too well.

Muslims are entitled to a voice in the public square even one that others might find that offensive. They are entitled to stand in the public square with and say to hell with America. That same right goes for those whom Muslims find offensive. The right to give offense is inherent in our democratic system.

No should have a monopoly on what can or cannot be said in the public square. The strength of our democracy is that a Muslim, or anyone else, can proclaim that it should go to hell. That journalists like Chris Matthews fail to comprehend the meaning and practice of a free society is a greater threat to our freedoms than any crazed jihadi with a gun. We will survive the jihadis, but whether we will survive their apologists and the quislings in our midst is another question entirely.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a senior fellow with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought.