Salman Rushdie was our canary in the coal mine: He first felt the effects of suffocating gasses that would start to envelope us all.
Rushdie’s fourth novel,Â The Satanic Verses, published in late 1988 when he was living in Britain, was seen as blasphemous by some Muslims. Feb. 14 will mark 20 years since Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini sent the author a bloody Valentine, issuing a religious decree calling for his death.
Rushdie was forced to live in hiding and under guard for many years and eventually moved to New York.
In 1989, I was struck by the singular strangeness of the whole story. Riot-inciting thought police? In England? In the modern era? Two decades later I’m struck by how encroaching this story has become.
* Is this hate speech also? Enough of Radical Islam
Rushdie, now 61, shared the 92nd Street Y stage on Sunday withÂ Irshad Manji, a 40-year-old Canadian born in Idi Amin’s Uganda.
Manji, a devout but controversially reformist Muslim, (?) is the author ofÂ The Trouble With Islam Today; she also does things like post an imam’s defense of interfaith marriage on her Web site in multiple languages, so that forlorn Romeos and Juliets may show it, as she says, to “conservative parents and bigoted clerics.” She, too, is the subject of death threats.
* Irshad Manji is neither here nor there, she is certainly no “reformer”. Â In her own words: she said she is “rooted in her faith”- (rooted DownUnder means f*kced in more ways than one…)
Neither Rushdie nor Manji are refugees; both come from places where they enjoyed the protection of the law and both chose to live in New York for the reasons so many of us do–work, pleasure, lifestyle. But their conversation got me thinking about the unique protections accorded to free speech in the U.S.
Consider Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It. Israeli-born and resident in New York, Ehrenfeld has made a career of following money trails to their murkiest sources and been threatened and sued multiple times for her efforts.
* The very brave Rachel Ehrenfeld has done invaluable work against the jihad, and she had some great success as well as setbacks, as we can see here:
Most recently she became a victim of so-called libel tourism. In Funding Evil, she wrote that a wealthy Saudi Arabian, Khalid bin Mahfouz, had financed terrorist activities. Under U.S. law her well-documented accusation doesn’t qualify as libel, so bin Mahfouz sued her in Great Britain.
The book had never been published in Britain or sold in book stores there, but a few copies had been obtained via online sellers. A British judge imposed a fine on Ehrenfeld and said her book should be destroyed.
Through cases like these, U.K. laws, which have a chilling effect on the country’s own publishers, are affecting foreign publishers and writers, too. Recently the government came close to clamping down on free speech even further.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a sop to Muslim constituents upset about his support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, urged the criminalizing of “religious incitement”; the law failed by just one vote. In one of the great crucibles of democracy, this is where free speech is heading.
Then there is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch parliamentarian, author ofÂ Infidel, and one of Europe’s most vocal critics of militant Islam. She wrote a movie script critical of Islam; its director, Theo van Gogh, was subsequently stabbed to death. (and shot 6 times, doesn’t that count anymore?)
Hirsi Ali, an elected member of the Dutch parliament, lived under high security in the Netherlands for years before an immigration minister from her own party effectively hounded her out of the country, accusing her of lying about her name, age and refugee status when she first came to Holland, and threatening to strip Hirsi Ali of her passport.
That didn’t happen, but Hirsi Ali resigned her seat in parliament and now resides in Washington, D.C., where she is a resident fellow at theÂ American Enterprise Institute. (This is just as well for her. Another Dutch member of parliament, Geert Wilders, was ordered by an appeals court on Thursday to stand trial for “insulting Islam” and will face jail time if found guilty. Maybe another American think-tank will offer him a perch if he’s acquitted and wants to take a breather from the Netherlands.)
I find it remarkable that it’s not just regimes we know to be despotic that are stifling free speech, but also Western democracies. Canada is now embroiled in a debate over its so-called anti-hate laws, under which the Canadian Human Rights Commission is responsible for ferreting out and stopping acts of hatred, among them insults to religion.
* Here’s the latest on that from Ezra Levant
The absurdity of these speech-curtailing laws emerged when the Commission summoned Maclean’s magazine and writer Mark Steyn to defend themselves against accusations of Islamophobia.
But now that Canadians are finally talking about doing away with the laws, it’s Jewish groups that want to keep them on the books. Here’s a good litmus test for whether a law makes any sense: If the “crime” in question can only be described using the word for an emotion, like “hate” or “phobia,” then we have wandered into thought-police territory.
Finally, there’s the United Nations, which admittedly isn’t much of a democracy, but which claims to uphold the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The declaration, though, says that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.”
The U.N. General Assembly, on the other hand, has passed resolutions, most recently last November, banning “defamation of religion.”
Are we who live in the U.S. so safe? Our politicians and judges haven’t lost their heads, but self-censorship can be chilling, too. Last year, Random House was planning to publishThe Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones, a fictionalized version of the life of one of Mohammed’s wives.
* Well, lets not get worked up over this worthless, crappy novel. The fact that the MSM in the US voluntarily censored themselves and never showed the Muhammad cartoons is far worse.
After the company received some cautionary advice about the controversy the book might cause, it shelved the project. Random House can do whatever it wants, of course, and another imprint, Beaufort Books, went on to publish the book without incident. But the decision to abandon the project suggests that an unhealthy fear has crept onto these shores. When those canaries in the coal mines went quiet, it was time to pay attention.
Elisabeth Eaves is a deputy editor at Forbes, where she also writes a weekly column.
Enough of Radical Islam
Enough with the pseudonyms. Western civilization isn’t at war with terrorism any more than it is at war with grenades. Western civilization is at war with militant Islam, which dominates Muslim communities all over the world. Militant Islam isn’t a tiny minority of otherwise goodhearted Muslims. It’s a dominant strain of evil that runs rampant in a population of well over 1 billion.
Enough with the psychoanalysis. They don’t hate us because of Israel. They don’t hate us because of Kashmir. They don’t hate us because we have troops in Saudi Arabia or because we deposed Saddam Hussein. They don’t hate us because of Britney Spears. They hate us because we are infidels, and because we don’t plan on surrendering or providing them material aid in their war of aggressive expansion.
Enough with the niceties. We don’t lose our souls when we treat our enemies as enemies. We don’t undermine our principles when we post more police officers in vulnerable areas, or when we send Marines to kill bad guys, or when we torture terrorists for information. And we don’t redeem ourselves when we close Guantanamo Bay or try terrorists in civilian courts or censor anti-Islam comics. When it comes to war, extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
Enough with the words. Talking with Iran without wielding the threat of force, either economic or military, won’t help. Appealing to the United Nations, run by thugs and dictators ranging from Putin to Chavez to Ahmadinejad, is an exercise in pathetic futility. Evil countries don’t suddenly decide to abandon their evil goals — they are forced to do so by pressure and circumstance.
Enough with the faux allies. We don’t gain anything by pretending that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are true allies. They aren’t. At best, they are playing both sides of the table. We ought to be drilling now in order to break OPEC. Building windmills isn’t going to cut it. We should also be backing India to the hilt in its current conflict with Pakistan — unless Pakistan can destroy its terrorist element, India should be given full leeway to do what it needs to do. Russia and China, meanwhile, are facilitating anti-Western terrorism. Treating them as friends in this global war is simply begging for a backstabbing.
Enough with the myths. Not everyone on earth is crying out for freedom. There are plenty of people who are happy in their misery, believing that their suffering is part and parcel of a correct religious system. Those people direct their anger outward, targeting unbelievers. We cannot simply knock off dictators and expect indoctrinated populations to rise to the liberal democratic challenge. The election of Hamas in the Gaza Strip is more a rule than an exception in the Islamic world.
Enough with the lies. Stop telling us that Islam is a religion of peace. If it is, prove it through action. Stop telling us that President-elect Barack Obama will fix our broken relationship with the Muslim world. They hate Obama just as much as they hated President George W. Bush, although they think Obama is more of a patsy than Bush was. Stop telling us that we shouldn’t worry about the Islamic infiltration of our economy. If the Saudis own a large chunk of our banking institutions and control the oil market, they can certainly leverage their influence in dangerous ways.
Enough. After the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the plane downed in Pennsylvania, the endless suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks in Israel, the Bali bombings, the synagogue bombing in Tunisia, the LAX shootings, the Kenyan hotel bombing, the Casablanca attacks, the Turkey synagogue attacks, the Madrid bombings, the London bombings, and the repeated attacks in India culminating in the Mumbai massacres — among literally thousands of others — it’s about time that the West got the point: we’re in a war. Our enemies are determined. They will not quit just because we offer them Big Macs, Christina Aguilera CDs, or even the freedom to vote. They will not quit just because we ensure that they have Korans in their Guantanamo cells, or because we offer to ban “The Satanic Verses” (as India did). They will only quit when they are dead. It is our job to make them so, and to eliminate every obstacle to their destruction.
So enough. No more empty talk. No more idle promises. No more happy ignorance, half measures, or appeasement-minded platitudes. The time for hard-nosed, uncompromising action hasn’t merely come — it’s been overdue by seven years. The voice of our brothers’ blood cries out from the ground.