Not the program you might think. Rather, the kind of program some people had in mind for Salman Rushdie when he pointed out the contradictions of “The Satanic Verses”. Or, perhaps that should be pogrom, since there are death penalties involved.
Certainly, Mark Steyn is one who has had his proverbial skin in the game, and he wrote an opinion piece on September 21 that shows how far afield fundamentalist Islam is straying in its demands for blasphemy laws, and does so with a uniquely Mormon comparison [Emphasis added in quote].
“I fought a long battle for freedom of expression north of the border when the Canadian Islamic Congress attempted to criminalize my writing, and I’m proud to say I played a modest role in getting Parliament to strike down a shameful law and restore a semblance of free speech to a country that should never have lost it. So I know a little about how the Western world is shuffling into a psychological bondage of its own making, and it’s no small thing when the First Amendment gets swallowed up by the vacuum of American foreign policy…
“Last year Hillary Clinton went to see the Broadway musical ‘Book of Mormon.’ ‘We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others’? The Book of Mormon’s big showstopper is ‘Hasa Diga Eebowai,’ which apparently translates as ‘F*** You, God.’ The U.S. Secretary of State stood and cheered.
“Why does Secretary Clinton regard ‘F*** You, God’ as a fun toe-tapper for all the family but ‘F***, You Allah’ as ‘disgusting and reprehensible’? The obvious answer is that, if you sing the latter, you’ll find a far more motivated crowd waiting for you at the stage door. So the ‘Leader of the Free World’ and ‘the most powerful man in the world’ (to revive two cobwebbed phrases nobody seems to apply anymore to the president of the United States) is telling the planet that the way to ensure your beliefs command his ‘respect’ is to be willing to burn and bomb and kill. You Mormons need to get with the program.
“…The embassy-burning mobs well understand the fraudulence of Obama and Clinton’s professions of generalized ‘respect’ for ‘all faiths.’ As a headline in the Karachi Express-Tribune puts it:
‘Ultimatum To U.S.: Criminalize Blasphemy Or Lose Consulate.’
National Review author Mario Loyola provided another stunning comparison here, again with emphasis added in bold:
“As if by divine intervention, the revoltingly sacrilegious ‘Piss Christ’ portrait will be going on display this Thursday at a ritzy Manhattan gallery right around the corner from the annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly. For those who don’t know, this particular instance of free speech consists of a photograph taken of a crucifix floating in the artist’s urine. It caused a stir in the late 1980s and 1990s because the artist (Andres Serrano) had been subsidized by NEA and other public grants.
“Coming so soon on the heels of Obama’s condemnations of the Mohammed spoof trailer, Representative Michael Grimm (R., N.Y.) is calling on President Obama to condemn the Piss Christ exhibit.
“That’s wrong. First of all, the president shouldn’t be condemning any work of art. But if you really want him to condemn the Piss Christ, this is what you have to do: Find an enterprising young artist willing to create a ‘Piss Mohammed’ version of Serrano’s work, and ask the museum to hang it right next to the Piss Christ. It could be part of a ‘Piss Religion’ exhibit. If the gallery declines (as it surely would), then perhaps one could gather together a small group of Manhattan atheists to march ‘piss portraits’ of Mohammed and his fellow deities / prophets right up 1st Avenue past the United Nations, in homage to the First Amendment.
“Every last person who complains will have to explain why they said nothing during the 20-plus years that the revolting Piss Christ has been touring art galleries around the world. They will be forced either to treat Islam and Christianity the same (i.e., stop trashing the latter) or finally admit the cowardly truth, which is that their degree of respect for any given religion is proportional to its proponents’ propensity for violence.”
Doesn’t that effectively make free speech, which includes the right to criticize one’s own religion as well as any other religion, subject to a hostage crisis? I find it hard to think of very many religious blogs I’ve read that somebody wouldn’t find blasphemous about some religion — and probably those who made comments saying blasphemy was impossible because there was no Divinity to be blasphemed would be regarded as blasphemous by most everyone else.
Wouldn’t liberal and conservative Mormons be among the first to suffer, since, of course, such blasphemy laws would first make their appearance in the form of blasphemy against Christianity, Islam, and Judaism (any LEGITIMATE Abrahamic religion) and then further restrictions endorsed from there? For example, such as speaking out against religious leaders, or opposing policies endorsed by religions? Think of Prop 8, with blasphemy laws in place to censure either side.
Jonah Goldberg notes:
“And yet, it seems you can’t turn on National Public Radio or open a newspaper without finding some oh-so-thoughtful meditation on how anti-Islamic speech should be considered the equivalent of shouting “fire” in a theater.
“It’s an interesting comparison… You know why? Because Muslims aren’t fire, they’re people. And fire isn’t a sentient entity. Muslims have free will. If they choose to riot, that’s not the same thing as igniting a fire. Indeed, the point is proven by the simple fact that the vast majority of Muslims don’t riot. [EMPHASIS ADDED.] More than 17 million people live in greater Cairo. A tiny fraction of a fraction of that number stormed the U.S. Embassy to ‘protest’ that stupid video. And yet, the logic seems to be that the prime authors of Muslim violence are non-Muslims who express their opinions, often thousands of miles away.
“Our devotion to free speech can cause headaches and challenges. But so can any number of non-negotiable facts of life. There’s nothing wrong with exercising sound judgment, even caution, when it comes to offending anybody’s most cherished beliefs. But the First Amendment isn’t the problem here, the dysfunctions and inadequacies of the Arab and Muslim world are.”
And Theodore Dalrymple further summarizes in a more secular context:
“If a Republican physically attacked a Democrat, or a Democrat a Republican, after one said something with which the other strongly disagreed, would it be any defense for the attacker to say, ‘He knew perfectly well that I detested his views’? Freedom of expression requires not so much the exercise of self-control in what is said as its exercise in reaction to what is said. I can hardly look at a book these days without taking offense at something that it contains, but if I smash a window in annoyance, the blame is only mine—even if the author knows perfectly well that what he wrote will offend many such as I.”
Indeed, America may be going beyond merely excusing such lack of self-control to expediently assisting it. Although it is ambiguous whether the creator of the YouTube video proposed as justification for the latest (only the latest) round of Islamist violence has been jailed because a parole violation involving concealing his identity on the web was too public to ignore, or whether because Islamists demanded his punishment as well as that of all people involved — knowingly or unknowingly — in making the film, the fact remains that he is now in jail without bail. Furthermore, as noted by Kirsten Powers, the Administration seems a bit more than usually annoyed at more conventional press inquiries about the events connecting the video to violence at all (again, emphasis added in bold):
“After dancing on Osama bin Laden’s grave for a week in Charlotte, the administration was faced with the reality that the war on terror is still quite on.
“Rather than acknowledging this, they went into spin mode with the claim that a goofy video posted on YouTube caused the Sept. 11 attack that killed four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador. U.N. ambassador Susan Rice took to the Sunday shows to assert: ‘What happened in Cairo, in Benghazi, in many parts of the region…was a result—a direct result of a heinous and offensive video that was widely disseminated.’ She claimed the attack in Libya was ‘spontaneous’ and not pre-planned. It just happened to be on the anniversary of 9/11. No reason to read anything into that.”…
“CNN found Ambassador Chris Stevens’s journal, in which he expressed fear that he may be killed by, you guessed it, al Qaeda. For this, the State Department viciously attacked the network in a statement and insinuated, ridiculously, that CNN was only interested in the journal for salacious reasons. When the U.S. government starts pressuring reporters to not report legitimate news, people should wonder why. Another reporter, from BuzzFeed, who was curious about why the area surrounding the U.S. consulate had not been secured following the attack to ensure classified information didn’t fall into the hands of our enemies, was told by a State Department spokesman to ‘f**k off.’ On Tuesday, Secretary of State Clinton finally got around to acknowledging that al Qaeda may have been involved in the attack.”
So, what do you think? Do readers of this blog have “skin in this game”? Should we be insisting that the “program” we ought to “get with” is the program that offensive free speech — even blasphemous free speech — should be left to the judgement of God and countered only with the medicine of more speech? That the lessons taught to the West by centuries of religious persecution abetted in our own cultures are so important that no one should have to learn them again? Or does our willingness to remain silent itself portend our future?