Rich Lowry: Jihadi censorship comes to America

  • By Rich Lowry
  • Wednesday, May 6, 2015 4:07pm
  • Opinion

Terrorists assaulted a “Muhammad cartoon” event in Texas sponsored by activist Pamela Geller, and the response has been, in part, soul-searching over what’s wrong with Pamela Geller.

Geller is an attention-hungry provocateur who will never be mistaken for Bernard Lewis, the venerable scholar of Islam. Her Texas gathering to award a cash prize for the best cartoon of Muhammad — depictions of whom are considered offensive by many Muslims — was deliberately offensive, but so what?

Two armed Muslim men showed up intending to kill the participants, and were only thwarted when they were shot dead by a police officer who was part of the elaborate security arrangements.

Absent the security, we might have had a Charlie Hebdo-style massacre on these shores, in Garland, Texas, no less, a suburb of Dallas. (The world would be a safer and better place if the forces of civilization everywhere were as well-prepared and well-armed as they are in Texas.)

That horrifying prospect didn’t stop CNN from interrogating Geller the morning after the attack about her views of Islam and her decision to have as the keynote speaker for her event the anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders (who has to live under 24-hour protection). The implicit assumption was that Geller and her cohorts were as much of a problem as the fanatics who planned to censor them at the barrel of a gun.

Geller refers to her meeting as a free-speech event while her critics prefer to call it an anti-Islam event. They are really one and the same. In today’s circumstances, criticism of Islam is at the vanguard of the fight for free speech, since it is susceptible to attack and intimidation by jihadists and calls for self-censorship by the politically correct.

“Yes, but …” defenses of Geller don’t cut it. She had a perfect right to do what she did, and it’s a condemnation of her enemies — and confirmation of her basic point about radical Islam — that the act of drawing and talking elicited a violent response.

If cartoons of Muhammad may seem a low, petty form of speech, they are only the fault line in a deeper clash of civilizations. A swath of the Muslim world doesn’t just want to ban depictions of Muhammad, but any speech critical of Islam.

There was much tsk-tsking after the Charlie Hebdo attack about how France had made itself vulnerable to domestic terrorism because it has failed to assimilate Muslim immigrants. The critique carried a whiff of self-congratulation about how much better the U.S. is as a melting pot, and so it is.

Yet two Phoenix roommates were still prepared to commit mass murder to keep people from drawing images they don’t like. One of them, an American convert to Islam named Elton Simpson, had been convicted of lying to the FBI about discussions about traveling to Somalia allegedly to engage in terrorism. He evidently took inspiration from ISIS calls to attack the Garland, Texas, event, in another sign that the poisonous ideology of radical Islam knows no borders.

It will ever be thus until all of Islam accepts the premises of free society, as have other major world religions. The day there can be the Muslim equivalent of “The Book of Mormon” without the writers, actors and audience members fearing for their lives will be the day that Islam is reformed. Then, and only then, will mockery of Islam by the likes of Pamela Geller and her ilk be a tasteless irrelevance, rather a statement from atop the ramparts of free speech.

Yes, there is such a thing as self-restraint and consideration of the sensibilities of others, but it shouldn’t be the self-restraint of fear. Pamela Geller is a bomb-thrower, but only a metaphorical, not a literal, one. That’s the difference between her and her enemies — and between civilization and barbarism.

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

More in Opinion

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks about teacher bonuses during consideration a bill increasing state funds for public education in the Alaska House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Rep. Ben Carpenter: Supporting better outcomes in education

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, listens to testimony during a Senate Community and Regional Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Managing Cook Inlet basin for the benefit of all

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks Monday, May 8, 2023, on the floor of the Alaska House. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Rep. Justin Ruffridge: Time is growing short

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Sarah Vance (Photo provided)
Point of View: A moment of agony for Sarah Vance, and for Homer

The emotions driving Sarah Vance to the brink of tears during her agonizing silence in front of the Legislature suggested a battle of ideas

The Alaska State Capitol. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Millions needed for Alaska’s child care sector

Without public investment, Alaska will continue to witness an inadequate and diminishing supply of child care services

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks about teacher bonuses during consideration a bill increasing state funds for public education in the Alaska House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Rep. Ben Carpenter: Time to disrupt our legislative process

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, presents information on a bill establishing a voluntary buyback program for Cook Inlet’s east side setnet fishery on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Fishing, energy move into spotlight

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks in support of debating an omnibus education bill in the Alaska House Chambers on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Rep. Justin Ruffridge: Finding common ground on education

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, speaks to attendees at a town hall event on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Taking action for workers, supporting kids

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Most Read