Sunday, July 27, 2008

"Islam is no more immune from criticism or mockery than Christianity, Judaism or Scientology"

Or at least it shouldn't be. There are some terrific points made along these lines in "Nobody Is Murdered for Christian or Jewish Satire" in the Wall Street Journal letters section, July 26 (thanks to the Constantinopolitan Irredentist) -- and a letter from a Muslim reader who comes out decidedly against free speech: In his letter regarding the controversy over cartoons offensive to Muslims ("Why We Don't See Islamic Cartoons," July 18) reader Shahid Kinnare asks each offending cartoonist to consider if "he could survive" if the subject of his work were changed to the Holocaust. The answer is yes. Although a cartoonist who produces a cartoon that uses the Holocaust in an offensive way would no doubt be harshly criticized, the cartoonist wouldn't be murdered and there wouldn't be riots by enraged Jews outside embassies. In fact, a number of newspapers recently reproduced, without incident, some despicable cartoons published in Iran concerning the Holocaust.

Alan S. Ritterband


Letter writer Tom Lawrence's theory -- that the decision of Muslims to live in a Western society is theirs and, as a result, they need to accept the societal traditions of those countries needs close scrutiny in the context of the constitution of a democratic country. At stake isn't whether the decision of Muslims to live in a Western society is theirs but whether a Western society, such as the U.S., protects the religious rights of any group so that the citizens of that group have a right not to be offended by other groups.

B.K. Shah
Pearl River, N.Y.

Does anyone or any group really have a "right not to be offended"? This seems to be the implication, unfortunately, of "hate" laws in the West -- that an assault is somehow worse if someone is called a racial epithet in the course of being throttled. But of course offense is in the eye of the beholder. One person may be mortally offended by words that appear innocuous to another -- so who will be the judge? That is the key question. Does B. K. Shah want the U.S. government to set itself up as the arbiter of what is offensive to Islam? Or does he want some Muslim body to have that power? In either case, the unrelenting and unanimous practice among Muslims of labeling any honest discussion of the elements of Islam that jihadists use to teach violence and supremacism as "hate" will bear bitter fruit in this: if it indeed becomes illegal in the U.S. to say something that Muslims deem offensive, it will be impossible for us to speak about the jihad ideology and Islamic supremacism precisely as they are advancing here.

In America, I am allowed to insult whomever and whatever I like. Islam is no more immune from criticism or mockery than Christianity, Judaism or Scientology. In 1987, an "artist" (a term I use loosely) displayed a photograph "Piss Christ," depicting a crucifix in a glass of urine. There were many complaints and much negative press, but at no point did the artist need to fear for his life. Jews and Christians might not be happy to see their religious figures mocked, but they understand that in a free society such actions must be permitted.

If Theo van Gogh had produced an anti-Christian or anti-Jewish movie, he would be alive today. If "Satanic Verses" had been about Judaism, Salman Rushdie wouldn't have spent years in hiding under a threat of death. So do not lecture me about "sensitivity" toward Islam until its followers are willing to demonstrate tolerance toward dissent.

Daniel Palmer
Evanston, Ill.

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