Kathleen Parker, Washington Post opinion columnist, wrote a nice piece on the 12th of September that ALMOST had me cheering. Unfortunately, she veered onto dangerous turf right at the end. In trying to walk the walk and confront ideas that I think worsen our position vis-a-vis the Muslim world and our freedom, I wrote the following letter to Kathleen. Steal any part of it you want… just share the ideas and let’s hopefully make SOME difference
You were “this” close to a perfect column. If you’ll pardon the football analogy, it was like you had taken a kickoff and run back 95 yards… but as you approached the goal line you raised your arms in celebration and fumbled the ball to the other team. Everything… EVERYTHING you wrote, up until your second-to-last paragraph, fully aligns with my position, but when you said this:
“Let’s agree to call out and condemn those who would incite riot, whether it’s an imam who orders the death of a cartoonist or the preacher who wants to burn another man’s holy book.”
You have made the fatal flaw of making one man’s political speech act (stupid as Jones’ proposed act was) equivalent with another person levying a death sentence (or ACTUALLY calling for violence) for expressing an opinion.
As nicely as you expressed the idea that freedom is messy, and sometimes it means being offended, you then back down to the extreme Muslim position that some speech acts are incitement to violence. (“Please, what other recourse do we have? We must kill the blasphemer.”)
Surely you see the toxicity of this position? It is the same logic that allowed (perhaps still allows) some men to say, “She wanted to be raped. Look what she was wearing. It’s the woman’s fault” It is the same logic that justifies the Burqa: Men are so incapable of controlling their lusts that it is the woman’s responsibility to save us from our evil desires… by living in a bag… with no freedom.”
I can almost hear the Council of Islamic States now (the same ones pushing censorious “religious offense” rules through the UN, in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).. “Sounds like a deal… You give up the right to speak your mind and we won’t kill you for it.”
I don’t know how much hope we have in making progress in this area, but I believe if there is any at all, it is to come out of the Islamic world dropping their insistence that they have a right to violently enforce their beliefs on others who do not share their beliefs. This is territory I won’t cede, for I believe that once we give in to terrorist or dictatorial threats over “blasphemy” (as Hitchens would say, “thought crimes”) then we have lost the most important tool in our arsenal of freedom.
An American, Too.