Last week’s “Draw Mohammed” contest in Garland, Texas, which two Islamic gunmen tried to attack, is eliciting much criticism. Pamela Geller, the event’s organizer, is being accused of provoking the violence. Critics are saying that the event was staged as a gratuitous insult.
But it was not gratuitous, nor was its purpose to convey an insult. The target is too contemptible to warrant an insult—one does not slap the face of a mass murderer. Rather, the event was intended as an act of defiance, a declaration that we refuse to submit to the demands of Islamic totalitarians. It was a repudiation of their strictures on the ideas we are permitted to express. It was a loud “no,” hurled in the face of those who insist that we defer to the dictates of their religion. Indeed, this was the very theme of the winning cartoon—the need to draw Mohammed precisely because of his command, backed by a brandished sword, not to draw him.
While I don’t agree with all of Pamela Geller’s views on how to deal with the Islamist threat, she was 100% correct in sponsoring this event. There should be hundreds of events like it. They are necessary, for the same reason that the rebuilding of the World Trade Center was necessary: to assert that America’s values will not be undermined by medieval terrorists.
The fact that their efforts at intimidation are partly succeeding makes a defiant response all the more urgent. They are already subjecting us to de facto censorship. Prospective books and plays critical of Islam have been altered, or entirely aborted, for fear of Islamic violence. And our government—which refuses even to name the enemy and its ideology of Islamic totalitarianism—has done woefully little to safeguard us against this danger.
So we need courageous people, such as Pamela Geller and the winning cartoonist, Bosch Fawstin (both of whom now face death threats from ISIS). We need people who are willing to stand up for our rights and for the ideals upon which America was founded.
Although it is true that any form of mysticism, including religion, is philosophically an enemy of freedom, what is at issue here is a political enemy—an enemy who is willing and able to use force against us. The act of drawing figures of Mohammed was directed against the Islamic jihadists. It is they who want to forcibly impose their religious beliefs upon others. It is they who kill infidels and seek to establish a global caliphate. And it is they who must be publicly denounced and resisted.
The so-called moderate Muslim—if that term is to have any real meaning—is someone who renounces force. He practices his religion but acknowledges everyone’s right to reject or ridicule it. Such a person is no threat to our freedom; he can, in fact, be an ally in this conflict. But anyone who believes that the denigration of Islam must not be allowed is in the camp of the jihadists. That camp consists of not only the people who perform the beheadings and the machine-gunnings of non-believers, but also their tacit supporters. This includes all the Muslim states that have penalties for any type of blasphemy or apostasy—i.e., the practitioners of legalized jihadism—along with all the people who endorse such penalties. The jihadists and the jihadist-sanctioners are the enemy we need to stand up to.
The “Draw Mohammed” event did just that.
Was the peaceful Muslim offended by the Mohammed cartoons? Perhaps. His response, however, should be, first, thankfulness that he lives in a free, secular society, in which one is allowed to praise or to condemn Allah because the government neither inhibits nor promotes religion; second, anger against the jihadists, who are a threat to his rights as well; and third, enthusiastic support for the imperative of confronting that threat.
The essence of freedom is the freedom to think for oneself. And that is intolerable to the jihadist. From the fatwa issued against author Salman Rushdie by Iran’s ayatollahs, to the recent Charlie Hebdo slaughter in Paris, the jihadist allows no dissent from religious dogma. He regards such dissent as a “provocation” and as grounds for violent retaliation. Those who choose to exercise their independent minds become targets of barbaric killers.
To protect the freedom of the independent mind is why the barbarians must be defied—and why our government must unequivocally support and defend the defiers. (See also “Religion, Freedom and the ‘Moderate Muslim.’ “)♦♦
[This was published at Huffington Post, May 17, 2015]