There appears to be a consensus building among the mainstream in the US and Western Europe that “cooler heads” need to prevail and the confrontation between Muslim extremists and the West over the cartoons published by the Jyllands-Posten needs to be brought under control. If the folks who think cooler heads need to prevail mean cooler, calmer, more rational folks in the Middle East, and other Muslim communities, then I’m in agreement.
We are told, over and over again, that al-Qaeda, Hamas, al-Zarqawi, Islamic Jihad, the Ba’athists of Iraq and Syria, the religious government of Iran and on and on don’t represent the majority of Muslims. That may be so, but we have no indication that is true. If it is true, why aren’t those other Muslims, the ones who respect life, property, other religions, free speech, etc. not standing up and demanding accountability? Those are the cooler heads that need to prevail. Folks like the people who wrote this apology need to begin to assert themselves. The writers of the apology are not happy that the media only sees the extremists. But, the reality is that it is only the extremists voicing their opinion. We’ve seen what happens when the people of a Muslim country take matters into their own hands, such as happened in Lebanon last year. Why aren’t we seeing that now?
I will suggest that these “cooler heads” are not going to be allowed to prevail. They know they aren’t, that in fact they will be beaten, stoned, shot or blown-up by those who control their culture right now. This is how the imams, mullahs and government officials of the Middle East maintain their power. These protests are orchestrated by them, passions are inflamed by a small elite that is bent on keeping, and expanding, their power. This small group, the one that doesn’t represent the majority of Muslims, is convinced that all they have to do is cow their own populace and threaten the decadent (in their eyes) West with violence to continue to win. Why are they convinced of this? Because we taught them, that’s why.
Imagine, if you will, that you live in the same house as someone who holds an opposing religious view from you. At some point, you say something that they find offensive. Instead of asking you politely to not express yourself that way, they burn a picture of you on the patio, chanting “Death to my roomie” and then pick up a baseball bat and threaten to hit you with it if you don’t apologize. Well, to you getting that upset over this incident just doesn’t make sense, so you apologize. It’s just a little thing, from your perspective, you’re not all that religious anyhow. So, you go ahead and apologize. Now, ask yourself what is likely to happen the next time you say something your housemate doesn’t like? Do you suppose your housemate, who clearly takes his religion a lot more seriously than you do, might come to you one day with the picture of you burning and his baseball bat and tell you that you have to convert to his religion now, or face the consequences? What happens when he gets upset because you are bringing home your girlfriend and sleeping together, and he considers that a sin in his religion?
This is what has been going on with Muslim extremists and the West for years. It’s a bit simplified, but essentially we bend over backwards to not upset them, for a wide variety of reasons. We’ve reached the point where we think no one should be offended, and if they are offended, we tend to think that the guy who said something is the one in the wrong, not the one offended by free speech. We have gone so far as to state things like “free speech doesn’t give you the right to insult someone else”, but that is just the point of free speech. Speech is not free if you are constrained to say only that which is acceptable to other people. The Vatican’s position on this, while admirably consistent, is not supportive of free speech. Nor is the position being taken by most of the Western governments.
We are, in fact, confirming what Osama bin Laden believes is true. All he has to do is continue to confront the West with violence and eventually we will surrender. Not because he is stronger physically, but because we are decadent and don’t have the will to fight for what we believe in. He believes, as do the other extremists confronting us, that they just have to keep pushing hard enough and we will roll over and show our belly to them.
If we treasure our liberties, our diverse cultures, our literary and historical traditions, we must stand fast in the face of the bullies who are threatening us with a baseball bat for offending them. If need be, we must defend ourselves against their threat of violence. We must, above all, recognize backing down in the face of this “outrage” in the Middle East is just a continuation of the appeasement we have practiced for two decades now and will just further embolden them.
Remember, if you begin censoring speech and writing and other forms of expression, at some point it will be your turn to be censored. Right now, you probably don’t care because you could care less about those cartoons. What happens when it’s your speech about something you do care about? Only then it’s too late, of course, you’ve already surrendered your liberty.
So, the bottom line is this. I do not wish to go out of my way to make things worse, but I refuse to cool off, or back down from the confrontation. I will stand firm. I will continue to talk about this. I will continue to post these cartoons they are so frightened of.