Will Western Leaders Really Encourage Free Speech?
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is adamant. In the wake of the brutal massacre of the staff of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris on Wednesday, he referred to the media rights exercised by the satirical French magazine as “not just a pen, but a pen that represents an instrument of freedom, not fear.”
Well said, but does he believe it? In fact, do any of the Western leaders who stood up and condemned one of the most brutal terrorist attacks in the history of Paris believe that – that when it comes to examinations of Islam, the West has a truly free press? Or even that it should have one?
If their past conduct and views are any guide, the answer would be almost certainly no.
President Barack Obama, for instance, thinks that there are certain criticisms that are out of bounds. In September 2012 at the United Nations and in the wake of his administration's assertion that the Benghazi attacks had been provoked solely by an American-made video that pilloried Mohammed, the president announced: "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam." This extraordinary statement, wherein the reputed leader of the free world allowed himself to be co-opted by Islamic propaganda (for such words would surely have been comfortable in the mouth of Ayatollah Khomeini), was a telling sign of where free speech is headed in the Western world.
For years the Islamic nations have sought to obtain a worldwide ban on the defamation or criticism of religion. It is a naked – and clever – attempt to prevent the West from identifying the scourge that now assaults it.
Many Western liberal leaders seem to agree with that sentiment. While in office, former French president Jacques Chirac was particularly vocal about the criticism of Islam and even encouraged lawsuits against the very same magazine whose editorial staff was slaughtered by Muslims on Wednesday. In fact, in 2006 he recommended his personal lawyer to the Muslim agitators in order to sue the magazine. While the case did not proceed, it stands in stark contrast to the treatment received by former actress and now animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot, who has been convicted repeatedly for criticizing Muslim halal slaughter practices.
Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, has stated his view that the defamation of Islam is in fact a defamation of the U.K. itself. He has pledged that upon his ascension to the throne, that he will be a defender of the faith(s) rather than the traditional defender of the Christian faith.
Meanwhile, those politicians brave enough to stand up and bring attention to incitement in both European and American mosques and the threat that the spread of Islam represents to their societies have been prosecuted and otherwise ostracized for hate speech.
Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders was brought to trial for his repeated warnings about Islam and even prosecuted for his film Fitna – a wordless presentation of the scriptural writings in the Koran.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, born Muslim and at the time a Dutch parliamentarian, was forced to flee the Netherlands because the Dutch government could not guarantee her safety. Many politicians considered her an outright racist for her condemnations of Islamic intolerance.
Sweden's Democrat Party politician Michael Hess was fined on May 8 last year for hate speech after having connected the religion of Islam with rape.
Rather than give the press a green light to provide an intense investigation of Islam and the way it has been and is being used to advance an anti-Western agenda, Western politicians have fallen over themselves in recent years not only to assert that Islam is a religion of peace, but to claim that they can say so because they happen to be experts on the matter.
So therefore, John Kerry, lately so determined to ensure that the Western media can freely criticize or attack Islamic intolerance (as Charlie Hebdo has done), went so far last month as to say that "ISIL does not represent Islam, and Islam does not condone or honor such depravity. In fact, these actions are a reminder that ISIL is an enemy of Islam.” How good it is to see our secretary of state so thoroughly versed in the hadith that he can distinguish between the good and bad Islam.
Meanwhile, we should all acknowledge the fact that the events in Paris on January 7 were perpetrated not by Arab terrorists nor foreign nationals, but by Frenchmen – three men who were born and raised on French soil. One must assume that they had all been exposed to all the great benefits of a free society, the pinnacle of which is freedom of speech. That they despised that right and wished to exterminate it should be deeply disturbing to any Western politician.
Is it possible now that our leaders understand, if they did not before, that the heart of Western Europe is riddled with a threat they have not even begun to identify, let alone meet? European leaders and the West in general will never accomplish this unless writers and commentators are given the license to openly, without fear of prosecution or any other form of retribution, investigate the reality of Islam today.
Sadly, it is up in the air whether our present crop of pusillanimous leaders are up to that challenge.