Tags: Religion | War on Terrorism | Free | Speech | Shariah | Muslim

Heavy Price Is Paid for Free Speech

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Tuesday, 13 Jan 2015 10:43 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Rising from the ugly portals of dictatorship and control is the irrevocable value of open expression. Free speech, indeed the ability to make decisions for yourself, is a gift bequeathed to citizens residing with Western traditions. At times speech is hateful and tasteless — an unappetizing feature of freedom. But this is a price willingly paid to assure free exchange.
 
These platitudinous comments are now being challenged, challenged by a theological view that there is only one way to live, think, and conduct oneself. That is the essence of Shariah — part law and largely a way of life. Many Muslims choose this way voluntarily, some have it imposed, and some ignore it completely. Nonetheless, there is an army, admittedly a minority army, comprised of many thousands, perhaps millions, that wish to impose “this way” on others.
 
For them, free speech is incompatible with Shariah. In order to maintain equilibrium in the minds of the truly faithful jihadis, open expression must be squelched. There isn’t any compromise, nor is there any opportunity for rational exchange. The die is cast and only force remains.
 
What the West observed in the murderous attack on a satirical magazine and its editorial staff was not merely retaliation for cartoons depicting the prophet unfavorably, but a religious impulse to close the channels of free expression. Freedom for jihadis is realized when everyone embraces Islam and the world is at peace.
 
This in a real sense, is a civilizational conflict, fought on the terrain of religious doctrine and often tasteless cultural actions. But whether the manifest form of expression is tasteless is less relevant than the ability to express it. It is hard to defend the purveyors of smut or Nazi marches in Jewish communities or those who throw excrement on Christian symbols, but as much as these actions should be criticized and condemned, the price of liberty is the acceptance of the disagreeable for the acceptance of constitutional virtue.
 
To my surprise, there is a movement in the West that rationalizes the extremist sentiments within Islam, noting that “it is a religion of peace” or “most Muslims are peaceful.” Curiously, very few journalists ask the obvious question: What are the conditions in Islam that promote violent behavior? To do so, would not only be regarded as Islamophobic, but ironically would trigger a violent response.
 
Many in the West have been rendered paralyzed by fear and political correctness. What one might say about a Jew or a Catholic could never be said about a Muslim. It is inconceivable that there would be a play on Broadway about the prophet comparable to “The Book of Mormon.” When a play about Prophet Muhammad was launched in Washington, D.C., decades ago, the mayor was shot. That was an opening and closing.
 
Self-censorship is in the Zeitgeist. So many are concerned about the reaction of controversial opinion that they lose sight of the fact that by sacrificing openness, freedoms — to which we often give lip service — are being eroded.
 
It is not merely the First Amendment that is at risk; rational discourse itself is imperiled. The absurd commentary rationalizing the murders in Paris is a case in point. Where are the probing questions, alas the obvious questions? Where is the outrage? Why do we accord a standard for one religion that doesn’t apply to others? These queries await a response but all that one hears is a whimper.
 
Herbert London is president emeritus of Hudson Institute and author of the books "The Transformational Decade" (University Press of America) and "Decline and Revival in Higher Education" (Transaction Books). Read more reports from Herbert London — Click Here Now.
 

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HerbertLondon
What the West observed in the murderous attack on a satirical magazine and its editorial staff was not merely retaliation for cartoons depicting the prophet unfavorably, but a religious impulse to close the channels of free expression.
Free, Speech, Shariah, Muslim
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2015-43-13
Tuesday, 13 Jan 2015 10:43 AM
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