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June 24, 2007

The "Terrible Silence" Of The Western Media On Salman Rusdie

Via Instapundit, three good pieces on the Islamic world's renewed calls for the murder of Salman Rushdie, and the media's sudden lack of regard for the right of free expression uninhibited by murderous terror.

First Flemming Rose of the Jyllands-Posten, who knows something about angering the perpetually aggrieved:

Again: insult, blasphemy, respect for religion, those words are being repeated over and over again as justification for violent attacks and death threats. By the Iranian government, by the chairman of the Muslim Council of Britain, and by leading politicians and opinion makers in the West.

And they have made their way into the United Nation’s Human Rights Council, the highest ranking international body with the mission of protecting human rights. On March 30 it passed a scandalous resolution condoning state punishment of speech that governments deems as insulting for religion.

“The resolution is based in the expectation that it will compel the international community to acknowledge and address the disturbing phenomenon of the defamation of religions, especially Islam,” said Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

What does this mean? Well, it means that the UN is encouraging every dictatorship to pass laws that make criticism of Islam a crime. The UN Human Rights Council legitimizes the criminal persecution of sir Salman Rushdie for having insulted people’s religious sensibilities. Beautiful, isn’t it?

And the Labour Government in Britain was delivering ammunition to this kind of policy when back in 2006 it put a lot of effort into passing a law against religious hatred. It failed by one vote. Salman Rushdie fought this law. In an essay “Coming After Us” for the anthology “Free Expression Is No Offense” he wrote:

“I never thought of myself as a writer about religion until religion came after me… At that time it was often difficult to persuade people that the attack on The Satanic Verses was part of a broader, global assault on writers, artists, and fundamental freedoms. The aggressors in that matter, by which I mean the novel’s opponents, who threatened booksellers and publishers, falsified the contents of the text they disliked, and vilified its author, nevertheless presented themselves as the injured parties, and such was the desire to appease religious sentiment even then that in spite of the murder of a translator in Japan and the shooting of a publisher in Norway there was widespread acceptance of that topsy-turvy view.”

Roger Simon, who commissioned that article:

The partisanship of our society has struck us blind. Iraq, as everyone knows, has driven us apart. But looking back on it - it could not have been otherwise. We were doomed. In a society with a supposedly-free (though often reified) press, it becomes almost impossible to win an assymetrical war. The same prejudices that Russert describes in his Rushdie article are the ones that have seriously undermined the possibility of victory for democracy in Iraq. A media that could call obvious fascists and religious fascists "insurgents" (a term once reserved for Pancho Villa) in the interest of "objectivity" encouraged a specious atmosphere of moral equivalence to democracy from the start. Whether this was conscious or unconscious is beside the point. Whatever it was, our enemies, the enemies of the Enlightenment, seized on it for propaganda purposes and continue to do so. (Note that in the new Daniel Pearl movie, Pearl's beheading is not even shown - that was praised as tasteful by Roger Ebert.) And, as everyone knows, the playing field of assymetrical war is the media, far more than the battlefield. Only in the world of public opinion can we be defeated.

And liberal Tim Rutten who, unlike the NYT's new pliable shill of a public editor, isn't afraid to note media bias even when it is, supposedly, "in favor of his side." Maybe more liberals should wake up to the fact that endless apologism and shilling for radical Islamists isn't scoring points "for your team," unless you happen to think that Al Qaeda is actually on your team.

When news of [Rushdie's] knighthood spread last weekend, the flames of fanaticism rekindled. An Iranian group offered $150,000 to anyone who would murder the novelist. Effigies of the queen and the writer were burned in riots across Pakistan. That country's religious affairs minister initially said that conferring such an honor on Rushdie justified sending suicide bombers to Britain, then — under pressure — he modified his statement to say it would cause suicide bombers to travel there. Pakistan's national assembly unanimously condemned Rushdie's knighthood and said it reflected "contempt" for Islam and Muhammad. Various high-ranking Iranian clerics called for the writers' death and renewed their insistence that Khomeini's fatwa still is in force. Riots spread to India's Muslim communities.

Friday, the Voice of America reported that Pakistani "lawmakers passed a second resolution calling on British Prime Minister Tony Blair to apologize 'to the Muslim world' " and that, "on Thursday, a hard-line Pakistani cleric awarded terrorist leader Osama bin Laden the religious title and honorific 'saifulla,' or sword of Islam, to protest Britain's decision."

If you're wondering why you haven't been able to follow all the columns and editorials in the American press denouncing all this homicidal nonsense, it's because there haven't been any. And, in that great silence, is a great scandal.


What masquerades as tolerance and cultural sensitivity among many U.S. journalists is really a kind of soft bigotry, an unspoken assumption that Muslim societies will naturally repress great writers and murder honest journalists, and that to insist otherwise is somehow intolerant or insensitive.

Lost in the self-righteous haze that masks this expedient sentiment is a critical point once made by the late American philosopher Richard Rorty, who was fond of pointing out that "some ideas, like some people, are just no damn good" and that no amount of faux tolerance or misplaced fellow feeling excuses the rest of us from our obligation to oppose such ideas and such people.

If Western and, particularly American, commentators refuse to speak up when their obligations are so clear, the fanatics will win and the terrible silence they so fervently desire will descend over vast stretches of our world — a silence in which the only permissible sounds are the prayers of the killers and the cries of their victims.

Instapundit makes this dark observation about the War That Dare Not Be Named:

Frankly, I think the best argument for electing a Democrat as President is that as long as a Republican is in office the media powers-that-be will refuse to condemn even the worst atrocities on the part of Islamists, for fear of helping the real enemy in the White House.

Although Roger Simon says he's not questioning anyone's patriotism, I can't see how the issue can be avoided when petty partisanship is being elevated far, far above real concern for American national security and the general welfare of the Enlightenment values we share.

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posted by Ace at 03:47 PM

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