Sunday, February 12, 2006

Former Terrorists Speak Out

I've said many times here that if there are truly anti-terrorist Muslims and Arabs out there, they'd better speak out. Well, it turns out, some of them are, at great risk to themselves. Amazingly, some, like the founder of the linked organization, are themselves former Arab terrorists. I need not tell anyone that they do this at enormous personal risk.

If you click on nothing else on this page, at least have a look at this astounding interview (streamable Windows Media Video, 17.8 MB), given by three former terrorists who are now speaking out (and not mincing any words) about exactly what the world is dealing with. It's nothing most pro-Israel readers didn't already know, but here, at least, the messengers are as important as the message.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Principles, schminciples

The EU is beginning to sound positively Orwellian:

Feb 8, 2006 — LONDON (Reuters) - The European Union may try to draw up a media code of conduct to avoid a repeat of the furor caused by the publication across Europe of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, an EU commissioner said on Thursday.

In an interview with Britain's Daily Telegraph, EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini said the charter would encourage the media to show "prudence" when covering religion.

"The press will give the Muslim world the message: We are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression," he told the newspaper. "We can and we are ready to self-regulate that right."

Exercise those rights, European publishers. Just keep in mind the "consequences." After all, we wouldn't want any accidental fires or leg-breakings, know what I mean?

Incidentally, if the media code is published by the EU government, how exactly is that self-regulation? In contrast to direct submission to sharia, maybe? Oh, here we are:

The code would be drawn up by the European Commission, the EU executive body, and European media outlets, he said. It would not have legal status.

So the EU will pass a "voluntary" speech code? Perhaps they can call it Tyranny Lite. I'd advise Mr. Frattini to give Fahrenheit 451 a read, but something tells me he'd go out and rent a Michael Moore movie.

It's hard to imagine, by the way, how a code of conduct written by the European Commission would have no legal standing. Regardless, at its core, this is the case of a government regulating the speech of its citizens subjects, for fear of giving offense. Remember all the European cries of "self-censorship" about American news media's coverage of Afghanistan and Iraq? Apparently, they were meant as a compliment.

My favorite part:

His proposed voluntary code would urge the media to respect all religious sensibilities but would not offer privileged status to any one faith.

It's hard not to yield to temptation, and use this to our advantage. For example, as someone who supports Israel, I'd advise Israelis to claim that references to "Zionist occupiers" etc. are offensive to the Jewish religion (which, after all, says pretty explicitly that Israel is the Jews' home). At that point, they can drag into court any reporter in Europe who so much as dares to claim that the West Bank is "occupied." A few burned consulates to drive the point home, and European support for Arabs -- in the press and otherwise -- should be considerably reduced.

Likewise, the next time anti-American sentiment spills over the top somewhere in Paris or Brussels, Americans should riot, boycott some products, and torch a few Washington embassies. Let's see if the EU then passes more "voluntary media codes" prohibiting offense based on nationality. Sure, it's immoral and uncivilized and all, but if the EU won't respect its own rights, why should it only be Muslims who benefit?

By the way -- isn't it amazing how Europe, aggressively secular for decades, has suddenly developed this deep respect for religions?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Hugh Hewitt, for whose opinions I have the utmost respect, has written a couple of dismaying posts on his blog. His basic premises seem to be that the cartoons were nothing more than a juvenile, pointless vulgar stunt, and that the needless offense given by the cartoons has made them a perfect tool for jihadists to use as propaganda and undermine support for U.S. goals in the War on Terror.

With regard to the first point, Mr. Hewitt writes:

The cartoons were in bad taste, an unnecessary affront to many of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, just as Joel Stein affronted the military, the families and friends of the military, and as Toles did the same to the wounded, and their families, friends and admirers.

I'm sorry, but I fail to see the parallels, beyond the facile. Toles' and Stein's commentary was, in its own Lefty way, rather banal. It had some mild shock value, but beyond that, it accomplished nothing. The reaction from readers, while unfavorable, was entirely predictable, and all we had was yet another instance of Left-wing disrespect for the opinions and sacrifices of Americans in uniform, and mainstream revulsion in return. A publicity stunt, a chance to act within pattern, nothing more.

None of this applies to the actions of the Jyllands-Posten. True, the cartoons were offensive to Muslims. True, they did not demonstrate respect for the beliefs of others that common courtesy demands. But this was no mere publicity stunt. The motivation for running the cartoons was to expose the censorship and suppression of speech that Jyllands-Posten editors noted when they tried to publish a book, whose purpose was neither to annoy nor to offend anyone. Faced with the fact that people were afraid to draw some pictures, Jyllands-Posten editors did the right (and truly heroic) thing, and challenged the censorship head-on.

What was the result? Was it "the usual" -- some nasty letters to the editor and a few empty threats? Not even close: what we got was nothing less than a global conflict, where the West received a very clear demonstration of the contempt that Muslims hold for concepts such as freedom of expression and freedom of worship (which includes the freedom not to worship). Not only that, but we also learned that Muslims consider the entire world subject to their beliefs; that they will threaten people for merely being compatriots of the few that offend them; and that for all their use of the UN and other international institutions, they will conveniently forget even the basics of international protocol and burn foreign embassies. Finally, we learned that building up goodwill -- as European appeasement has attempted to do for nearly half a century -- is pointless, as decades of submissive diplomacy and billions of dollars of "subsidies" failed to buy even a sane perspective from the Muslim world.

In short, the Jyllands-Posten cartoonists have accomplished in a few months what everyone from the Israeli government to hundredes of counter-jihadist writers and opinionmakers to even the invaluable Charles Johnson of LGF could not do: demonstrate beyond any doubt that "radical" Islam was a danger to Western civilization, that its adherents have no respect for ostensibly "global" rules of behavior, and that it is not possible to buy them off. For that alone, the Western world owes them a debt of gratitude the magnitude of which I can hardly fathom. And this is an action Mr. Hewitt considers "unnecessary"?

Mr. Hewitt also approaches the question from a more tactical point of view:

There are hundreds of thousands of American troops deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and across the globe among Muslim peoples who they are trying to befriend. The jihadists like nothing more than evidence that these troops represent a West intent on a new crusade and a new domination of Muslims. Idiot cartoonists make our troops' jobs more difficult, and the jihadists' mission easier.

And in a later post:

So, did the cartoons and their aftermath make it easier or more diffcult for Musharraf of Pakistan to continue to guide his country away from the lure of the jihadists? Easier or more difficult for Turkey to remain a friend of the West's? Easier or more difficult for the pro-Western people of Iran to summon the courage to change their government? Easier or more difficult for Jordan's King Abdullah to continue his course, which has included support for the reconstruction of Iraq even in the face of Zarqawi's murderers? [...] That doesn't mean censorship, or even self-censorship. Only a bit of reflection before rushing off to start new battles which divert attention from those already underway.

Again, it's time to step back and get a little perspective. We aren't fighting the War on Terror merely for the right to eat pork on our home turf or install less tyrannical governments in Mesopotamia. Our struggle is for the very survival of the Western civilization, which cannot stand without the liberal concepts of freedom of thought and expression. If we are willing to give those up just to gain some temporary allies in a tactical theater, we've already lost. To claim that the fight over what Danes may publish in Denmark "divert[s] attention" from more important battles is absurd: it is the battle. Why spend blood and treasure keeping Islamism out of Baghdad, if we let it run free in Copenhagen?

Nor am I particularly impressed with Mr. Hewitt's claim that this "stunt" has hurt our support from our Muslim allies. First, it is patronizing to those same allies, if we assume that just like their lunatic-radical mosquemates, they are unable to get over some cheesy drawings in order to fight the tyranny that threatens them far more than it does us. And second, if Hugh is right, then quite frankly, these are allies we don't need and do not want. Any such "allies" are just enemies we haven't discovered yet, and we'd be far better off putting them all on the business ends of our rifles. We can give up on them, and end this clash of Western Civilization and Islamic barbarism once and for all. Because if there's anything we've learned from Europe's recent troubles, it's that Islamists make for very fickle and dangerous "friends."

Friday, February 03, 2006

Some brief observations on the whole brouhaha over the Mohammed cartoons:

I have absolutely no problem with Muslims demonstrating en masse and expressing outrage over this. However thin-skinned they are, their beliefs have been offended, and they do have the right to voice their displeasure. If certain countries want to make this displeasure official, that is also their prerogative.

The preceding obviously does not extend to death threats -- or worse -- against the authors of the cartoons, their publishers, or the citizens of the countries where the cartoons have been published.

* * *

Let's take note: using the name of Allah for a terrorist organization, or having a mass murderer like Atta take Mohammed's name as his own does not bother the Muslims a whole lot. Commuter bombings in London, bus bombings in Israel, carnage against Russian schoolchildren in Beslan and Iraqi kids in Baghdad -- in the name of Islam -- all elicit barely a shrug. But print up some images of Mohammed, and the Muslim world explodes. This is a very crucial insight into the ethics of the Muslim community as a whole. We ignore this particular lesson at our peril.

* * *

I know it's an annoying cliché, but Words mean things. I've heard too many times now that our (Western) value systems require us to "respect the beliefs of others." They most certainly do not. We usually respect others' beliefs as a courtesy, but we are under no obligation to respect the beliefs of anyone at all. We do not have to respect your beliefs; we only respect your right to hold those beliefs. That means we won't hurt, imprison, or kill you for merely holding or expressing some belief at odds with our own. (A courtesy the Muslims frequently fail to extend to others.) In no way does our value system prohibit mocking anyone's religious beliefs, tenets, or icons. It's disturbing that so many people are unclear on this, to the point of claiming that freedom of speech does not extend to blasphemy. Those European officials who feel this way may want to have their watch repaired: it's a few centuries behind.

* * *

You have to feel for poor ol' Europe. Decades of anti-Israel sentiment, nearly a half-century of lips planted firmly on Arab posteriors, billions sent to the murderers in the West Bank and Gaza -- and all it took was a few lousy drawings to make them the objects of death threats, fatwas, war declarations, and expulsions from the same West Bank and Gaza. Don't get me wrong -- I am thrilled that Europeans are finally standing up for freedom and genuine tolerance -- but I also hope that it's dawning on them just what dangerous, fickle, and worthless "friends" they have been cultivating.