[Al Ahram] In some recent internet articles, a number of American writers criticised and ridiculed me for arguing that Mohammedans have a legitimate right not to be offended by Islamophobes and other provocateurs just as Americans have a constitutional right to free speech, including the right to offend and despise others. Otherwise Americans would have the right to be protected against mobs of heathens hollering "Death to America!" and setting fire to flags and things. Maybe even bumping off our diplomats.
One writer argued that there was no such right not to be offended. Claiming "no one has the right to a world in which he is never despised," the writer went as far as arguing that attacking free speech was even a greater blasphemy than a slur on the divine. There are lots of different deities -- the Hindoos have thousands of them. Somehow it's only the one that's got such tender sensibilities.
Furthermore, the writer went on, saying that "Amayreh doesn't truly comprehend American core values when he says that 'in the final analysis, a Mohammedan's right not to be offended and insulted overrides a scoundrel's right to malign Mohammedans' religious symbols.' " Unless there's some sort of law that exempts anyone despising Americans, Brits, Frenchies, or Congolese. What's good for one bunch has to be good for another. I have the right to loathe Chinamen, whether I use it or not. I have the right to loathe Mohamedans and I use it several times a day. Chinamen don't riot, even if you make fun of Mousie Tongue. Moslems do.
A second writer urged President B.O. to refute my defence of Mohammedans' rights not to be offended. Mohammedans out of all the people on the face of the earth...
Well, Americans seem to have a world of their own just as we have a world of our own. Moreover, many Americans seem to harbour a certain subconscious conviction that non-Americans should unreservedly adopt, or subject themselves to, American values.
Thus a complete lack of understanding of Americans is demonstrated: the conviction is absolutely conscious. But the cute attempt at condescension is noted.
That was the tacit message communicated ad nauseam by numerous Hollywood movies for many decades. They're values that usually allow people to live together without setting fire to each other or beating each other to death in public places. It's the violation of such principles that results in people thumping each other.
Watching Hollywood films is a voluntary economic exercise. If you don't like the tacit message, stay home. That's what we Americans do.
This condescending perception, often encapsulated in the Yankee slogan, "The American way," is a natural symptom of American cultural imperialism and megalomania. I admit to both. Do the Mohammedans admit to their own cultural imperialism, evident in the colonization of Europe? Do they admit to their own megalomania in their intent to impose their religion and its attendant customs on the rest of the world?
No, no! American imperialism is cultural, which is to say voluntarily adopted by the recipients, whereas Mohammedan imperialism is imposed on the victim, no matter how offensive.
Americans constitute a mere five per cent of humanity, and as such have no right to impose their values on the rest of humanity, however logical and rational these values may sound. There are other peoples in this world, including some 1.6 billion Mohammedans who adore and love their religion and Prophet. ... and who are casually offensive to the rest of the world in the process...
I know freedom of speech is a sacred value in the United States and many other countries.
So more than 5% of humanity?
However, the difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits... just as American libertarians insist that no other value should be more paramount than this value, we expect the same Americans to understand that other peoples in other parts of the world have equally paramount values, including religious values. Those are approximately the same religious values Europe treasured up until a few years after the Bloody Parliament. Just think how happy and religiously fulfilled our ancestors were as they killed the followers of Jan Huss, as they first tortured and then killed heretics in the course of the inquisition, as they slaughtered the Huguenots. Shucks, it wasn't not that much different from daily life in Pakistain or Yemen today.
As long as y'all keep it to yourself, we'll happily think of it as a quaint local custom, and keep our drones at home.
In Matthew 5:29, it is said that "and if thy right eye offends thee, pluck it out, and cast it away from you." Which has nothing to do with the demand to go through life with the rest of the world walking on eggs.
Note that the quote addresses the second person singular possessive. That is, the offense and punishment are inwardly turned against the self, not outwardly against the other. Y'all should try it sometime. Please.
This biblical quotation should demonstrate that my argument about the right not to be offended is not far fetched and inherently incompatible with Western thinking. Actually, it's the absolute antithesis of Western thinking. It took awhile, but the West eventually settled the issue in favor of people being able to think for themselves, to change religions as often as they change their underwear if they prefer. That kind of thinking is the root of Western progress. Those places where it didn't take hold are the most backward places in the West.
Jesus never really maligned the religious symbols of other people. Though he did take issue with the Sadducees and the Pharisees, which with the exception of the official Roman deities constituted about the limits of his religious horizon.
And the Koran urges Mohammedans not to "insult those whom they (disbelievers) worship, idols besides God, lest they insult God wrongfully without knowledge" (Al-Anaam,108). So why do the Sunnis bump off Shiites every chance they get? And why are the Islamic loons in Mali destroying the tombs of Mohammedan saints? Why is there a Lashkar-e-Jhangvi? For that matter, why is there a Pakistain if Mohammedans are so blasted tolerant?
Interestingly, blasphemy laws appeared in Western societies long before they appeared in the lands of Islam. ... but they fell into disuse a lot more quickly, didn't they?
But all this talk may be virtually inconsequential to self-absorbed libertarians who think they are correct and everyone else is wrong. According to America's fanatical libertarians, Americans have an inherent and absolute right to free speech, which conceivably includes hate speech, incitement to murder, defamation and besmirching people's images and reputation. There are laws against incitement to murder, defamation, and besmirching reputations. There's an enormous body of common law, stretching back to about the time of King Alfred, and on the continent even further back, to the time of Justinian, working out the details of where freedom ends and damage begins. There are lots of people who consider any laws against "hate speech" to be infringements on personal liberty, despite the fact that politicians keep trying to implement them. Politicians are a lot like Moslems in that respect, aren't they? The problem is that one man's reasonable limits are another man's infringements on liberty. There are lots of knotheads running around Islamic lands denying the existence of the Holocaust. There are actual laws against denying its existence in Europe. That's because politicians decided that Jews needed to be shielded from stupid speech. When are they going to hang Ahmadinejad?
Yet, we see American culture and media have a zero tolerance for critics of Israel and Zionism, particularly in the American arena, which really draws a huge question mark over Americans' commitment to true freedom of speech. I was just expounding on that. Unlike Europe, we don't have actual laws against denying the Holocaust. Somehow American Jews get by just pointing the finger and hollering 'dipshit!' at the deniers.
I am not an advocate of hate speech even under the rubric of free speech. Hate speech could easily lead to mass murder and genocide. We should all remember that before there were Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen and Treblinka, there was Mein Kampf as well venomous anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda. "Oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me! Come and kill him!" Is that sorta speech okay?
Oddly enough for those lovers of not being offended, Mein Kampf is a perennial best seller in the lands of Dar al Islam.
Needless to say, it was this virulent propaganda that desensitised Europe and much of the Western world to the systematic extermination of European Jewry and others. Kinda went over the line into calls for murder, didn't it? There's always been a difference between speech and action, between opinion and incitement.
In my humble opinion, free speech that is likely to lead to the loss of life is not worth protecting and defending. But any kind of speech can lead to loss of life. I was reading a story yesterday about some dumbass who stabbed Mom's boyfriend because he ate the Thanksgiving leftovers. There's a principle in tort law that states that words are no grounds for thumpery. There's a schoolyard rhyme about how 'sticks and stones can break me bones, but words can never hurt me.' Rational adults (not the ones who'll stab you to death for eating the leftover turkey) will, when hollered at, holler back. Only when thumped will they thump back.
In the final analysis, a human being's right to life is more important than a human being's right to absolute, vulgar hate speech. In the final analysis in the West, a human being's right to life isn't something to be taken away by a howling mob of illiterates who get fired up because somebody offends their deity. There was a story just a week or two ago about some poor fellow in Pakistain who ran a school who was jailed for blasphemy because of something one of the teachers working for him did, seemingly by accident. Who the hell wants to live in that kind of world?
Yes, the two rights need not always be in a state of conflict. Ahah. Coming around to my way of thinking, are you? However, if you can't say something nice about a person some juicy gossip will go well... when a purported right has the potential of decimating the other more natural right, the right to life, there should be no question as to where our attention should be focused. See? Wasn't that easy? Just a few words aren't reason to call out the howling mobs. Even pictures aren't.
And as we all know, the matter is not merely academic, as recent events in parts of the Middle East have demonstrated. Damn right. Those suckers will spill into the streets at the drop of a hate. I mean hat.
There are, of course, those who claim that hate speech wouldn't have to lead to bloodshed. Well, this might be true if the rest of the world adopted the American value system and believed in the First Amendment as God-incarnate. There! Wasn't that simple?
But to the chagrin of our American friends, the world is too diverse to adopt the American way and adhere to the American Constitution as the ultimate religion of mankind. Yet somehow major and quite diverse powers, economic and otherwise, get by merely approximating the intent of individual freedom. When the inhabitants therein get slaughtered in the streets -- think Theo van Gogh -- it's often by Mohammedans taking umbrage at something or other.
This shouldn't mean though that the world is doomed to everlasting cultural confrontations. Conflicting cultural values need not evolve into wars of cultures or even worse, religious wars. Last time the West was involved in a major religious war was three or four hundred years ago. In the Islamic world it was... ummm... a couple hours ago. At a stretch.
A certain compromise solution ought to be found whereby a delicate balance is struck between the world's various value systems, including the right to free speech versus the right not to be offended by hate speech. Ahah. How about you quit spilling out of the mosques every Friday and murdering people. Then, after a bit, we'll go back to minding our manners when we talk about you. You won't get one without the other. And the more murderous and irrational you are as a culture, the more we'll despise you, as a culture, as nations, and as individuals.
In a nutshell, free speech, though not an absolute value in itself, is a positive value and ought to be protected and defended; but hate, malicious and vulgar speech is a negative value that ultimately leads to bloodshed and war. In that case, clean out your damn mosques. We're tired of hearing your harping.
It was no accident that Mahmoud Abbas chose November 29 to seek a United Nations General Assembly vote recognizing Palestine as a state, albeit as a non-member "observer" state at the U.N. November 29 is the 65th anniversary of the General Assembly's Resolution 181, which partitioned British-Mandated Palestine into Jewish and Palestinian states. The Jews accepted the Resolution; Arabs unanimously rejected it. It passed by a vote of 33-13 with 10 abstentions. Had the Arab world voted for the plan, a Palestinian state would be as old as Israel is today, and within larger borders than the 1949 Armistice lines that the Palestinian President now claims for his new, notional, "state."
Those Israelis won't be reassured by the lopsided 138-9 margin of Thursday's vote, with 41 abstentions. In effect, the General Assembly voted to violate the 1993 Oslo Accords, which are the legal basis for Mr. Abbas's Palestinian Authority and require negotiations with Israel to create a state. When the world next asks Jerusalem to take "risks for peace," Israelis will know that countries such as France (which voted for the resolution) and Germany (which abstained) will not have their backs. As for the Obama Administration, it opposed the U.N. resolution but failed to get allies such as France and Germany to do so as well -- further testimony to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice's dubious diplomatic skills.
It will be interesting to see if the Palestinians now use their new U.N. status to harass Israelis in venues such as the International Criminal Court. Such tactics are aimed at making everyday life increasingly unbearable for Israelis, ostensibly to force their hand on accepting a Palestinian state. Our guess is that it will have the opposite effect. When the U.N. voted in 1947 for partition, the Jews of Palestine demonstrated that they were ready to create a functional state. On Thursday, the U.N. voted for a "Palestine" that has become a byword for political dysfunction, ideological extremism, and a preference for symbolism over pragmatism. The tragedy of Thursday's vote is that it will only encourage Palestinians to remain in their make-believe world.
As for the Obama Administration, it opposed the U.N. resolution but failed to get allies such as France and Germany to do so as well -- further testimony to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice's dubious diplomatic skills
IMNSHO, the Obama administration opposed the resolution for public, domestically-political purposes; it did not expend the energy needed to get its nominal allies on board.
Susan Rice's dubious political skills weren't required, when her political hackery more than sufficed.