It is fear of those expensive and entangling suits, and the risk of inviting demonstrations and even violence, that have silenced most critics of Islam.
“And who are these?” said the Queen, pointing to the three gardeners who were lying round the rose-tree; for, you see, as they were lying on their faces, and the pattern on their backs was the same as the rest of the pack, she could not tell whether they were gardeners, or soldiers, or courtiers, or three of her own children.
“How should I know!” said Alice, surprised at her own courage. “It’s no business of mine.”
The Queen turned crimson with fury, and, after glaring at her for a moment like a wild beast, began screaming, “Off with her head! Off with —”
“Nonsense!” said Alice, very loudly and decidedly, and the Queen was silent.
Lewis Carroll, for all his imagination, could not have imagined that he would make some relevant points in Alice in Wonderland about speaking up against those who would silence criticisms.
Your freedom of speech, in America and abroad, is undergoing the same kind of treatment that airline passengers now undergo at the literal hands of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). If nothing dangerous or controversial or offensive is found on your person, you may go about your business and board your flight. But if you complain, or give the TSA employee a dirty look, you will be subjected to special groping, feel-ups, and molestation just to show you who is boss. You may be ordered to wait in a glass cage as punishment until someone is ready to subject you to more invasive molestation. If you assault a legally sanctioned groper in retaliation, you will be assailed by airport police, regardless of your gender, arrested, handcuffed, gagged, and jailed. You should have known that speaking, or freedom of speech, like flying, is a “privilege.” That is what you have been told.
The parallels are appropriate. Your freedom of speech is held hostage until you submit to censorship. Obviously a contradiction, but one not grasped or recognized by the government, our courts, or civil rights advocates. Power does not need to recognize reason. The Bill of Rights to the contrary notwithstanding, the government and judicial stance on freedom of expression is that it is a permission granted by government, by society, by “God,” by anything but the right to protect yourself from initiated force. Frown at a TSA cipher, and that will be seen as offensive and hostile. Frown at Islam, and that will be interpreted as offensive, hurtful, bigoted, or hostile.
Criticize communism in a communist country, and you will be jailed and sentenced to slave labor. Criticize Nazism in Nazi Germany, and you will be imprisoned and sent to a concentration camp. Criticize fascism in Putin’s Russia, and you will die by a bullet in an elevator, in your car, in a public park. Criticize Islam in Britain in any form, and you will be subjected to due process, tried, fined, and jailed. In Britain, only Muslims may indulge in “hate speech” without penalty or worrisome legal consequences.
Criticize CAIR in the U.S., and you will learn what a ton of bricks feels like when it falls on your head. Like Molly Norris, the makers of “South Park,” like Salman Rushdie, you will either have a fatwa issued for your death, or you will be harassed and/or sued by an organization with terrorist ties.
Freedom of expression is being assailed, not only by our own government, but by our safely entrenched enemy, prominently led by The Council on American/Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other Islamic “civil rights” organizations. This is not news, of course. In Europe, one must be careful about what one says about Islam – such as Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who is being tried in Amsterdam for “hate speech” – and what one shows – such as the Turkish-German model, Sila Sahin, who posed semi-nude on the cover of the German edition of Playboy as a statement of her freedom from Islam.
Sila Sahin discarded the burqa, and to the delight of anyone who admires the female body, some of her other attire, as well. Her family is scandalized. Their “honor” has been besmirched. Off with her head. Aaron Proctor, a writer for the Philadelphia edition of Examiner.com, dared to mention in a column that CAIR is an unindicted party of the Hamas-linked Holy Land Foundation, Hamas being an FBI-designated terrorist organization. The Pennsylvania chapter of CAIR, upon reading that, sharpened the blade of its scimitar and called its lawyers to prayer. Off with his head.
And when one is censored, either by a government or by a ruinous lawsuit, or when one thinks twice before saying anything critical about Islam or its adherents, and says nothing, because the consequences would be too terrible, one may as well have been beheaded. Because once that happens, one’s mind is shackled, as well. Rendered useless. Speechless. As silent as Sidney Carton’s head after the guillotine has lopped it off.
There are ways to fight Islamic censorship (also known as “lawfare” and “libel tourism”) in this country. But the way of the Freedom From Religion Foundation is not the right way. This organization filed suit against President Barack Obama for declaring a National Day of Prayer because the decree excluded atheists. The court properly dismissed the suit because “a feeling of alienation cannot suffice as injury.” No branch of government, and particularly not the executive branch, has any business establishing or promoting religion. It is a violation of the First Amendment. And that is the argument that the FFR should have made central in its suit. If the suit was a ploy to persuade the court that Muslims were doing exactly what the FFR was doing, suing over “hurt feelings” or “alienation, and getting away with it,” the ruse failed. A USA Today article reported:
“If anyone suffers injury … that person is the president, who is not complaining,” ruled a three-judge panel of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Those who do not agree with a president’s statement may speak in opposition to it; they are not entitled to silence the speech of which they disapprove,” the court said.
But neither the president, nor the Senate, nor the House, nor any government department or agency has any Constitutional business proclaiming any religious observance, whether or not the observance is voluntary. Such a proclamation sets a precedent, one to be followed by others. The president is not entitled to that brand of free speech.
On the other hand, Muslims disapprove of any criticism of Islam or Muslims in any form – by word or by caricature – and have repeatedly sought injunctions against anyone speaking freely about Islam and Muslims. And it is fear of those expensive and entangling suits, and the risk of inviting demonstrations and even violence, that have silenced most critics of Islam.
Only the courageous will speak their minds and answer “Off with their heads!” with a reaffirmation of their right to say what they think must be said.
Edward Cline is a novelist who has written on the revolutionary war period. He is author of the Sparrowhawk series of novels set in England and Virginia in the Revolutionary period, the detective novel First Prize, the suspense novel Whisper the Guns, and of numerous published articles, book reviews and essays.
Off With Their Heads: Islamic “Lawfare“
CAPMAG - 24 April 2011