What I Learned From The Charlie Hebdo Massacre

  • A small, but significant, minority of Muslims react violently to the publication of cartoons mocking the prophet Mohammad.
  • The vast majority of Muslims globally oppose the right to publish religious satire and other material that insults Islam
  • Liberals are not up to the task of defending our unequivocal right to insult all religion

I used to be oblivious to the problem with Islam. Like many fellow liberals, my perception had always been that the vast majority of Muslims understood and were supportive of the right to ridicule religious figures in cartoons. It wouldn’t have occurred to me in a million years that there was a large segment of the Muslim population living in the West who actually felt entitled to have the sacraments of their religion insulated from the criticism, the challenges and the mockery that people from other faiths have to endure.

I was living in a world where Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali had to have armed guards around them at all times (even in the United States) and I didn’t have a clue anything was up with Islam.

But on Janary 7, 2015 something happened that burst my bubble. A group of jihadists in Paris forced their way into the Charlie Hebdo offices and killed twelve magazine staffers. They killed them because the magazine had published cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammad. They killed them to enforce Muslim blasphemy laws in Paris in the 21st century.

This horrific display of scripture-sanctioned violence evoked a strange response from both Muslims and liberals alike. Their behavior following the attack taught me a few things I dare say I should have known already.

1. It is dangerous to mock Islam.

The anti-free speech mindset behind the Charlie Hebdo attack is mainstream in Islam. That’s why Salman Rushdie has to have bodyguards everywhere he goes. It’s why one must pass through a metal detector when attending one of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s speaking engagements.

Danish embassies were burned to the ground in most Muslim-majority countries following the Danish newspaper’s publication of cartoons mocking the prophet Mohammad in a Danish newspaper. It’s why Islamic extremists in the twenty-first century murdered filmmaker Theo Van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam after he made a film critical of the treatment of women in Islam.

The murder of Theo Van Gogh is meant to teach us a hard lesson. We have religious zealots enforcing Muslim blasphemy laws in Amsterdam. In Paris. In the United States. An ultimatum has been laid out before us. Show respect for Islam or someone will die.

2. The mainstream Muslim community is bluntly telling us to respect the jihadists’ wishes.

Numerous public figures from the Muslim community, atonishingly, blame the free press for the provocation instead of the barbaric aspects of Islamic culture. Why don’t we just show respect, they ask us?

It’s hard to believe that Islam apologists like journalists Mehdi Hasan and Rula Jubreal would have the audacity to utter such callous sentiments. What could be less appropriate in the aftermath of this attack on the free press than a lecture on good manners? Instead of mourning the fallen soldiers in the free speech battle we’re in with Islam, they feel at liberty to whine. Why do we have to be so vulgar in the West? And why can’t we just give Muslims special insulation from the mockery that Christians, Jews and Mormons all must deal with.

3. The Left is not up to the task of defending free speech.

In Sarah Silverman’s book Bedwetter, she says plainly why she’s willing to joke about Judaism and Christianity in her comedy act, but unwilling to mock Islam: “I’m afraid of angering Muslims, but not afraid of angering Jews and Christians.” So, fear stops her from ridiculing the religion, but the question remains — why doesn’t Sarah Silverman fight for her right as a comic to skewer all religious ideologies?

Shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attack, Jon Stewart ran a skit in which he insists his correspondent should be “condemnier” of the attack than others since he, after all, is a Muslim. The skit presumes that ordinary Muslims are just as shocked and appalled as everyone else when their fellow Muslims violently attack the free press, and one would have to be some kind of bigot to imagine otherwise.

This fawning-over-the-hurt-feelings-of-religious-people — it isn’t normal in a world where the citizenry is free to consume whatever blasphemous content it’s heart desires. Rather, it’s an absurd appeasement that is being made in the name of sensitivity to the Muslim community.

It is to Bill Maher’s credit that he is vocally supportive of free speech and he keeps it real about Islam’s infringement on it. His conviction on this matter is unusual in progressive Hollywood.

The good news is that there are peaceful Muslims pushing hard for reform, but liberals are too frightened to get behind their efforts. People like Sarah Silverman, Jon Stewart, John Cusack, and Ben Affleck could step up and support them anytime — but they won’t. They don’t want to be seen as “Islamophobic”.

That’s it. The writing is on the wall. The jihadists, the Islam apologists and the Leftists who give them cover are all pushing for a world where Islam is virtually off limits to criticism. This is theocracy and all freedom-loving people must reject it.