The New Yorker — famous for its cartoons — describes but doesn’t dare show the winning Muhammad cartoon. This epitomizes the cowardice of the mainstream media, and the rot that could end up destroying our free societies if it isn’t addressed.
“Pamela Geller and the Anti-Islam Movement,” by David K. Shipler, New Yorker, May 12, 2015:
The winning cartoon in the contest to draw the Prophet Muhammad, early this month in Garland, Texas, which two gunmen attacked, depicts a fierce Prophet waving a scimitar and saying, “You can’t draw me!” The artist, whose hand and pencil are visible, replies from outside the frame, “That’s why I draw you.”
And so the principle of free speech confronted American society’s unwritten code of restraint on contemptuous stereotyping. Mocking Islam’s ban on images of Muhammad, the contest’s organizer, Pamela Geller, of a crusading anti-Muslim group called the American Freedom Defense Initiative, invited cartoonists to compete for a ten-thousand-dollar prize. The winner, Bosch Fawstin, an Albanian Muslim who had renounced Islam, went into hiding.
Bosch is actually not in hiding; that turned out to be a false report. He wrote on Twitter: “Despite a Dishonest Wall Street Journal headline story saying I’ve gone into hiding b/c I’ve gotten death threats, I’ve Not gone into hiding.” The way Shipler words this, it sounds as if Bosch entered the contest without being aware of the risks involved, and that we exposed him to danger; nothing could be further from the truth.
Freedom of expression suddenly looked like two overlays on a map, the legal landscape and the cultural landscape, each with its own boundaries. The First Amendment protects the legal right to almost all expression, on the understanding that the best answer to offensive speech is more speech. Culturally, however, Americans have generally limited what they say out of respect for the dignity of others. People who violate the limits can suffer opprobrium, damage to their reputations, and even the loss of their jobs. Let us hope that they cannot also lose their lives.
When he speaks about respect for the dignity of others, he is, of course, talking about respecting the sharia prohibition on drawing Muhammad — prescinding from offending Muslims out of respect for them at human beings. That’s all to the good. The point at which it becomes a secondary consideration is the point when Islamic jihadists start murdering those who transgress this prohibition. When they murdered the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, they made it imperative for free people to stand up and say, We will not be intimidated. We will not be cowed into submission by threats and violence. You can kill us, but you will not silence us.
Otherwise, what is the alternative? Submission. Acceptance by non-Muslims of the Sharia blasphemy restrictions. And once we set the precedent that we will be silenced by threats and murder, and intimidated into submitted to Sharia, it won’t end with cartoons. There will be more. In Pakistan, Muslims have recently been threatening Christians, saying they will kill them if they build more churches. In Bangladesh, Muslims have been killing atheist bloggers. The Christians in Pakistan and the atheists in Bangladesh know they were provoking Muslims; why don’t they submit? Shouldn’t they stop what they’re doing to avoid offending Muslims? Aren’t they being needlessly provocative?
The issue with our Muhammad cartoon contest is between freedom and submission. That’s the beginning and the end of the issue.
No such opprobrium exists in the subculture of anti-Islam activists that has developed since 9/11.
Geller, who gained fame by opposing the effort to build a mosque and Muslim community center near the site of the World Trade Center, is “the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups.
The fact that Shipler cites the SPLC uncritically is an indication of how biased he really is. The SPLC lists my organizations as hate groups. AFDI, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, is a human rights organization dedicated to freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and individual rights is designated a hate group by a vicious uber left, pro-jihadist organization widely cited by the media and Obama’s Department of Justice. My group is a human rights group, and the SPLC calls us a hate group. This is the morally inverted state of the world.
The Weekly Standard has down an extensive exposes on these scammers and fraudsters here. The communists over at the Southern Poverty Law Center are among the gravest threats to freedom in the United States, “a wellspring of manufactured hate” and are named as such in the AFDI Threats to Freedom Index.
Robert Spencer asks: “Who watches the watchmen? Why is fighting for the freedom of speech and the equality of rights of all people now classified as ‘hate’? An uncritical, uninformed public takes for granted that the SPLC is some kind of neutral observer, when actually it is a far-Left attack outfit, using its ‘hate group’ classifications to stigmatize and demonize foes of its political agenda. But it classifies no Islamic jihad groups as ‘hate groups,’ and has now dropped the racist, violent and paranoid Nation of Islam from its hate group list.”
Geller operates within a context that includes groups with names like Jihad Watch, Now the End Begins, Unmasking the Muslim Brotherhood in America, Understanding the Threat, and Discover the Networks, which sound the alarm about the supposed encroachment of Sharia, or Islamic law. They work to convince the public that the Muslim Brotherhood is pursuing a grand plan to infiltrate and subvert the United States, facilitated by Americans’ complacency, and in the process earn ample profits, judging by the flourishing cottage industry of books, videos, Web sites, and training courses for police departments.
Remember this: Shipler is writing this right after two Islamic jihadis attempted to commit mass murder at a free speech event. He is writing this after Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups like Hamas-CAIR and its allies have for years been opposing every counter-terror measure that has ever been proposed or implemented. CAIR has distributed posters telling Muslims, “Don’t talk to the FBI.” He is writing this while knowing that every major Muslim group in the U.S. has never made any significant effort to prevent Muslims in the U.S. from imbibing the ideology of jihad groups such as the Islamic State.
Shipler acts as if it is our “Islamophobic” fantasy that there are Muslims trying to infiltrate and subvert the U.S. Infiltration and subversion is hard to prove. But one thing we can see are the actual policies of the U.S. government. Former U.S. prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy several years ago listed a great many strange collaborations between Hillary Clinton’s State Department and Muslim Brotherhood organizations, including:
- The State Department announced that the Obama administration would be “satisfied” with the election of a Muslim Brotherhood–dominated government in Egypt.
- Secretary Clinton personally intervened to reverse a Bush-administration ruling that barred Tariq Ramadan, grandson of the Brotherhood’s founder and son of one of its most influential early leaders, from entering the United States.
- The State Department collaborated with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc of governments heavily influenced by the Brotherhood, in seeking to restrict American free-speech rights in deference to sharia proscriptions against negative criticism of Islam.
- The State Department excluded Israel, the world’s leading target of terrorism, from its “Global Counterterrorism Forum,” a group that brings the United States together with several Islamist governments, prominently including its co-chair, Turkey—which now finances Hamas and avidly supports the flotillas that seek to break Israel’s blockade of Hamas. At the forum’s kickoff, Secretary Clinton decried various terrorist attacks and groups; but she did not mention Hamas or attacks against Israel—in transparent deference to the Islamist governments, which echo the Brotherhood’s position that Hamas is not a terrorist organization and that attacks against Israel are not terrorism.
- The State Department and the Obama administration waived congressional restrictions in order to transfer $1.5 billion dollars in aid to Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory in the parliamentary elections.
- The State Department and the Obama administration waived congressional restrictions in order to transfer millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian territories notwithstanding that Gaza is ruled by the terrorist organization Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch.
- The State Department and the administration hosted a contingent from Egypt’s newly elected parliament that included not only Muslim Brotherhood members but a member of the Islamic Group (Gamaa al-Islamiyya), which is formally designated as a foreign terrorist organization. The State Department refused to provide Americans with information about the process by which it issued a visa to a member of a designated terrorist organization, about how the members of the Egyptian delegation were selected, or about what security procedures were followed before the delegation was allowed to enter our country.
Maybe there are completely different reasons for all this (and so much more like it), but can Shipler really be so sure of that that he can dismiss infiltration and subversion out of hand?
Virtually all the alarm over the coming Islamic takeover and the spread of Sharia law can be traced back to an old document of questionable authority and relevance, “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America.” Dated May 22, 1991, it was found in 2004 by the F.B.I., buried in one of a large number of boxes uncovered during a search of a house in northern Virginia. (I reported on the discovery and the use of the document for my book “Freedom of Speech: Mightier than the Sword.”) It is cited on numerous Web sites, and in articles, videos, and training materials, which quote one another in circular arguments. Its illusion of importance was enhanced by federal prosecutors, who included it in a trove of documents introduced into evidence in the 2007 trial of the Holy Land Foundation, a charitable organization ultimately convicted of sending money to Hamas.
This memorandum is indeed telling. But Shipler is wrong that “virtually all the alarm over the coming Islamic takeover and the spread of Sharia law can be traced back” to it. The document is confirmed by the fact that every U.S. Muslim group has followed out its program since then. Shipler never considers that. It seems as if he doesn’t want his readers to know it.
The memo, however, is far from probative. It was never subjected to an adversarial test of its authenticity or significance. Examined closely, it does not stand up as an authoritative prescription for action. Rather, it appears to have been written as a plea to the Muslim Brotherhood leadership for action, by an author we know little about, Mohamed Akram. He is listed elsewhere as a secretary in the Brotherhood, but he writes in the tone of an underling. Islam watchers do not quote his appeal that the recipients “not rush to throw these papers away due to your many occupations and worries. All that I’m asking of you is to read them and to comment on them.” These lines reveal the memo as a mere proposal, now twenty-four years old. No other copies have come to light.
Two features of the memo are highlighted by the Islam watchers: first, its assertion that “the Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within,” and, second, “a list of our organizations and the organizations of our friends.” One of the more prominent organizations on the list is the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which opposes discrimination against Muslims and, on its Web site, has featured videos of American Muslims rejecting acts of terrorism as violations of Islam’s tenets. But the peaceful rhetoric is just a ruse, John Guandolo, a former F.B.I. agent, contends.
Shipler’s carelessness is revealed here. The memorandum doesn’t actually mention CAIR. It was written before CAIR was founded. It mentions the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), CAIR’s parent group, which was shut down for its ties to Hamas. Shipler doesn’t mention that, either.
Guandaolo allowed me to attend a training session he held for community activists. In his presentations, he conflates the named organizations with the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Brotherhood with Hamas, the radical movement that evolved from the Brotherhood and now rules the Gaza Strip. So the memo’s list of friendly organizations, which may have been compiled casually by a wishful-thinking operative, becomes a tool of guilt by association.
Shipler is quite wrong that the Muslim Brotherhood memorandum is the only thing linking these organizations to Hamas. Nihad Awad of Hamas-tied CAIR stated openly that he supported Hamas in 1994. The Justice Department named many of these groups unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) Hamas funding trial — not just based on this document, but on the groups’ activities aiding and abetting the HLF.
Whenever a sheriff’s department or local police force hires Guandolo to train officers in the dangers of a Muslim takeover, CAIR and Muslim community centers push back hard, urging that the sessions be cancelled.
Notice that Shipler is fine with this efforts to strongarm local police and smear and defame Guandolo.
They don’t always succeed, but when a department capitulates and calls off the course, Guandolo publishes blog posts accusing police officials of giving in to Hamas. Last fall, after the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona opposed a scheduled training session, he urged that the group be indicted, for giving “material support” to Hamas, as a designated terrorist organization.
What these activists say about Islam and their right to say it are different issues, now entangled. By attacking the cartoon gathering, the gunmen in Texas have reframed the argument about it in favor of their enemies. Without their attack, the focus would have been on the bigotry of the cartoon exercise.
For Shipler and the New Yorker, it’s “bigotry” to stand against violent intimidation in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo jihad attacks.
It is now also on freedom of thought—“not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate,” as Oliver Wendell Holmes declared.
Geller claimed that from the beginning the cartoon contest “was about freedom of speech, period.” Handed the chance to bask in righteousness, she took it with her customary flair for hyperbole, telling CNN, “Increasingly, we are abridging our freedoms so as not to offend savages. The very idea that if something offends me or I’m insulted by something I’ll kill you and that way I can get my way, and somehow this is O.K. with members of the élite media and academia, is outrageous.”
Shipler says it’s “hyperbole” to call people who would commit mass murder over cartoons “savages.” Will he be telling them that as the jihadi blade slices through his neck? “Hey, boys, let’s cut out the hyperbo–“