Sunday, April 09, 2006

Cowardice at Borders

One of my favorite blogging topics before shipping out was the Danish cartoon affair. Unfortunately, while I was toiling away in Basic Training, the situation sadly but predictably exploded into violence. Olivier Guitta wrote an excellent article in the February 20th Weekly Standard discussing the controversy and how radical Islamists successfully exploited it in furtherance of their campaign to destroy free expression.

The Islamist campaign of intimidation has now paid dividends even here in the US. Borders Bookstores has disgracefully announced that they will not carry the April-May issue of Free Inquiry, which contains four of the cartoons that were the focus of the controversy (link via Instapundit).

Borders cited fear of violence as the reason for their decision. This is not unfounded, as two California bookstores were firebombed during the Satanic Verses controversy. Still, giving in to such threats only rewards the Islamists for their anti-intellectual barbarism. Such capitulation ensures that Salafists will continue to threaten violence whenever anything that offends their totalitarian vision of Islam is published, even here in the West.

Unfortunately, the cartoons are not available on the Free Inquiry web site. However, the site does include a powerful piece by R. Joseph Hoffmann that is well worth reading. While I believe that Hoffmann is too ready to lump all religious beliefs into the same basket of intolerance, the following passage is dead on:

Forget clichés about the "Culture Wars," "intolerance," "the other," "Crusader logic," and "Postcolonial Fatigue Syndrome." Social critic Ibn Warraq is correct in his recent commentary on the "Cartoon Crisis" that the modern West is the Mother of Reason and that no one in Denmark or France needs to be lectured on the value of tolerance. But he’s wrong to think that Muslims care a fig about Reason that leaves Paradise behind. They’re not reading Hume: they’re reading the Muslim philosopher-theologian Al-Ghazali (1058–1111 c.e.), who decreed that it is a sacred duty to "suppress the enemies of religion through the jihad in His cause, and to gain their wealth, women, and lands until they surrender to Islam." (Indeed, one of the most amusing of the cartoons shows a worried, diminutive Prophet welcoming smoking suicide bombers with the caption, "Stop, stop—we ran out of virgins.") The tricky part of tolerance is that those who invoke it as victims hate it in principle.

The West may have an imperfect understanding of Islam; it does not have a completely false understanding of Islam. And the Great Lie that Western governments, especially the perennially incompetent Washington, urge along as it slouches toward Mecca to be born is that "understanding" and freedom of expression—even if it involves torching embassies and killing priests—is the solution to the history of the very incompetence that has led to the crisis.


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