by Ann Snyder
Molly Norris was right, initially at least. The original idea behind "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" was simple. It was a message about the importance of solidarity in defense of something of great value—the cornerstone of our individual liberties—freedom of expression.
Comedy Central, Norris charged, had "cooperated with terrorists" when it censored an episode of South Park. If instead, everyone drew an image of Mohammed, Islamists couldn't possibly silence all of us. Her message echoed Benjamin Franklin's statement at the signing of the Declaration of Independence: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."
Recent news reminds us that capitulation is a failed strategy. We need to stand together with those who value individual rights (Muslims and non-Muslims, alike) against the onslaught of Islamists who would destroy those very freedoms.
On December 29, 2010 police arrested five suspects in a terror plot apparently targeting the newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Over five years ago, the Jyllands-Posten published cartoons depicting Islam's prophet, Mohammed. The newspaper and the cartoonists have been the targets of numerous threats and thwarted attacks ever since. Interestingly, the worst violence actually followed an apology by Jyllands-Posten. An attempt to appease had failed. (Norris learned the same lesson after attempting to apologize. Radical cleric Al-Awlaki still called for her murder, and she was forced to "go ghost" when authorities were unable to protect her.) The death toll from the anger fomented over the cartoons is estimated at over 200 with many more injured.
But why, after five years, has this controversy not gone away? Perhaps the reason is that the cartoons are merely an excuse being exploited by Islamists as a justification for their actions.
According to Jakob Scharf, head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, in a press conference following the foiled plot, "Obviously, the cartoons have been used very efficiently by militant Islamist groups worldwide in targeting Denmark, specifically, and trying to explain why the violent extremism is necessary." Egyptian-born, Muslim journalist, Mona Eltahawy, agrees that the cartoons have been exploited for political ends. In an article criticizing Yale University Press' cowardly decision to pull images of the cartoons from what was supposed to be a scholarly exploration of the cartoon controversy, Eltahawy asserts that the cartoons were used by some to stir anti-immigrant sentiments and by "right wing" Muslims to "silence [other] Muslims and fuel anti-Western rhetoric."
It is precisely because the cartoons are simply today's excuse for an Islamist tantrum that appeasement cannot work as an effective strategy to stop future violence. You won't halt attacks by prosecuting politicians and journalists for saying things that might offend the Islamists or by settling absurd lawsuits. Islamists will simply trump up a new pretext tomorrow. Further, the strategy of appeasement has grave consequences beyond being merely ineffectual. By appeasing, we are, as Norris suggested, cooperating with terrorists.
By silencing critics or those who might offend, we weaken the resistance to Islamists and each time, hand them a mini-victory. By giving in to the demands of extremists, we give credence to the faulty idea that there is a monolithic voice of the "Muslim world," and that the Islamists speak for it. (This is the idea the OIC would like you to buy into. This self-appointed Muslim-Lorax audaciously claims to speak for the entire "ummah." If we are interested in hearing the voices--note the plural--of Muslims perhaps we should start by talking to a few of these individuals who signed a petition in support of Norris, South Park, and freedom of expression. ) Finally, by capitulating in the face of every threat or whimper, we show Islamists that their approach works. And, like a schoolyard bully or petulant child, they will use the same strategy tomorrow.
This is why standing together with all lovers of individual liberty and resisting Islamist pressure is the first step in diffusing the threat. Capitulation has failed. We need to recognize that now, or assuredly we will all lose our heads.
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