Darryl E. Owens—Note to Muslims: We didn’t yield free speech on 9-11

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ah, dialogue. That would be refreshing when it involves Islam.

The truth is, the most virulent "Islamophobia" plaguing America is the fear of offending Muslims. We've grown gun-shy about speaking up and granted radical Islam a formidable power over us from which the Bill of Rights restrains Congress: abridging our freedom of speech.

Now, I'm not hanging a radical tag on Zaghari-Mask. While I believe that on this she was a mite thin-skinned, in America she owns the right to speak her mind. And that's the point.

Yet, since 9-11, we've often ceded that right, often exercising free speech about Muslims with chilled restraint. Just look at Hollywood.

Two years ago, CAIR decried a story line about a Muslim sleeper cell on the popular Fox network series 24 because the portrayal might "increase Islamophobic stereotyping and bias." So Fox issued a disclaimer.

That same year, Fox swaddled in the free-speech blanket when incensed Christians blasted an episode of Family Guy. God, in the episode, lies beside a blond bombshell who produces a condom.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaMulticulturalism, pluralismReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam

Posted August 26, 2007 at 2:35 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Words Matter wrote:

Free speech means the government can’t (generally) control what I say, but civil discourse depends on self-control. Certain words are simply not used in polite society; one that starts with “n” comes to mind. Even back in the supposed dark ages of the 50s (in Texas and Louisiana no less), this boy could count on a scolding for using it. I think I remember some soap in mouth on one occasion, but that may have been for calling my sister a “liar”. 

Now, it’s a legitimate question as to when civil discourse means not saying certain things, and when the one claiming victim status is simply playing for power.  Shall we say black, African-American, or whatever, or is the shifting nomenclature out there to keep whitey off-balance?  When feminists object to “lady”, as was fashionable it one point, are they being absurd, or do they have a legitimate point about male domination? Chicano seems to be making a come-back, usually as the feminine “chicana”. When is a name a name, and when does it contain an undertone of rage and/or implied control of the speaker.

For at least a generation, every aggrieved identity group has engaged in some sort of word-play, sometimes to claim their legitimate social role, and sometimes to gain control.  Now it’s the Arabs turn. In one sense, it marks their place in American culture, if not the most healthy aspect of American culture.

August 26, 4:04 pm | [comment link]
2. Katherine wrote:

No, but it’s not Arabs, Words Matter.  It’s Islamic extremists.  Even the mildest critiques of Muslim belief and practice are being suppressed by this self-censorship, either for fear of not being “nice” or for fear of violence or lawsuits.  Americans are free to criticize Christianity and do so often.  Muslims in the U.S. must accept criticism and disagreement.  This is entirely different from real discrimination.

August 26, 4:49 pm | [comment link]
3. Harvey wrote:

#2 Katherine, You make some good points.  I think I’ll expand them.
Recent history speaks of the time the ambassador of Russia met with the ambassador of the United States.  Somehow the subject of freedom of speech was broached.  The US ambassador was quoted as saying “..In the US I can criticize my government and any elected official anytime..”  The Russian ambassador was quick to reply that he could do the same.  Whereupon the US ambassador was quick to say “..but can you criticize your own leaders here in the US or in Russia in the same manner..”  The resulting silence spoke deafiningly.  I wonder how many Muslims would survive if they criticized their home governments in the same way as they sometimes do to us.  Let’s don’t downgade our freedom of speech, in doing so we start to become a copy of their way of doing things.

August 26, 5:18 pm | [comment link]
4. Chris Taylor wrote:

There is nothing wrong with criticising specific Muslims for their actions or for their words.  The problem usually comes when broad generic statements are made about Muslims and their religion in general.  Islam is the world’s second largest religion, with over 1.25 billion followers.  That’s a lot of people.  What we sometimes tend to forget is that there are lots and lots of diversity within that collective group—just as there are among Christians (or Hindus, or Buddhists, or Jews, etc.).  We do not help the situation when we see Islam and Muslims as a monolithic force—it isn’t and they aren’t.  We only aid the cause of extremists when we fail to make distinctions.  There are millions and millions of Muslims the world over who do not hate us, and who want for their own children pretty much what we want.  We need to distinguish between those Muslims who seriously mean us harm, and the many more who do not.  We’ll be much more effective at isolating the former with friends among the latter.  Many Muslims, especially in the West, are becoming much more self-critical about their own religion and co-religionists.  This is a development we should encourage, and we can’t encourage it by treating Islam and Muslims as monolithic realities.

August 26, 6:18 pm | [comment link]
5. chips wrote:

I think it is safe to say we are at war with the followers of a virolent strand of militant Islam.  Unfortuneatley, the militiant ones can find considerble support for their beliefs and actions in the orthodox tenants of their religion.  Unlike modern Christianity, Islam is or can be all of the following theology, ideology, the state, and the law.  When a religion extorts supremacy over others through force of arms and the police power of modern states - then the religion is fair game for criticism.  One tenant of Islam appears to be that it tolerates no criticism of it - the cartoon bruhaha is an example of effots by the militants to end criticism by intimidation.  We can not afford to be intimidated.  We do need to not needlessly offend moderate muslim sentiment - but we cannot fail to criticism elements of Islam that are facist, barbarous, or imperialist - ie Sharia, dhiminitude, and of course the 72 virgins awaiting suicide bombers.

August 26, 6:33 pm | [comment link]
6. Wilfred wrote:

Islamic countries have no real Freedom of speech, which is why they are called the Muzzle ‘ems.

August 26, 10:05 pm | [comment link]
7. Words Matter wrote:

Katherine -

Perhaps it wasn’t clear that I find repugnant word games played by identity/victimization ideologues. My #1 was meant more as a rumination on how American this present business and the irony of that, given the topic.  Of course, the topic is Arab offense to perceived racial/ethnic discrimination, but Islam is the sub-text, the gas in the engine, if you will.

Looking down through the thread, perhaps it’s time to renew an old question: Are “moderate” Muslims authentic representations of Islam, or is their religion simply cultural?  That is, are “moderate” Muslims rather like Christian pew potatoes, culturally involved in their religion, but not letting it get in the way of what they really want to do? Are “moderate” Muslims sort of like Christian liberals, taking the parts of the Faith they like and leaving the rest (the “cafeteria Catholic”), or simply rewriting it? Were they “moderate” Muslims dancing in the streets - and cafes - in the Middle East on 9/11?

August 27, 12:19 am | [comment link]
8. chips wrote:

I fear that the answer to Words Matter questions is “yes”.

August 27, 11:00 am | [comment link]
9. libraryjim wrote:

“South Park” also regularly uses “free speech” to trample the faith of Christians.  The actor who played ‘chef’ didn’t have a problem with this until they picked on HIS religion (Scientology), and then quit in a huff.

August 28, 3:59 pm | [comment link]
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