Muslims Assault Free Speech in Dearborn
By Robert Spencer
Recently Muslims took offense to a group of Christians at the Arab-American Festival in Dearborn, Michigan, and began pelting them with rocks and other objects, while shouting “Allahu akbar.” (See the Atlas Shrugs video here.) Dearborn police were more concerned about what the Christians had done to provoke the Muslims than they were about the Muslim thuggery. The incident was emblematic of the loss of American values, and gradual implementation of Sharia, in Dearborn.
The Christians were apparently behaving obnoxiously, but no amount of obnoxious behavior justifies rock-throwing. When the Nazis wanted to march through Skokie, Illinois in 1977, most Americans took for granted that while the group’s message was evil, they had a right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly like everyone else. No one would have considered the group’s disgusting stances to be justification for a violent attack upon them. But thirty-five years later, the situation has drastically changed – at least when it comes to Muslims in Dearborn, Michigan, when faced with a group of confrontational and less-than-polite Christians. The Dearborn police have apparently accepted a view that is increasingly common among Western authorities: that when enraged Muslims commit acts of violence because they are offended, the responsibility lies with those who gave offense, not the Muslims.
The underlying assumption of this is that Muslims have no control over their reactions, and thus cannot be held accountable for them: the Dearborn cops were demonstrating their belief that it was the Christians’ responsibility to make sure the Muslims behaved in a civilized manner. The Muslims had no such responsibility.
It is no coincidence, either, that Islamic law forbids Christians to proselytize among Muslims, to speak critically of Islam or Muhammad, or to make public display of their own faith. The Dearborn police are therefore enforcing the Sharia, rather than protecting these Americans’ right to do what is perfectly legal to do under American law.
Instead of this morally myopic posturing, the Dearborn police and the mainstream media (which has generally ignored the incident) ought to be standing up for the Christians who were attacked, and for the freedom of speech. Speech that is inoffensive needs no protection, and those in power can all too easily use “hate speech” codes to restrict speech they find politically inconvenient or challenging. Dearborn authorities could have and should have said: ”While I disapprove of the behavior of the Christian demonstrators, in America we believe that freedom of expression is a fundamental bulwark against tyranny and the hallmark of a truly free society, and it requires us to put up with things we don’t like without responding with violence.”
This incident could have been a teaching moment for the West, showing why free societies are preferable to Sharia states. But instead, the Dearborn police’s response to this incident effectively reinforces the principle that violent intimidation works: in the face of Muslims behaving violently, and instead of telling them to grow up and act like civilized people and accept that in free societies they will have to put up with some things they don’t like, they essentially demanded that free people change the way they behave to accommodate them.
The world’s leaders and opinion-shapers can and should be telling Muslims worldwide that if someone insults Islam, it doesn’t harm them, or the Qur’an, or Allah, or Muhammad. It is not a demonstration of their piety to lash out violently in response.
Instead, all too many Americans have clearly forgotten, if they ever knew, that one’s response to someone else’s provocative action is entirely one’s own responsibility. If you do something that offends me, I am under no obligation to throw rocks at you or kill you, or to run to the United Nations to try to get laws passed that will silence you. I am free to ignore you, or laugh at you, or to respond with charity, or any number of reactions.
We are quickly forgetting why the freedom of expression, is so important, and why it is so crucial to protect even speech that we find detestable — indeed, especially in such cases. If we continue down this path, one thing is certain: that which is not understood or valued will not be protected, and so it will be lost.
Those who censor themselves today to keep from offending Muslims who are offended all too easily may wish in the not-too-distant future that they had stood up more robustly for the freedom of speech when it was threatened. But by then, it could easily be too late.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, Did Muhammad Exist?, is now available.