"Earlier this week Chief Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin warned that Russia's Muslims would stage violent protests if the march went ahead. "If they come out on to the streets anyway they should be flogged. Any normal person would do that - Muslims and Orthodox Christians alike ... [The protests] might be even more intense than protests abroad against those controversial cartoons." The cleric said the Koran taught that homosexuals should be killed because their lifestyle spells the extinction of the human race and said that gays had no human rights."
Notice this is not al Qaeda. It is the official mainstream Muslim leadership. Bob Wright today makes the case for self-censorship to avoid offense to religious groups and others. In principle, this makes sense. Gratuitous, arbitrary offense of someone else's faith is not a laudable exercize of free speech. It's an abuse of such freedom. But context is vital. Bob cites an example of portraying Jesus with a crown of thorns made up of dynamite sticks, after an abortion clinic bombing. I'd say that's a perfectly legitimate comment after an act of violence performed in the name of a religious figure who preached non-violence. Many Christians would share the sentiments of the cartoonist. It's ironic, as the Muhammad cartoon was. And if it's defensible in that case, it is exponentially more so in the case of Islam in 2006.
The world has been terrorized for decades now by murderers who specifically cite Muhammad as their inspiration. It is completely legitimate speech to point that out. Not to point it out - to remain silent in the face of it - is an act of denial.The reason that so many Muslims are offended is not just because any depiction of Muhammad is taboo; but because the conflation of Islam and murder is now firmly fixed in the global consciousness. I can understand why the repetition of that fact should upset many peace-loving Muslims. But that is not the fault of cartoonists. It's the fault of the Muslim terrorists, and the failure of mainstream Muslims to condemn them sufficiently, ostracize them completely, and prevent them effectively from further mayhem. At this point, in my judgment, further appeasement of these religious terrorists is counter-productive - and actually enables the extremists in their simultaneous intimidation of moderate Muslims.
To take another example: Would Bob urge the gay marchers in Moscow not to parade, because it offends so many religious people, Orthodox and Muslim? Should gay people censor themselves to avoid offending others? Should women who object to the brutal subjugation of half the human race in many Islamic societies silence themselves? Maybe Bob would indeed argue for self-censorship in these cases. Maybe he wouldn't. After all, Islam is very clear about the fate of homosexuals and the role of women. But self-censorship is a slippery slope. Practising it after acts of mass murder runs a real risk of inviting more of them. As ACT-UP used to say, "Silence = Death." Which is why the Islamists want as much silence as possible.