Free Speech…or Almost Free Speech?
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Thus reads the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, an amendment so important that the Founding Fathers placed it ahead of all others. It should be obvious to all that without free speech all the other amendments, even the Constitution, become moot points.
On Sunday, May 4th, Pamela Geller, co-founder of “The Freedom Defense Initiative” sponsored a “Draw Mohammed “ contest at the Curtis Culwell Center in the city of Garland, Texas. Two hours into the event, a dark vehicle pulled up and two men, wearing body armor and carrying rifles emerged from it and opened fire, wounding an unarmed security guard in the ankle. The gunmen were intent in replicating the Charlie Hebdo massacre; unfortunately for them, they picked the wrong venue and an outgunned, but better trained traffic officer, moonlighting as security for the event, shot and killed the would-be jihadists. It turned out that both men, who had tweeted allegiance to ISIS, had driven from Phoenix, AZ, some 1080 miles and 16 hours away, as per Google Maps. The key note speaker of the event was Dutch politician Geerd Wilders, under death sentence from Islamist extremists for having made the short film, “Fitna” which depicts extreme acts of terrorism against a background of Koranic verses. It is obvious that both Ms Geller and Mr Wilders were the main targets for assassination, along with anyone else the “holy warriors” had the opportunity to kill before they themselves could be dispatched to Paradise.
The reaction from what passes as the main stream press was swift in coming and Ms Geller was dubbed as anything from a “provocateur” to “despicable” and “hate monger” Surprising criticism came from Bill O’Reilly and some of the Fox News commentators. Apparently, the opinion they espoused is that the event was “offensive” to Muslims and therefore should not have taken place. The “progressive” press, with the New York Times leading the charge, called it “hate speech” and “offensive and provocative” therefore, not protected by the 1st Amendment.
News flash! It is precisely that kind of speech that the 1st Amendment protects. If all speech were like The Barney the Dinosaur song (remember?) the 1st Amendment would have no reason to exist, but it is not and therefore, it exists. Yes, you cannot yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater but that is an exception, not the rule. You can yell “Fire!” anywhere else. You may not yell “Loot!” and incite a crowd at the door of a store during a riot but you may write, or say “Loot!” from the safety of your home at a distance, as Al Sharpton has demonstrated countless times. If you are a minister, priest or holy man, you can fulminate from the pulpit and call the wrath of God upon the heads of those miscreants who have the audacity to not recognize the righteousness of your cause, but you have no right to harm, hurt, maim, kill or otherwise impede the welfare or destroy the property of those miscreants. That is precisely what those two gunmen in Garland attempted to do. The irony is that they inadvertently vindicated Ms Geller’s and Mr Wilder’s point. There is a violent streak in Islam and it comes not from the lunatic fringe but from its core.
The same public outlets that cried out against “right wing” and “fascist censorship” when objections were raised against the display of a crucifix immersed in a plastic jar full of urine or when the Brooklyn Museum of Art ran an exhibit in which a portrait of the Virgin Mary was surrounded with pornographic images and elephant dung, are the same ones who now object and fret about something as inane as a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed…..and why? Because in contrast to Catholics and other Christians, Islamic extremists not only threaten, but kill those who have the audacity to depict the prophet.
On April 12th, 2006, Comedy Central censored an image of Mohammed scheduled to be shown on the night’s episode of “South Park”, bowing to pressure from Islamic extremists. However, Comedy Central had no problem showing an episode of “South Park” -during Holy Week, no less- showing Jesus Christ defecating on President Bush and on the American flag. Mormons and Scientologists have been the butt of humor verging on the offensive; yet, neither Catholics, Protestants, Mormons or Scientologists have ever threatened Comedy Central with physical violence or death. The most they have ever done is to switch off their television sets.
Muhammed has been depicted in the past, particularly in Medieval Muslim art and illuminated manuscripts, especially in Shiite sources, and no one was killed.
Pamella Geller is a 56 year old single mother of four children and was born June 14th 1958 in Hewlett Harbor, a section of Long Island, NY, the third of four sisters. Helping her father in his business, she became fluent in Spanish. During a recent interview on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News, she debated an Islamic cleric, who called for her to be tried and punished by a Sharia court, to which she replied: “Canon Law applies only to Catholics, Jewish Law applies only to Jews, but Sharia applies to everyone? I live in America, sir and I’m free to do and think what I want”
I lived the majority of my life without paying much attention to Islam or the Arab world….until September 11th 2001, when I saw those planes deliberately crashing into the World Trade Center towers. I watched them collapse into enormous clouds of dust and mountains of rubble, but the image that still stays with me and that I sometimes dream about, is that of people jumping from the burning towers to their deaths on the pavement below, human beings faced with the choice of either burning to death or splattering on the concrete. I started to read and learn all I could about Islam, and what I read I did not like; if you have any doubts as to the root causes of 9-11 just read Mohammed Atta’s will.
Are all Muslim like that? Certainly not. But the hard fact is that Islam needs a reformation, as the Egyptian President recently stated. But all is not lost. During the recent Nigerian army operation that resulted in the liberation of scores of young girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, there was a young lady who had been kidnapped, along with her sister, when they visited a local beauty supply store. While they were being transported in trucks, there was an opportunity to escape and her sister took advantage of it, but she could not, because while they were being herded on foot, she ran across three children whose parents had been killed and she took it upon herself to care for them and decided she could not abandon them. She, along with the children, were rescued by the army. She is Muslim. The children are Christian. You see, there is hope.
ISIS has called for Pamela Geller’s death, calling her a “pig” She is a very courageous lady who speaks her mind very clearly. She runs a blog called “Atlas Shrugs” which has become the target not only for Islamists but for “progressive” forces as well, who want to shut her down, the same “progressive” forces who claim 1st Amendment rights when it comes to attack, ridicule and slander Christians or Jews knowing full well that no physical harm will come to them as a result; however, when it comes to Islam, these “progressives” suddenly become conscious of “hate mongers”, “freedom of religion” and “offensive speech”, wonderful expressions behind which they hide their cowardice and jellyfish spines. Ms Geller has shown them for what they really are and now they join in the chorus call of blaming the victim, not the perpetrators. It is said that some Oriental rulers, when receiving a message they did not like, ordered the messenger killed. Apparently, the modern version of that mentality is still with us.
Kowtowing to any group or institution that puts limits or definitions on what should or should not be said in public discourse is a first step on the downward road to serfdom. Almost free speech is not free at all.
Stay safe, Pamela!!!