Monday, July 09, 2007

Scolding Western No Avail

Late last month Ayaan Hirsi Ali produced 2 short publications at AEI. One on June 19th was The Role of Journalism Today. The other one on June 25th was An Honor Worth Defending.

The June 19th article is about the odd feeling she had giving a speech at the National Press Club. In her speech she talked about defending freedom of expression, free press, and the rights of women. What felt odd to her is she noticed the embarrassment the western journalist felt at defending the very right from which they earn their bread.

She noticed the same sense of uneasiness in early 2006 among Western journalists, academics, politicians, and commentators on how to respond to the cartoons of Muhammad in Denmark. In fact, many seriously defended the assertion that Denmark had to apologize for the cartoons. This attitude was repeated in the fall of last year when the Pope quoted a Byzantine emperor who wrote that the founder of Islam spread his religion by the sword, and the New York Times urged the Pope to apologize.

It is not the end of history. The 21st century began with a battle of ideas, and this battle is about the values of the West versus those of Islam. Tony Blair and the Pope should not be embarrassed in saying it, and you should stop self-censoring. Islam and liberal democracy are incompatible; cultures and religions are not equal. And perhaps most important of all, Muslims are not half-wits who can respond only in violence.

I encourage anyone to read the entire publication. She writes about many good questions that she is often asked by people, and she writes some very interesting answers to these good questions. Her final paragraph is this admonition.

If we do not understand the differences between Islam and the West--why one is so great and the other so low--and we don't fight back and win this battle of ideas in order to preserve our civilization, in my view there is no point to your profession or mine.

Her second article is about the reaction in Pakistan to Sir Salmon Rushdie being honored by Queen Elizabeth II with knighthood.

Imagine if a crowd of Englishmen marched in London carrying effigies of Muhammad, peace be upon him, stacks of the Koran, miniatures of the Kaaba in Mecca and Saudi flags. Imagine if they then built a bonfire and hurled the items one at a time into that fire screaming "Long Live the Queen!" each time the flames shot up.

This would be the equivalent of what hardline Muslim students did in the eastern Pakistani city of Multan, to take just one example, when they burned effigies this week of Queen Elizabeth II and Salman Rushdie, chanting "Kill him! Kill him!" in response to his recently bestowed knighthood.

Westerners have too often shrugged their shoulders at the trashing of their icons--such as when the queen is burned in effigy--by the foot soldiers of tribal barbarism. This perceived weakness makes the foes of the West more ferocious and helps recruit more jihadists.

Instead the West should join together to vigorously defend its symbols and civilization that, with all its flaws, still offers the best life to the most people.

Strident demands for apologies from power holders should be met with stoicism. Not one inch should be given.

Governments like that of Pakistan, which encourage and even stoke the flames, ought to be brought to account instead of coddled. The United States and Britain ought to demand that Pakistan's religious affairs minister, Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, resign for saying, in the Pakistani Parliament: "The West is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism. If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so unless the British government apologizes and withdraws the 'sir' title."

With this episode involving Sir Salman, the Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka is absolutely right: It is a fatal mistake for the West to let the forces of intolerance "define the territory of insult." The West must stand its ground.

By knighting Salman Rushdie, the queen has honored the freedom of conscience and creativity cherished in the West, making her a symbol of the essence of our way of life.

I have a lot of respect for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and unfortunately her admonitions are simply being directed at a segment of the West that have their heads stuck firmly in the sand like ostriches. I also think there is one type of target the press will stand their ground against and beat the drum against. That target is rich white middle-aged men like POTUS or CEO of Halliburton or Exxon. I also think there is an elitist bigotry wrapped in a fear by many western journalists that Muslims ARE half-wits who can only respond in violence.

We can not win any battles of ideas through the MSM, so I suggest we support somebody who, like Reagan, bypasses the MSM and speaks directly to the people.

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