Friday, November 25, 2011

Richard Landes On Charlie Hebdo and Freedom Of Speech

Richard Landes, an American professor, writer and historian, has written an excellent response  to Bruce Crumley's commentary (on Time's website) regarding the Charlie Hebdo firebombing incident.

Crumley, is your typical apologist/appeaser who believes anyone critical of Islam is 'Islamphobic', and wants that criticism to stop:

Okay, so can we finally stop with the idiotic, divisive, and destructive efforts by “majority sections” of Western nations to bait Muslim members with petulant, futile demonstrations that “they” aren't going to tell “us” what can and can't be done in free societies? Because not only are such Islamophobic antics futile and childish, but they also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists their authors claim to proudly defy in the name of common good. What common good is served by creating more division and anger, and by tempting belligerent reaction?

Landes, on the other hand, believes  Muslims should just "grow up". Although he does agree "in principle" with Crumley's objection to "gratuitous insult", he does not believe the criticism should stop.

Gratuitous insult is not what we need. Much better purposeful, serious criticism. If Crumley really embodied the maturity he pretends to, then he’d have serious challenges to Islam to his credit. That would attest to his readiness to treat Muslims as adults, capable of listening to as well as proffering criticism, to his faith that “the vast majority of Muslims are moderates.”
But if he is primarily trying to spare Muslims’ feelings – if he secretly believes that they are incapable of playing by the minimal rules of civil society; that they are not far from sympathising with jihadis for whom violence is a legitimate response to any form of criticism of Islam – then he unconsciously reveals that he thinks Muslims are primitive, violent people who must be appeased at all costs.

Here’s where Crumley and I part ways: he treats Muslims as animals or little children, and believes that he can win them over with carrots. Sticks will just spook them. So he finds Charlie Hebdo’s behavior “childish, futile, Islamophobic [sic!]… inflammatory… obnoxious, infantile… outrageous, unacceptable, condemnable.”
I’d rather treat Charlie Hebdo as a teaching moment, as a shibboleth for detecting genuinely moderate Muslims. Here’s an occasion to teach our Muslim co-citizens about “sticks and stones.” If we can’t find Muslims to whom we can say: “this part of modern civil society, and your learning to get past the implied/imagined insult constitutes minimal adherence to principles of reciprocity,” then what does it mean to carry on about “moderate Muslims”? This reciprocity is especially significant given how virulently critical of infidels many of the most vocal Muslims are.

This radical (and pre-modern) asymmetry of “us” and “them” reflects one of the most disturbing – and to liberals, incomprehensible – principle of Wala wa bara - “loyalty to Muslims and enmity for infidels.” It constitutes the exact opposite of the modern principles that underlie civil polities in which citizens are guaranteed “human rights.”

Landes is spot on in his analyses, and it's worth a read. Click here for the whole article.

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