If it is to mean anything, free speech must include that speech with which we disagree
Andrew Stuttaford of The National Review states it perfectly -- if free speech is to mean anything it must include the free speech of those with whom we disagree or even of whom we disapprove or find repugnant. What has happened to the self-evident truism that used to prevail in the West -- I despise what you say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it? It appears to have been swallowed up in an orgy of political correctness, which was the first inroad into our right of free speech, and now has morphed into a wholesale worldwide bowing before the customs and laws of Sharia and its death cult religion.
Andrew Stuttaford on Cartoon Jihad on National Review Online
It's been a rough, tough, dismaying week for those Europeans who like to believe that the pen is mightier than the scimitar. Yes, an additional number of publications reprinted those pesky cartoons, one selling out its print run when it did so, but these were brave, temporary gestures, as evanescent as the paper on which they were printed, as futile as fists waved in the face of a storm.
While the Danish prime minister was stubbornly sticking to the principles of free speech and a free press, principles which he had, perhaps naively, and certainly optimistically, thought would find support from governments across Europe, his words were nearly drowned out by hints, murmurings, and shouts of appeasement from the gray, shrunken statesmen of Brussels, Paris, London, Stockholm, and many other capitals — take your pick — of a continent that once saw itself as the home of Enlightenment.
Freedom Fighters, Both For and Against
Of course, there were exceptions to the dismal, despairing rule, and, naturally, one of them was the Somali-born Dutch MP, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, fearless and furious, , one of the few politicians in Europe who still says how things really are:
Shame on those papers and TV channels who lacked the courage to show their readers the caricatures in the cartoon affair. These intellectuals live off free speech but they accept censorship. They hide their mediocrity of mind behind noble-sounding terms such as "responsibility" and " sensitivity. " Shame on those politicians who stated that publishing and re-publishing the drawings was " unnecessary, "" insensitive, "" disrespectful" and " wrong." I am of the opinion that Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark acted correctly when he refused to meet with representatives of tyrannical regimes who demanded from him that he limit the powers of the press. Today we should stand by him morally and materially. He is an example to all other European leaders. I wish my prime minister had Rasmussen's guts... I do not seek to offend religious sentiment, but I will not submit to tyranny. Demanding that people who do not accept Mohammed's teachings should refrain from drawing him is not a request for respect but a demand for submission."
Indeed it is, and judging by the reaction of Dutch prime minister Balkenende, he's ready to grovel. He didn't, he sniffed, have "much use" for Hirsi Ali's contribution, a view that would not have been shared by Theo van Gogh, the director with whom she worked on the movie, Submission. Of course, van Gogh is dead now, butchered by a Muslim extremist offended (ah, that word again) by his film. Interestingly, if one recent poll on a related matter is any indication, the Dutch people themselves are likely to take a very different line from their prime minister. Eighty-four percent, apparently, believe that Hirsi Ali should make a sequel to Submission, even if many of them were far from being fans of the original movie. They are smart enough to understand that, if it is to mean anything, free speech must include freedom of speech about those with whom you disagree.
It was this freedom that van Gogh was testing, it was this freedom that Jyllands-Posten is testing, and it is this freedom that the Dutch foreign minister will be compromising when he travels this week to the Middle East alongside Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, for talks aimed at reducing the tension over the cartoons, a pointless and humiliating exercise that can only reinforce the dangerous impression held by many of the region's Muslims that Europe's governments somehow control Europe's newspapers and can thus be blamed for their contents.