Since when is criticizing Islam a crime?

By Douglas Murray | 18 February 2013
Gatestone Institute

Screenshot from the trailer of Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss’ film ‘The Unbelievers’

So much about the rottenness of a culture and a brand of politics can be told from the matter of whom people blame. Strong cultures which know themselves do not find it hard to discern the difference between a firefighter and a fire. Weak, confused and fearful cultures lack any such ability.

If someone carries out a terrorist attack, they worry: Is the attacker to blame or are the victims? When a country suffers an outrage, are the people who carried out that outrage to blame, or might it be the fault of the country which has been subjected to the assault?

After 9/11, there were infamous examples of people claiming that America had “brought it upon itself.” The Cambridge classics professor, Mary Beard, writing in the London Review of Books, famously commented, “However tactfully you dress it up, the United States had it coming.” People will remember the infamous Ward Churchill’s claim that it was the people in the Twin Towers who were “little Eichmanns,” not the people who flew the planes into those towers.

When whole countries get the blame for attacks on themselves it is bad enough. But infinitely worse – because there is none of the solidarity available with which a country can console itself – is when an individual is blamed for what has happened to him. In particular, when what happened was an attempt on his life – whether failed or “successful.”

When the Dutch politician, Pim Fortuyn, was murdered just before the elections in 2002, it was claimed that he had “provoked” people. The same was said of Theo van Gogh when he was murdered on an Amsterdam street in 2004: people said that he had brought it upon himself or even, amazingly, planned his death this way.

Shortly after van Gogh’s murder, Index on Censorship, an organization which – as it name suggests – ought to be opposed to the ultimate censorship, published a piece by one of its staff; he claimed that van Gogh was a “free-speech fundamentalist” on a “martyrdom operation,” and guilty of an “abuse of his right to free speech.” Who knew that we were all meant to be in lock-step? Could anybody tell us who the central committee members are, who might be able to let us know which opinions we are or are not allowed to hold and express?

The same was said of Theo van Gogh’s film-making partner, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, when she had to go into hiding from people who wanted to kill her. It was said of the Danish cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, after an axe-wielding Somali man broke into his house. It was said of Flemming Rose, and Lars Vilks, of Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali and many, many more. These were all people who either suffered violence or were threatened with violence. And all were treated by substantial numbers of commentators as being not victims but perpetrators. Not the ones who had suffered, but as the ones who had brought suffering down upon themselves. In each and every instance, there were prominent figures around in the media and politics who declared that all these people had been “provocative.”

Lars Hedegaard heads both the Free Press Society and the International Free Press Society.

Now there has been an attempt on the life of Lars Hedegaard. On the February 5, this mild-mannered and scholarly journalist and historian was visited at his home in Denmark by a twenty-something, immigrant-looking youth, who fired at the 70 year-old’s head. The first bullet missed; Hedegaard hit his assailant on the head, causing him to drop the gun. When the assailant picked up the gun and fired it again, the gun jammed and the would-be assassin ran away. He has not yet been found.

Then, of course, the excuses started. The attack was reported across the world’s media. Prominent in the reports were claims that Hedegaard is an “Islam-critic.” Others in the media, including the BBC, disgracefully reported that Hedegaard had been tried two years ago for hate-speech, but all failed to note in their initial reports that he had also been unanimously acquitted of this supposed offence. These journalistic slips were bad enough. Far worse was to come.

In a number of papers, particularly in the country which is swift becoming the home of the world’s most illiberal media – Sweden – the stakes were raised higher. In their reports of the incident, the Swedish media referred to Hedegaard as an “enemy of Islam.” Others referred to him in even more hostile terms.

You really do have to rub your eyes. These are not the Saudi papers or the Tehran Daily News running these smears – they are allegedly “liberal” papers in an allegedly “liberal” country in an allegedly “liberal” democracy. Perhaps, then, these people can answer something:

Since when is criticizing Islam a crime? Since when was defending the rights of writers, journalists and artists to say, write and draw what they like a crime? And since when did any self-respecting journalist take the view that the media’s job should be to act as the scouting parties and after-the-fact-exculpators for anti-free-speech assassins?

This game of blaming the victim, of smearing the person who has suffered a grievous abuse, has gone on long enough. As Pim Fortuyn said just before his assassination: “it has to stop.” But it has not stopped. It has gone on as a cowardly media in our cowardly culture has gone on and on trying to blame the firemen for starting the fire, so scared are these “brave” media of the sight of flames.

There is, however, a rare piece of good news in Europe. Lars Hedegaard is once again fighting back. It was announced last week that he is going to sue the Swedish media for libel. I hope – along with all decent people who believe the media should be more than the warm-up and PR wing of the jihad – that he takes them to the cleaners.

The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision For America


The Third Jihad, the newest offering from the producers of the captivating documentary film, Obsession, explores the existence of radical Islam in America and the emerging risk that this “homegrown jihad” poses to national security, western liberties and the “American way of life.” The film, which is narrated by Muslim American Dr Zuhdi Jasser, accuses “much of Muslim leadership here in America” of having the goal to “infiltrate and dominate”. The Third Jihad received endorsements from former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, US Senator John Kyl, US Representatives Trent Franks and Sue Myrick, among others.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. And if Islamophobia was a real word, since when is being afraid of something a crime? Why does this word have any more credibility than christianophobia or judaiophobia, or buddhistophobia? Why is truthophobia not a crime?

  2. What is the problem if we offend religious people?

    Have we become so timid that we we think the sensitivities of the religious are more important than truth?
    If that be the case, then our argument against these man made fantasies will be diminished by our reluctance to challenge them head on, and any goal of defeating the charlatan pastors and warmongering imams who guide these so called 'religions' wil be voided by our silence.
    The noise made by religionists is now at a deafening level, and our defence of truth, logic and reason must become louder, and more vociferous if we are to be heard above the clamouring of these 'god' and 'allah' sheep.
    There is almost nothing left to say about the reverse heresy of the bible or the koran, and by debating with these protagonists enemies of mental freedom, we are simply wasting breath and providing them with yet another platform on which to claim that they, and only they, are right.
    If something is not right, we must say so in no uncertain terms, because politeness and curtesy has failed to do so.
    The best defence against the lies, subterfuge, obfuscation and cunning of the unfortunates who follow these dangerous fantasies, is derision and scathing dismissal of their wretched, infantile beliefs.
    If a 'god' maniac happens upon these words and is offended, I would say to them – so f**king what?
    Be offended then – because I too am deeply offended – offended by your unholy prophets and your invented pagan gods who have led you to the doom laden scenario you call salvation. Salvation – what a terrible joke!
    I would say to them; it is my right to speak plainly and debunk your nonsensical religious claptrap, and to encourage many others to do exactly the same, more often, more plainly and as noisily as possible.
    For that is the only way we will ever shut you up.
    I have begun to notice more and more, that religious people are often mirrors that perfectly reflect the ills and sicknesses of a society.

  3. Do you even know islam, have you even try to understand what islam culture. have ever try to understand the al-quran .if you take litle time to know these thing, you might take back your word

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