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The Real Lesson of Charlie Hebdo

by Roger Kimball

….According to Anjem Choudary, France is responsible for the deaths of those 10 journalists and 2 policemen because it allowed Charlie Hebdo to “provoke Muslims.” It thereby, he suggests, “placed the sanctity of its citizens as risk.” His conclusion? “It is time that the sanctity of a Prophet revered by up to one-quarter of the world’s population was protected.”

My conclusion is a bit different. I believe it is time that the insane and murderous ideology of Islam is recognized for what it is, by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. USA Today got a lot of push back for publishing  Choudary’s drooling apology for murder. I am glad that they did, for it reminds us in vivid terms exactly the sort of thing we in the so-called liberal West are up against.

Liberal regimes have always suffered from this paralyzing antinomy: Liberalism implies openness to other points of view, even those points of view whose success would destroy liberalism. Tolerance to those points of view is a prescription for suicide. Intolerance betrays the fundamental premise of liberalism, i.e. openness.

Of course (may I say “of course”?), there is a sense in which the antinomy is illusory, since any robust liberalism, i.e., a liberalism buttressed by a core of conservative backbone, understands that tolerance, if it is to flourish, cannot be synonymous with capitulation to ideas that would exploit tolerance only to destroy it. The “openness” that liberal society rightly cherishes is not a vacuous openness to all points of view: it is not “value neutral.” It need not, indeed it cannot, say Yes to all comers. American democracy, for example, affords its citizens great latitude, but great latitude is not synonymous with the proposition that “anything goes.” Our society, like every society, is founded on particular positive values—the rule of law, for example, respect for the individual, religious freedom, the separation of church and state.

Islam in its current configuration denies those values. Perhaps the “revolution” that President al-Sisi hopes will eventually take place and carve out a place for Islam among the civilized religions and political systems of the world. Until that day, however, the sane response to Islam is not to pixelate images that Muslims find “offensive,” as The Daily News just did, to its shame. Nor is it to redact news stories in the hope that they will not (as Anjem Choudary put it) “provoke Muslims,” as The New York Times just did, to its shame. Were I (per impossible) editor of The New York Times, I would run those cartoons of Mohammed on the front page of the paper every day for a month. The sane response is to say No to any form of Islam that does not accommodate itself to the animating principles of liberal Western society. That means no to polygamy, no to murdering people who apostatize from Islam, no to stoning adulteresses, no to murdering homosexuals and Jews, no to treating women like chattel, no, in short, to the entire rancid menu of insanity that is contained under the rubric “Sharia.”

Aristotle observed that without courage, one cannot reliably practice the other virtues, because courage is necessary to meet the existential challenges of life. We in the West have grown pusillanimous about our foundational principles and have retreated to a vacuous pseudo-tolerance that is without foundation because it is without animating convictions. As I write, there are reports that the Kouachi brothers have been cornered and killed outside Paris. At the same time, news is coming in that another Muslim, who killed a policewoman yesterday and two hostages today, has also been killed by French authorities. It’s a start.  But the West will never be free from the murderous incursions of the sick atavism that is Islam until it rejects the timid ideology of political correctness and multiculturalism. It is just too bad if wackos like Anjem Choudary are “offended” or “provoked” by satirical cartoons. They can stew all they like in their wounded self-aggrandizing fantasies. Once they act upon them, however, they have rejected the social contract that makes civilized life in a liberal democracy possible. Having done so, they should themselves be rejected.

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