Western liberals: protecting ‘vulnerable’ murderers
Proponents of free, unbridled expression fight censorship on multiple fronts. Charlie Hebdo and others fight the hard censorship of the ‘murderer’s veto’. Others fight the softer censorship of radicalised political correctness and other attempts to ‘protect’ people from differing opinions. The two fronts of the battle may seem unconnected. But they are not. Soft censorship facilitates its violent brother.
A Pakistani student at the University of California, Berkeley, recently wrote an article for her school’s newspaper, entitled ‘On Leaving Islam’, explaining that she felt compelled to leave her faith because, despite trying, she could not reconcile her liberal beliefs with Islam’s often sexist and homophobic tenets. Although she is critical of Islam, she argues that writers such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali are overly harsh, and that many of them promote unfair and negative stereotypes about Islam. Despite the moderate tone of the article, the author faced threats of violence, forcing the paper to remove the article for her protection.
One can’t help but wonder whether the New York Times contemplated praising this act of censorship and denouncing the article as ‘hate speech’.
Those who, under the guise of sensitivity and multiculturalism, blame the victims of Islamists because they ‘provoke’ their own slaughter, equate drawing pictures with mass murder and take issue, not with certain people’s ideas, but with their very right to air them in the first place, make those who wish death on those who offend them feel justified.
What is a jihadist to make of the pitiful authors who recently pulled out of a PEN gala in New York after PEN awarded Charlie Hebdo its Freedom of Expression Courage Award? Or of those who made excuses for the two men who shot up a provocative exhibition of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in Garland, Texas? Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if, when they hear ‘liberals’ apologising for their violence and criticising their victims, jihadists feel they’re in the right. If my opponents were wrong to say those things, I suppose it’s okay for me to silence them.
Challenging and ultimately changing one’s beliefs often requires moral courage. Those who denounced the Berkeley student’s act of courage only highlighted their own moral cowardice. And herein lies the great irony: the true victims of violent censorship are precisely those people who Western liberals often seek to protect.
Across the world, liberal Muslims, secularists, humanists, women and gays are the most common victims of Islamic radicalism. The inability of many Westerners to criticise militant Islam, so as to avoid being called ‘Islamophobic’, endangers the very existence of the persecuted minorities they often purport to protect.
Until Western liberals can summon the courage to denounce murderers, rather than sympathise with them; until they are unafraid to call out oppression wherever it exists – even if the oppressor is ‘underprivileged’; until they distance themselves from what one might call multicultural extremism; indeed, until they abandon such overzealous moral relativism and return to universal rights and values, Western liberals will never truly support the most vulnerable in our society.
Alex Kasnetz is a law student at Duke University.