In Defense of Free Speech

BCN Freedom of Speech GraphicAs details of the terror attack on Pamela Geller’s AFDI’s (American Freedom Defense Initiative) free speech rally in Garland, Texas unfolded this week, pundits on both the left and right of the American political spectrum once again failed to recognize the political agenda of Islamic doctrine and its sharp contrast to other religions. Although Christians are often accused of “forcing” their beliefs on non-believers there is nothing within Christian doctrine requiring non-believers to conform to Christian beliefs. Islam, however, is more than a religion. It is a worldview that insists on controlling the behavior of not only believers but the behavior of non-believers as well, crossing the proverbial line between “church and state” that atheists and others often accuse Christians of crossing.

Many commentators argued that the AFDI should not have held the event because the images offended peaceful Muslims or even our allies in countries such as Egypt or Jordan. These images were not displayed in a public setting where Muslim sensibilities could be damaged, but rather at a private event attended by those that chose and paid to attend. If such portrayals are deemed so offensive by peaceful Muslims that Americans are not allowed to hold private events that portray the prophet, then Muslims such as Omid Safi, director of the Islamic Studies Center at Duke University should also be condemned since Safi admits that he keeps an image of the prophet in his home.

These Western apologists for Islam failed to mention that the ban on art depicting the prophet Muhammad is not universal in the Muslim world. For instance in 2008 the Iranian government commissioned a five-story mural depicting Muhammad on the wall of an apartment building in Tehran. Those criticizing Geller also failed to mention that a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad riding on a horse appeared during the Arab Spring uprisings as street art became part of the revolution in Egypt.

Museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, contain historical depictions of Muhammad. The Museum’s website explains, “These portrayals, while somewhat rare, are not unheard of, as there were (and still are) many different attitudes toward depicting the prophet – and humans in general – in the Islamic world.” In fact, “An image of the Prophet Muhammad at the beginning of a book endows the volume with the highest form of blessing and sanctity. Thus, illustration of him was a common practice, particularly in the eastern regions of the Islamic world.” (Emphasis mine.)

Illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad that did not illicit violent protests and terror attacks are numerous. These images include full depictions of Muhammad, faceless images of Muhammad, European Medieval and Renaissance images of Muhammad by non-Muslims, and modern satirical cartoons of Muhammad. The dangerous Islamist idea that violence is justified whenever they are deeply offended by cartoons or art depicting Muhammad is one that has recently gained momentum as Western journalists and Islamic apologists have voluntarily surrendered to pressure from Islamist groups.

For this reason, AFDI’s decision to display images of the prophet Muhammad should be defended not condemned. Many commentators suggested Pamela Geller provoked the violence since she should have known that there could be a violent reaction to the Draw Muhammad rally. This is the same worldview that blames Western rape victims for provoking Muslim men to violence simply because they are wearing western clothing. What is next? Will those condemning Geller stand in agreement with Islamist extremists such as Shahid Mehdi in Copenhagen who stated that women who did not wear a headscarf were asking to be raped?! How far do we carry such appeasement?

As Christians, we are to strive to show the goodness and grace of our God as opposed to the rigid conformity sharia law requires by Allah. Although we certainly do not appreciate art or cartoons that depict Jesus negatively, we should understand those who portray Him this way simply do not understand our love for our God nor could they possibly understand the relationship we have with Him. We also know their portrayal does not change the love or nature of our God, and despite their ridicule our God’s love for them is unchanged by their actions.

Ultimately our heart is to introduce those who are spiritually trapped in a false religion and destructive worldview to a new way of living, to a new worldview, one that esteems lives and loves all, regardless of faith. This cannot be accomplished unless we in the United States aggressively defend and resolutely guard our right to free speech. Should we surrender to this false narrative that somehow Pamela Geller’s exercise of her freedom of speech incited the two terrorists’ attempt to harm those at the free speech rally then we are truly surrendering to Islamic sharia law through appeasement. We are, in fact, speeding down the slippery slope to Dhimmitude (the second-class status of non-Muslims living in an Islamic state).

The question should not be whether Geller was right or wrong to hold the event. The question for all Americans is “Are we going to stand tall for our right to free speech – even when it is offensive or are we going to give in to the Qur’an’s demands for supremacy over all other religions and governmental systems?” Today Islamists claim drawing a picture is blasphemy. What will we do as Christians when these same Islamists demand that churches no longer declare that Jesus Christ is the Son of God since that too is blasphemy in Islam?

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