Free Speech, Criticism, Mormonism, and Islam


Victor Davis Hanson


A reader has reminded me of this note, from Victor Davis Hanson – one of my favorite commentators, and a true original.


A Ph.D. in classics from Stanford!  Who actively runs a family farm!  (I’m really fond of superbly educated public intellectuals.  Wendell Berry.  Eric Hoffer.  George Will.  May their tribe increase.)


In his little piece, Hanson warns against concessions to demands from some Muslims that we reconsider the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  (Such demands aren’t coming only from fringe lunatics and illiterates rampaging on the streets of the Middle East; Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar opined, a few days ago, that America should “rethink” its commitment to free speech.)  And, of course, he mentions Broadway’s ongoing stage mockery of Mormons — a group whom it is not only safe but positively fashionable to deride.


I’ve spent years — much of my adult life, in fact — trying to build bridges between Islam and Christianity, between the Middle East and the West.  I’m more than happy to critique malicious propaganda against Islam.  Indeed, I regard it as a moral duty.  But I will not stand by silently while the right to produce such propaganda is taken away.  The real test of our commitment to freedom comes, not when popular or attractive speech is threatened, but precisely when there are attempts to suppress unpopular opinions, even idiotic and transparently false ones.


(Incidentally, Pakistan’s railroad minister, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, has offered a bounty of $100,000.00 for the death of the man who created the unspeakably awful “film” The Innocence of Muslims.  [See here for my take on that piece of amateur cinematic trash.]  Mr. Bilour should never be allowed to visit the United States, and the American government should make its displeasure — assuming that the Obama administration actually feels any — tangibly felt by the government in which Mr. Bilour serves.  It is, to put it very, very mildly, inappropriate for a senior leader of a foreign state — let alone a senior leader of a putative ally — to publicly offer lucrative contracts on the lives of citizens or residents of the United States.)



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