"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." Thomas Jefferson

The Joke Must Remain On Radical Islam

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 10
Publish Date: 
Thu, 01/15/2015


So a priest, an imam and a rabbi walk into a bar. The bartender says, “What’s this?  A joke?”


Yes, and it’s funny, so accustomed are we to religious humor and wit that pokes fun at humanity and the powerful who govern it. 


Though humor is in the eye of the beholder, its historic purpose is to induce us to Think Again. Truth-telling with laughter pushes conformist societies’ boundaries, whether by medieval court jesters; cartoonists; humorists like Mark Twain; Charlie Chaplin impersonating Hitler “The Great Dictator;” comedy troupes like Monty Python; or sitcoms like Archie Bunker.


Today, enlightened Westerners living in human history’s freest society know that free speech doesn’t end where offense begins (except on college campuses, alas), no matter how insensitive or provocative. Even lowbrow, cringe-inducing satire is stomached, like “The Interview,” Sony’s controversial North Korea spoof. It’s a trivial price to pay for liberty’s luxuries. 


What’s blasphemous to some is social commentary to others, like South Park creators’ Tony-award winning lampoon “The Book of Mormon,” or religious icon-desecrating art like Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” (a crucifix submerged in urine) or Chris Ofili’s elephant dung-smeared “Holy Virgin Mary.” 


Though justifiably offended, Mormons and Christians turned their collective cheeks, recognizing that while each is free to practice a chosen faith, others are free to critique it.  Freedom to mock is the flip side of religious liberty.  


So indispensable to a healthy, innovative and prosperous society are free expression and individual rights, America’s founders implanted these bedrock principles in our cultural DNA and the Constitution’s First Amendment, making it government’s duty to protect freedom of speech, press and religion.


Only a few centuries old, these human rights-assuring ideals have produced civil societies where differences are settled in the marketplace of ideas -- not by thought police -- rendering obsolete 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ depiction of man’s life as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” 


Yet it’s back to Hobbes’ world we go if the ever-growing radical Islam movement achieves its aim -- more important than taking innocent life is taking our way of life, as they’ve demonstrated since 9/11.


In a constant state-of-war with non-believers, militants invoke Islamic law to justify waves of barbarity against those, including Muslim majorities, who don’t submit to their fanatical creed. Even in the West, disaffected and unassimilated Muslims living in Balkanized “no-go zones” -- often where sharia law supersedes domestic laws -- are lured, radicalized and trained to terrorize. 


We’ve witnessed the Islamic State’s mass beheadings, including journalists and aid workers; the Pakistani Taliban’s shooting of 132 school children; and Boko Haram’s raping, forced conversion and enslavement of Nigerian girls. 

Crescendo-ing last week, the Paris massacres -- 12 at Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine famous for publishing Muhammad cartoons, and four Jewish hostages at a kosher market – by “Allahu Akbar”-hollering jihadists overshadowed al-Qaeda’s other attack in Yemen, killing 37, and Boko Haram’s deadliest massacre yet of Nigerian women, children and elderly. 


Writing in USA Today, British-born Muslim cleric Anjem Choudaryin defended the repressive sharia creed being practiced worldwide, arguing “Islam doesn’t mean peace,” but “submission to the commands of Allah alone. Therefore, Muslims do not believe in the concept of freedom of expression.” Choudaryin’s threat is clear: forfeit your liberty or face “the potential consequences of insulting the Messenger Muhammad.”


Eager to reclaim Islam from radicals like Choudaryin who’ve made “the entire Islamic world…a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction,” Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi recently addressed Muslim clerics and scholars, imploring them to “revolutionize our religion.”


Concerned “the Islamic nation is being torn apart and destroyed,” Al-Sisi argued “texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world.” Underscoring tolerance in the Arab world’s most populous Muslim nation, he became Egypt’s first president to attend a Coptic-Christian mass.


Similarly courageous, Rotterdam’s Muslim mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb championed assimilation as a means to sustain the civil societies to which “well-meaning Muslim” immigrants like him are drawn.  “If you can’t stomach freedom [or] humorists who created a newspaper,” he proclaimed, “pack your bags and leave!”


Aboutaleb’s unapologetic defense of freedom reveals the truth about radical Islam – without any rational political objectives, it can’t prevail in a post-Hobbesian world that protects liberty and individual rights. 


Free expression – not self-censorship or accommodation – is not only morally superior, it’s the water that will extinguish the Wicked Witches of Islam, enabling the Muslim world to embrace the freedom and modernity its innocents and we Westerners crave. It will also safeguard our free society, generating more of the cultural riches we cherish – books, films, plays, art exhibitions and satirical cartoons.


Think Again – imagine a priest, an imam and a rabbi attending an irreverent Broadway show together… and it’s not a joke!

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I do pray for courageous

I do pray for courageous Muslims who speak out. Only a practicing Moslem can be as direct as Aboutaleb -- "If you don't like freedom - go elsewhere!"

Regarding al Sisi-- did you see the stony looks on the faces of the imams when he spoke? He could only dare do this as a devout man from a devout family (his wife even wears a hajib). Rebuilding the Coptic churches and attending New Year's mass - that is major. Did you know that he pledged half his presidential salary and half his personal fortune (including his inheritance) to Egypt? He announced that everyone will have to shoulder some sacrifices and he was joining in first. He has made connections with Israel - that will be mutually beneficial.

Egyptians have always been different from the rest of the Arab world - they say of the others "Their blood is heavy" but elements influenced youth through the education system. An Egyptian friend said, "My mother threw off the veil and suffered for it and now my son's wife and friends are taking it back even though this is not a law in Islam but a custom!"

Also do you remember Al Sisi's earlier speech where he says (not naming the US and Obama) "we will remember who did not stand by us" While Obama and Hillary were still clinging to the Moslem Brotherhood. They were still remembering all those cheering crowds when fresh faced Obama charmed the Egyptians. Of course some may have been paid to cheer. Liberals see these people as children to be manipulated and the "children" resent it.

I lived in Egypt for a short time (1980's archaeology) and in that time learned how they hated the Moslem Brotherhood with its secret cells linked by secret members who were watching and listening. How difficult it was to throw them off the first time - knowing that secret cells remained.

Often I would find young Islamic students wondering why if Islam is true, are the Islamic countries seemingly less blessed than other lands? And why less blessed than Israel ? Then imams explained we need to restore the old Islam and blessings will shower upon us but first we must kill Satan and have survivors submit. From the very first time after 9-11 when Condi Rice said,"Islam is peace." I thought - doesn't she know it means SUBMIT? The prayer posture and humble way of life reflect submission - but causing others to submit is how Islam spread.

And of course the Bible says of Abraham's son Ishmael - "He will be a wild man" Oh what a bitter heritage!

Yes, I do pray for the brave ones.

Your column helps me better express myself and also it is like having a conversation with a friend who is also a great teacher. Blessings

Another thoughtful,

Another thoughtful, well-researched, wide-ranging column, Melanie. I'm sure someone's going to rebut it, but I can't imagine who or on what basis. Well, I can, actually . . . . We shall see.

As for the Pope's comments, I'm Catholic, but if I had the forum and the talent, I'd probably launch a series of satirical cartoons aimed at his judgment that we need to throw in with the United Nations to combat global warming. He's going way beyond the mission of the Church on that score, and he disappoints me.

Blasphemy against God and the Holy Spirit is one thing, but criticism of questionable doctrines, teachings, and hypocrisy - such as Jesus leveled against the Scribes and Pharisees - is quite another. Voltaire certainly knew the difference.

Indeed, I'm surprised that the French haven't resurrected Voltaire's battle cry - Ecrasez l'infame!
("Crush the infamous thing," which in his generation was thought-control by the Church).

Congratulations! This is

Congratulations! This is right up there with your very best. AND the lead-in with the joke and the finish with the tie-in is what a thoughtful pro does.

Great article. We need more

Great article. We need more people like you to stand up to the numerous cowards and PC crowd (or did I repeat myself) to protect our liberties.

Civics. There is a reason it is no longer being taught in schools. Dumb down the kids and have a compliant adult voting segment.

People need to remember the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I still insist that I did not

I still insist that I did not read ANYWHERE that the pope advocated government restriction on speech. He doesn't like that kind of speech and neither do I.

Incidentally, pornography was once restricted speech in this country, back in the good old days before the progressives got hold of so much. People may have fought over that but most people didn't want that crap in their faces. Nor did they want it present to corrupt their children.

Just offering that as perspective. Isn't it nice how the situation has us arguing with each other rather than figuring out how to stop the barbarians?

I do not classify myself as

I do not classify myself as religious but a strong supporter of the right to practice religion without any government interferece as long as it does not violate the national concious (animal or human sacrifice, brutality of others, violence, etc.).

I do object to, for the reason above, those who actively try to eliminate religion or prevent the free practice of it. That one person or one group can sue and prevent the mass majority of such exercise is an insult to our Constitution. THERE IS NO SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE, only the establishment of a national religion by Congress. The 2nd Amendment protects religion from the state, not the state from religion.

This worked until the 1947 Supreme Court ruling under the guidance from the ACLU. Jefferson's Danbury letter clearly stated his objection to Adam's religious state control in denying Baptists their rights. To interpret differently is to deliberately misuse it as an excuse for government to control religious practice. The second Amendment provides no exemption to where or when one can pray or otherwise express their religion, only the relgious cannot be discriminated against.

I like this pope a lot, but

I like this pope a lot, but he has been wading into topics on which he has no authority (not religious topics). One was climate change (yes, it's a religion to many, but not Catholic per se). Another is economic systems (capitalism bad). Now freedom of speech.

On this one even I am more knowledgable than the pope. My friend has every right to insult my mother. I could punch him (or more likely kick him in the nuts). He cannot and should not be punished for insulting my mother (he should not be banned from doing so). But probably would be punished for battering my friend. I wouldn't like the insulting of my mother, but if I had the right to kick my friend in the nuts for that, why wouldn't I have the right to do the same thing for criticizing my politics?

When people insult Jesus, they have the right to do that, and then Christians (as well as anyone else) have a right to criticize the insulters, even harshly. But no one, and that means NO ONE, has the right to inflict physical harm on another for speech. Period.

There is an excellent reason, if one just thinks about it for a second. If there were a right to react to speech with violence, just think of the proliferation of violent acts in the name of "fair" reaction to unpopular speech. And the government especially should have no right to prohibit unpopular speech. Whenever a government has had that right, oppression inevitably has followed.

So I prefer to heed the pope's pronouncements on what he knows about, which is the Catholic religion, and not about anything else.

I am often offended when

I am often offended when someone slanders or libels or otherwise blasphemes my religion and my God...and yet, I don't go to their offices and kill them. Why? Because I didn't commit the offense - the person who did it will have to answer (or not) to their God for whatever they do.

The biggest problem I have with this is that it is the death of free speech. When the speaker becomes responsible for how the listener perceives what they say, a functional impossibility is created. I cannot be responsible for what you hear, only what I say. I've been known to write a bit (not as well as Melanie) and I know how often clear language can be misinterpreted due to the reader's bias. I've written about Islamic culture and its ties to terrorism and I can tell you that I get some hum-dinger comments where people impute things to my words that I never wrote, much less believe.

Imagine a world where every conversation is like an internet argument (debate). I've seen friends argue right past one another because of a misunderstanding.

What happens next is that some arbitrary authority steps in to "standardize" speech through speech codes and censorship, eventually leading to self-censorship and then to the official repression of free thought. Many of the great philosophers were thought of as blasphemers and heretics - and no doubt some were - but today, we are able to look at their words through a different filter, out of the heat of argument, and see a totally different picture.

I attack progressivism at every opportunity because I believe it is an ideology driving such reactions to free, sometimes offensive, speech but try not to make gratuitously disparaging comments about other people and their beliefs - it isn't self-censorship, I just don't find it helpful in the debate.

Charlie Hebdo certainly is no Kant or Hume - but once society overrides an individual sense of propriety, freedom and open societies are over.

I don't always agree with

I don't always agree with your column (though I usually agree more than disagree). But, with regard to your column today, which I read via a hard copy of the paper, I could not agree more.

Our entire society is founded on several key underlying foundation blocks-- with "freedom of speech" arguably the most vital to the continuation of the genius of our system. Without it, we have nothing more than antiquated, tribal, unwritten rules based on a survival of the fittest mentality. Frankly, that is the genesis of terrorism.

I have a huge affinity for the current Pope-- but I respectfully and vehemently disagree that it is not ok to poke fun at religion. He is dead wrong on this matter. He is redeemed, however, because he generally stands up (almost always) for the underdog and for what is right. Unfortunately, his sentiments about this controversial topic could exacerbate the world's terrorism problems by giving undue justification to Islamic extremists who can now "hang their hat" on comments made by the Catholic leader. It's a very sad testament to these "crazies ."

I appreciate your column today. Keep up the hard work.

We will be reading what you have to say.

And the Broadway play they

And the Broadway play they went to was probably "Book of Mormon" (noticing none of my Mormon friends killed or beheaded anyone over it). And no Catholics rioted over "Nunsense" or "Late Night Catechism."

You quoted Ahmed Aboutaleb incompletely - He added 'If you do not like it here because some humorists you don't like are making a newspaper, may I then say you can f*** off" - on live TV no less. At least he speaks his mind, and didn't have to "think again" about saying it.

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