Expressions of Support for Salman Rushdie Conceal Shaky Commitments to Freedom of Speech

Aug. 23 2022

After the near-fatal stabbing of the novelist Salman Rushdie—prompted by a religious edict issued by the Iranian government—there was an outpouring of sympathy, along with many declarations from the literary world about the sanctity of freedom of speech. But to the Anglo-American writer Lionel Shriver, these declarations tend to “fall sneakily flat.” She explains why:

When couched in generalities, defenses of free speech tend to come across as dreary and obvious. Only in the particular do these discussions get interesting. . . . Our we-shall-not-be-moved resolve is a self-flattering delusion. In truth, the nut jobs do push us around and have been doing so for years. The Anglosphere’s cowed acquiescence to Islamist bullies was vividly on display during the 2005 Danish cartoons hoo-ha. While numerous Continental newspapers defiantly republished those satirical depictions of Mohammad to demonstrate that they couldn’t be intimidated, mainstream print media in the UK, the U.S., and Canada refused to—thereby crippling articles about an essentially pictorial story.

Tact or fear? British newspapers especially have no reputation for tact, so let’s go for fear. These folks frighten the bejesus out of us, and we’ll do just about anything to keep from upsetting them. Terrorism works. Thus the . . . lesson most of my literary colleagues will derive from Rushdie’s hideous mutilation is: “avoid writing about Islam at all costs, and never step on Muslim toes.” Multiple writers and editors have already observed that The Satanic Verses, [the 1988 novel that earned Rushdie his fatwa], would never be published today. Rushdie himself might think better of writing it now. Contemporary publishing imposes a de-facto fatwa on criticism of Islam.

Besides, absent jihadists, we push one another around. The UK abandoned the principle of free expression the moment it brought in laws against “hate speech,” which in legal terms lies entirely in the eye of the beholder. Unsurprisingly, hate-speech laws have continued to expand, vigorously enforced by constabularies who find persecuting Twitter perps more rewardingly trendy, and less dangerous, than arresting armed burglars. Britain has formally elevated the non-right not to be offended over the real right to say what you like.

As many Muslims claim the book hurts their feelings, legally The Satanic Verses is hate speech [by the UK’s standards]. It’s a small step from there to the conclusion that last week Rushdie got what he had coming.

Read more at Spectator

More about: Freedom of Speech, Iran, Literature, Radical Islam, United Kingdom

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy