In a pair of shootings eerily reminiscent to last month’s slaughter in Paris of 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and four Jews at a kosher market, 22-year-old radical Muslim Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein killed one person at a free speech forum in a Copenhagen cafe before proceeding to a synagogue where he killed another. In the cafe attack, it is believed that the intended target was Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who drew cartoons of Muhammad as a roundabout dog in 2007. Not surprisingly, he’s lived under constant threat of death ever since.
In 2010, Vilks was physically assaulted at Uppsala University in Sweden while showing a “blasphemous” movie called Allah ho Gaybar by an Iranian artist who goes by the pseudonym Sooreh Hera.After police pried Vilks’ attacker off him, several in the crowd screamed, “Allahu Akbar!” over and over for several minutes, and succeeded in stopping the viewing. The incident was caught on video:
Remember, this wasn’t Egypt or Pakistan. This was Sweden. And the attendees who felt offended could’ve expressed their displeasure simply by walking out of the room or writing an editorial critical the movie. But instead, an all too familiar drama played out with people of faith demanding not only that they not see something because they find it offensive, but rather, no one should see it for the same reason.
The audience’s reaction to the film is hardly an aberration, and we don’t even have to travel outside Western Europe to find frighteningly high numbers of Muslims who want to ban speech they think is offensive. After the 2005-06 Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy, here’s what one poll of Muslims in the U.K. found:
“Seventy-eight percent support punishment for the people who earlier this year published cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed. Sixty-eight percent support the arrest and prosecution of those British people who “insult Islam.” When asked if free speech should be protected, even if it offends religious groups, 62 percent of British Muslims say No, it should not.”
The Jyllands-Posten cartoons set off violent protests around the world in which more than 100 people were killed and several European embassies were attacked and set ablaze. As with the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, most media organizations declined to print or broadcast the drawings in question. Typically, the reason given for this is that they wish to “respect religion,” which makes it seem as if this is the end goal. In reality, it’s a means to an unstated end: They want to “respect religion,” and want to avoid becoming a target for violence themselves.
However, this is completely the wrong approach. As Chez Pazienza observed after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in a piece in which we published the cartoons,
“The best way to both honor the memory of those killed today and to take a stand for all that Charlie Hebdo has stood for is to publish — over and over again — the images that led to today’s violence. It’s a cliché to say that this is what they don’t want you to see, but it’s never been more true. This isn’t simply what they don’t want you to see — it’s what they’ll kill to stop you from seeing. But in the age of social media, they can’t stop this. No matter what they do. They can’t kill everyone.”
Indeed, the solution to this blasphemy-based violent nonsense is to mass reproduce, publish, and broadcast depictions of Muhammad – be they mundane or malicious – by every media outlet in both the mainstream and fringe. If members of the free press truly want to consider themselves just that, then they must cease the cowardly self-censorship they’ve been cowed into adopting by delirious umbrage-takers.