Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Missing the Point

John Avalon has a troubling article in yesterday's New York Sun (subscription required). On the face of it, the piece is a defense of free speech and an exhortation to "Buy Danish" (as opposed to "Buy Danishes," since those usually don't come from Denmark itself...), but it is illustrative of many free speech defenders' inability to empathize with Muslims at all.

For the umpteenth time, I'm not asking to curtail free speech and I am most certainly not asking that people sympathize with the violence erupting across the Muslim world. What I can't wrap my brain around is the notion, and a very common one at that, that Muslims have nothing to be aggrieved about.
It is a choice between freedom of speech and violent intimidation. It is a choice between tolerance and intolerance. It is ultimately a choice between civil society and theocracy. Fear is the only argument for neutrality.
I'm not arguing for neutrality. Free speech wins over theocratic garbage, hands down. Why is it so difficult for people to understand that the Danish cartoons express intolerance, too? Is accusing an entire religion of being based upon terrorism engendering civil society? Or should Muslims be excluded from that society (as they so often are in Europe)? Civil society does not include the unqualified support of bigotry. Print the cartoons all you want, but do we have to approve of them and their message, too? Why?
Tolerance is a two-way street: it implies not only mutual respect but a live and let live attitude that is absent from Muslims' reaction to these cartoons.
Positively mind-numbing. Yes, it's a two-way street. But the Muslim fanatics are not the only ones stuck in a blind alley, it seems. Mutual respect. He said it. Now how about giving it a try? You can start by not dismissing all arguments from the other side without a thought.
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