Wafa Sultan Defends Liberty

Along with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan is among the most courageous people in the world. As Rule of Reason pointed out, Sultan recently debated an Egyptian about religion. The video and transcript are available. Sultan said:

All religions and faiths, throughout the history of humanity, have been subject to criticism and affronts. With time, this has helped in their reform and development. Any belief that chops off the heads of its critics is doomed to turn into terrorism and tyranny. This has been the condition of Islam, from its inception to this day. Islam has sentenced [its critics] to prison, and whoever crosses the threshold of that prison meets his death. The Danish cartoons have managed to break down the first brick in the wall of that prison, and to open up a window, through which the sunrays enter, after a lengthy darkness. The Danish newspaper exercised its freedom of speech. Liberties are the holiest thing in the West, and nothing is more important. But if Islam were not the way it is, those cartoons would never have appeared. They did not appear out of the blue, and the cartoonist did not dig them out of his imagination. Rather, they are a reflection of his knowledge. Westerners who read the words of the Prophet Muhammad ‘Allah has given me sustenance under the shadow of my sword’ cannot imagine Muhammad’s turban in the shape of a dove of peace rather than in the shape of a bomb. The Muslims must learn how to listen to the criticism of others, and maybe then they will reexamine their terrorist teachings. When they manage to do so, the world will view them in a better light, and consequently, it will draw them in a better light. The reactions of the Muslims, which were characterized by savageness, barbarism, and backwardness, only increased the value of these cartoons, and gave them more importance than they merited, simply because they proved that these cartoons were true, and that the message they were conveying was true. The Muslim is an irrational creature ruled by instincts. Those teachings have deprived him of his mind, incited his emotions, and reduced him to the level of an inferior creature that cannot control himself or react to events rationally.

The moderator of the television show said, “How come freedom of expression in the West is sacred only when it comes to degrading the Muslims? Are they allowed to talk about the Holocaust? Are they allowed to talk about Christianity? That is the question. Cinemas were burned down in the West when they talked about Christ.”

There is no legitimate comparison of free speech between the Muslim world and the West. The Muslim world routinely practices censorship and threatens to murder people for their speech. The West — and especially the United States — upholds free speech in almost every case. (The few exceptions should be eliminated.) The comment about cinemas being burned down is a fabrication, as Sultan pointed out.

Meanwhile, in Iran…

Iran’s Culture Ministry on Sunday announced the closure of nine cinema and lifestyle magazines for publishing pictures and stories about the life of “corrupt” foreign film stars and promoting “superstitions.”

The Press Supervisory Board, a body controlled by hard-liners, also sent warning notes to 13 other publications and magazines on “observing the provisions of the press law,” the ministry said on its Web site. …

The ministry said it shut them down for “using photos of artists, especially foreign corrupt film stars, as instruments (to arouse desire), publishing details about their decadent private lives, propagating medicines without authorization, promoting superstitions.”

That’s rich: Islamic fascists imposing censorship to prevent the promotion of superstitions!

While there are some Americans who wish to impose censorship in the U.S. (who are in cases regarding alleged obscenity primarily motivated by religious beliefs), most Americans (including religious ones) are dedicated to the rights of free speech. While much of the Muslim world called for the murder of the Danish cartoonists, most of America stood up for free speech. To give just one example, the Rocky Mountain News published not only one of the Danish cartoons but various other cartoons offensive to various groups, as explained in an editorial and an article by the publisher, John Temple. Temple wrote:

I thought you might be interested in seeing what readers said, given that the Rocky Mountain News is one of the few American newspapers to expose its readers to any of the Danish cartoons of Muhammad that are blamed for rioting across the Muslim world.

“Thank you,” was the consistent message.

Indeed, the News, and people like Sultan, deserve our thanks for defending freedom of speech.

2 thoughts on “Wafa Sultan Defends Liberty”

  1. The moderator of the television show said, “How come freedom of expression in the West is sacred only when it comes to degrading the Muslims? Are they allowed to talk about the Holocaust?”

    If news reports are correct, the moderator is right to bring up this example. According to reports I have seen, some European countries have criminalized certain kinds of comments about the Holocaust. That is censorship plain and simple.

    In making comparisons, it is important to clearly distinguish exactly what elements are being compared. Are we comparing ideal to ideal or actual to actual? A particular culture may generally uphold an ideal but not always practice it.

    Western Civilization, considered as an “abstract particular,” upholds freedom of speech. According to second-hand reports I’ve read, Islam, considered as an “abstract particular,” attacks freedom of speech.

    In actuality, what passes for Western Civilization does impose censorship at times. Likewise, even predominantly Islamic cultures do permit vacuoles of free speech–in certain circumstances, by certain people, and for limited times.

    What matters most is the ideal, because it is ideals–as a species of ideas–that move history.

  2. Mr. Laughlin is right. Germany, most obviously, punishes any denial or grave relativization of the Holocaust with imprisonment. This has two aspects. First, it is part of a broader government policy on Germany’s history which focuses very much on the Third Reich and especially on the Holocaust as the unique and uncomparable sin of the German people, and from there on derives an eternal collective guilt that is an important part of the ideological foundation of the present German republic. Second, this curtailment of free speech is embedded in a paragraph in the German crimincal code called “Volksverhetzung” (i.e. inciting the people to hatred) by means of which any kind of opinion that allegedly incites the populace to hatred and violence and disturbs the social peace can be prosecuted by the government. It usually is used when someone utters some stupid (or not so stupid) remark against some minority or other, and most frequently in connection with utterances about the Third Reich and the Holocaust.

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