My answer was two-fold: In dozens of injunctive instances, the Koran sanctions murder and conquest. For example, the Koran 2:191 commands, "And slay them wherever ye catch them" -- "them" being any and all unbelievers in Allah. It is not necessary to cite any of dozens of similar commands to be found in the Koran and Hadith; they are all equally homicidal in nature, competing in lunacy with the ravings of a Charles Manson. To believe they can be interpreted as non-belligerent and pacific modes of serene tolerance is a gross evasion of the fact that words mean what they mean. No prism of interpretation, not by Western non-believers, not by Islamic scholars, can change the literal meanings of "slay," "kill," "terror," "smite," "cut off" and all the other gory verbs and nouns.
The second part of my answer addressed my acquaintance's concern with the "moderate" Muslims. Surely they outnumber the "extremists" and "fanatics" among them, and could play a role in taming Islam.
My answer was that this was unlikely, given the nature of the creed and what it demands of its rank-and-file adherents, which is intellectual torpor and unquestioning "submission." I replied that every Muslim I had encountered personally, or had observed in the press and the news media, did not seem to care about the differences between the West and Islam; that, in fact, it was the wealth and freedoms enjoyed in the West that are regularly condemned as "decadent" by their mullahs and imams.
"Moderate" Muslims choose not to question that official estimate of the secular West. They are taught from day one never to question the wisdom or statements of their "experts" or "holy men," that to do so would amount to questioning or doubting Mohammed himself. Depending on the mood of a Muslim judge, this could be deemed either blasphemy or apostasy. Either way, it would earn the transgressor the death penalty, the loss of some of his limbs, or some other bestial retribution, with no chance of repentance. Here I cite the Koran 2:39: "But those who reject Faith and belie our Signs, they shall be companions of the Fire." That is, murdered or banished, and presumably destined for Hell.
I wrote to my acquaintance: "This is an instance of being caught between a rock and a hard place. The man who would extricate himself from that dilemma would no longer be a Muslim. He would be quite extraordinary." Not to mention brave. He would have earned and deserve our respect for such a soul-wrenching feat. I ended my answer with the observation that it took Christianity about 1,500 years to leave barbarism behind, dating, say, from the murder in 415 of Hypatia, the pagan philosopher and mathematician by Christian monks outside the Alexandrian Library in Egypt. The instigator of that atrocity was St. Cyril, archbishop of Alexandria. How long would it take Islam to abandon its jihadist agenda and relegate its saints and prophets to the dustbin? Could the West survive such a wait?
Islam can be "reformed" only by surgically removing its homicidal injunctions. What, then, would be left of Islam? Perhaps a "belief system" that would be as truly pacific as that of the Amish or Quakers. But then it would no longer be Islam.
The foregoing is in the way of broaching the subject of the craven behavior of the Western press in its frantic scramble to hide behind the aprons of "moderate" Muslims to wiggle out of its responsibility to unequivocally and proudly assert the paramount importance of the freedom of speech.
To date, only two American newspapers have published one of the cartoons, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Austin, Texas American-Statesman. Of the broadcast giants, ABC showed the Mohammed in a bomb turban cartoon once, then pleaded "sensitivity" and refrained from further display of any of the cartoons. CBS and NBC anchors reported on the cartoons and demonstrations, as well, but with unconvincing sanctimony announced they would not show the cartoons out of "respect" for the beliefs of Muslims. Fox News, however, had the moral spine to show some of the cartoons. About two dozen American Muslims picketed outside the offices of the Inquirer. Editor and Publisher on February 8th reported an imam claiming that the cartoon run by the Inquirer was "disrespectful to us as a people. It's disrespectful to our prophet to imply that he's a prophet of violence."
That assertion, certainly not as suavely fork-tongued in delivery as the protestations of some Islamic scholars and Mideast studies professors in American and European universities, surely deserves an award for dissemblance. First, it stresses the equation of Islam with race; second, it ignores the homicidal injunctions that pepper the Koran.
Editor & Publisher also quoted USA Today deputy foreign editor Jim Michaels's denial that it was fear that was stopping his paper from running the cartoons. "It was made clear that it is offensive," he said, neglecting to mention by whom. "I don't know if fear is the right word. But we came down on the side that we could serve readers well without a depiction that is offensive."
Why have other newspapers and broadcast media refrained from running any of the cartoons? A better question is: Why have they not upheld their First Amendment right to run them and proclaimed loudly and clearly that they would assert such a right, and not be browbeaten by Muslim bellicosity and threats?
In my original article on this subject, "The Muslims' New Program for Thought Control," I named the reason: fear of retribution, of the kind of threats of violence that are rife in Europe and the Arab world. But no news organization is going to concede such cowardice. Instead, they have retreated behind the apron of the "moderates," and claimed "sensitivity" to their beliefs. But even that is not substantive enough an excuse. They would need some authoritative reference for not defending their right to free speech.
Daniel Pipes provided it on February 7th in a National Review Online article, "The Clash to End All Clashes? Making sense of the cartoon jihad." The NRO solicited the views of some experts on Islam and the Mideast on if it was "a clash of civilizations." Pipes, a respected authority on Islam who has condemned its jihadists and who is certainly no mouthpiece for Osama bin Laden, answered in his article, "It certainly feels like a clash of civilizations. But it is not."
After citing a handful of Muslims who condemned the fatwah on Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses in 1989, he concluded his article with this statement:
"It is a tragic mistake to lump all Muslims with the forces of darkness. Moderate, enlightened, free-thinking Muslims do exist. Hounded in their own circles, they look to the West for succor and support. And, however weak they may presently be, they eventually will have a crucial role in modernizing the Muslim world."
So, where are these "enlightened, free-thinking" Muslims? A Muslim by definition can be neither "enlightened" nor "free-thinking," not if he conscientiously subscribes to the tenets of Islam and is not inclined to risk losing the approbation of his fellow Muslims. If he attends Muslim services and practices the required rituals, but plays golf and the stock market, drinks alcohol, lingers over Victoria's Secret ads, reads Shakespeare and is fascinated by the longevity of the Mars rovers, then he must be a counterfeit Muslim, as counterfeit as are many model Christians. Fire-breathing mullahs and imams would be the first to point that out. So, how much of a "crucial role" then could he have in "modernizing" the Muslim world?
None. Rank-and-file Muslims do not "interpret" or "sanitize" the Koran and Hadith. Their duty is to discuss its contents, seek clarification, and obey. Interpretations and meanings are left to their ordained holy men. More "liberal" interpretations might surface if it were not for the existence of the equivalent of Mafia hit squads and enforcers: Hamas, the Glory Brigade, and other gangs of theocratic killers. What average, law-abiding Muslim or imam is going to risk their wrath by committing what the "faith police" would regard as blasphemy or apostasy?
In short, how much "reforming" influence can we expect of a cowed congregation of Muslims? Has any American newspaper troubled itself with these questions, or made these observations? It is doubtful. Political correctness, that poisonous mantra of non-judgmental egalitarianism, has enfeebled the minds of most editors and journalists.
Britain has a more vitriolic population of Muslims than has the U.S. To date, no British newspaper has reprinted the Danish cartoons. Again, fear of retribution has caused the British press to take cover behind the apron of "respect" for Muslim beliefs.
In the London Sunday Telegraph story of February 2nd, 2006, it was reported, "Muslim protests are incitement to murder, say Tories." Many of the placards carried by Muslim protestors outside the Danish embassy read, "Whoever insults a prophet, kill him," "Massacre those who insult Islam," and "Behead those who insult Islam." Can anyone credibly claim these injunctions are open to "interpretation"?
The question is: Who, hypothetically, is being incited to murder? The sign-carriers? Those who are the intended victims of massacres, beheadings, and killings? Or are the sign-carriers guilty of "inciting" others to commit those crimes? The concept of incitement as it is used in this circumstance is ambiguous.
David Davis, the British shadow home secretary, stated in the article, "Clearly some of these placards are incitement to violence and, indeed, incitement to murder -- an extremely serious offence which the police must deal with and deal with quickly....Certainly there can be no tolerance of incitement to murder."
The authorities are trying to pin the blame for the inflammatory placards on "extremists" among the Muslim demonstrators, while excusing the rest of the chanting mob as their right of legitimate protest. However, just how blameless are those "moderate" chanters? They where there, and if by chance the "extremists" broke through the police cordon and set fire to the Danish embassy, would not the "moderates" have joined in the destruction and arson or shouted "God is Great" in encouragement, celebration, and triumph?
If "law-abiding" moderate Muslims are so "peaceful," why are they so silent when their brethren promise death, destruction and vengeance? Is not such a silence a sanction of the violent actions of the "extremists"? Who gives leave to the "extremists" to speak and act in their name? Those "moderates." They are not as guiltless as one might suppose. Their creed demands mental passivity, and they comply.
The same London Daily Telegraph, in an editorial on February 6th, under the heading, "Why extremists treat us with contempt," posed the question after recounting the London demonstrations and questioning the wisdom of the police in arresting two men who counter-protested with placards bearing cartoons of Mohammed, but did not raise to finger to arrest Muslims carrying the inflammatory signs. "Might there be a connection between this cowardice and the contempt some Muslims feel for us?"
Good question, but the Telegraph itself provides the grounds for Muslim contempt. Three paragraphs later, it "submits" to Islam with this cowardly, craven genuflection to the West's mortal enemy:
"This newspaper has a deep regard for Islam, that purest and most abstract of the monotheistic faiths, to whose tenets we recently dedicated a series of color supplements. We share the admiration of Rousseau, Carlyle and Gibbon for the Prophet, which is why, on grounds of courtesy, we have chosen not to cause gratuitous offence to his followers by reproducing the cartoons at the center of this row."The Telegraph prepared the reader for that kowtowing in another article on February 5th:
"This newspaper would not have published the cartoons of Mohammed at the center of this controversy, images which we regard as vulgar and fatuously insulting."
If freedom of speech is abridged in deference to religious "sensibilities," it will be implemented or enforced for the sake of the sacrosanct "moderates," in this instance, "moderate" Muslims. They are the ones climbing into the belly of this Trojan horse of censorship by degree. The answer is not to open the gates and pander to their emotional, non-reasoning "sensitivities." But the Western press is opening them, and we shall all suffer the consequences.
The only solution to "modernizing" the Muslim world is its complete collapse, and the first thing in it to be discredited and discarded is Islam as a "religion of peace." It is, after all, the "moral" basis of that culture. Where is the "Muslim" intellectual who would light the fuse that would demolish Islam? He might possibly step forward if the Western press, as well as Western politicians, displayed the Churchillian courage to speak out against our latter day Hitlers. It is indeed a clash of civilizations, and the one with the most confidence in its own value will be the one to triumph.