Of course not–that’s why insults to the prophet need to be avenged.
Now, I’m not saying that Obama wants insults to the prophet to be avenged, just that his way of thinking perfectly complements those who do. Catering to Muslim sensitivities, being careful to avoid any perceived insult, policing ourselves for the slightest inkling of a “backlash”–all this encourages terrorism. That most in our political, academic, and cultural elites don’t see how obvious that is is an index of the level of civilization we have attained. It is precisely the most civilized among us who can’t imagine anyone having recourse to barbarism and savagery without having suffered unspeakably and thereby warped not just at the hands of the so-called civilized world, but as a result of the hypocrisy of that world. According to that logic, the more barbaric they are, the more barbaric and hypocritical “we” must really be–“we” being, in fact, “they,” those whom the ultra-civilized wish to distinguish themselves at all costs, the middle class barbarians who have really only retained a patina of civilization. In order to make this distinction absolute, reality must be inverted, and the victims of terrorism must be its cause.
Someone for whom the mass murders in Paris are yet another one of those events about anything but Islam has probably already pointed out how much more likely the average citizen of the Western world is to die of an auto accident than a terrorist attack. What today’s attack reminds us, though, is that no one will ever refuse to publish a story, or a cartoon, or make a movie, or write a book, because they might be in an auto accident one day.
The media of the Western world should do this anyway, but one positive effect of every media outlet publishing the cartoons over which the editors and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo were killed is that it would test the proposition that such attacks are carried out by a few “extremists,” or even lunatics, who represent nothing in Islam. If Muslims genuinely want to be full participants in the modern world, they would urge on such a universal snub of the “prophet,” precisely so that they can show that they can respond to it in a civilized manner. And they would set up “watch” sites “outing” every Muslim leader who said anything that could construed as encouraging violence, working with police and intelligence agencies to have them expelled, their citizenship revoked, etc. But, then, they would be doing that already. (Would we be able to recognize them as anything but “Uncle Ahmeds,” though?) American leftist Jews agonize constantly and publicly over what Israel does, purportedly “in their name.” From their perspective, they’re right: regardless of the fairness of it, your complicity in the acts of others is not completely up to you, and so it’s best to be safe and disown actions which might implicate one. For that matter, American leftists in the academy, media and culture industry who are ashamed of their fellow Americans’ barbarous behavior throughout the world are right to make it clear that they would like to see a different America. But that means the supposed vast majority of innocent Muslims would be right to do the same.
Eric Gans and I engaged in a dialogue a few years ago over the relative weight of physical fear and white guilt in the cringing attitude of Western elites to Islam. This seems like a good time to revisit the question. The conclusion I arrived at after further reflections on that dialogue is that for those having to decide what to publish, produce and disseminate, the overriding factor is certainly fear; but white guilt is the reason that fear is the only response available to them. People are afraid in all kinds of circumstances, but they don’t always let fear control their actions. When they don’t, the reason (leaving aside extraordinary cases of individual bravery) is the shame they would feel in the face of those people with whom they have exchanged promises (tacit or explicit) to have one another’s back. Those consumed with white guilt have no one’s back and would be ashamed if someone had theirs–that (necessarily exclusionary) solidarity is the very source of the guilt.
One of my own renunciations (imperfectly practiced, no doubt) is the use of the word “should,” especially in the context of some kind of criticism. It seems to me intellectually lazy, like relying on a standard plot point to finish up a movie–the West should stand up for itself, etc. It’s also an admission of impotence–if they’re not doing it, obviously they don’t think they should, so what does saying they should add, exactly? It’s better to simply lay down markers to determine what things mean. It is to his great credit that Bill Maher speaks openly about the difference and danger of Islam. I hope he has a good security detail. But he doesn’t expose the political and cultural leaders who exempt “moderate Muslims” from the task of cleansing themselves from association with their barbaric co-religionists. The only really meaningful response to the implication of Islam (not “radical Islam,” not “Islamism”) in contemporary barbarism and savagery is to insist as a condition of residence, much less citizenship, Muslims be required to forswear allegiance to organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and articles of faith that are habitually implicated in that savagery and barbarism. (Maybe, airport security style, we should demand this of everyone requesting a visa.) The analogy here is to Europeans coming after World War II who were required to swear that they were not members of the Nazi or Communist Party. Here, as well, moderate Muslims would be happy to help draw up the lists, and eagerly take the opportunity to put the weight of social sanction and public opinion in the balance in reforming their religion. Needless to say, this is not very likely. It’s still worth proposing it, though, as a marker of how diametrically opposed prevailing Western habits are to the qualities needed to resist barbarism and savagery.