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A question for 2007

- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006

Taking a whack at prognostication at the end of 2005, it wasn't hard to imagine, as I did, that 2006 would be a rotten year for freedom of speech. Both inside the Islamic world and, more alarmingly, outside the Islamic world, Shariah laws prohibiting criticism of Islam were already working smoothly. When in 2005 we watched the death-penalty-seeking prosecution of editor Ali Mohaqeq Nasab for "blasphemy" in U.S.-liberated Afghanistan, we could see we were dealing with a Shariah state. When in 2005 we watched the early stages of what later became known as "Cartoon Rage" in Denmark, we could see we were dealing with a Shariah state of mind. It wasn't exactly going out on a limb to predict things would only get worse.

And, of course, in 2006, they did. Just ask Abdul Rahman if you can find him. The "apostate" fled Afghanistan for his life last spring. Or Robert Redeker, if you can find him. The teacher who published a critique of Islam in September still lives in hiding in France. Or maybe Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. The Bangladeshi journalist faces the death penalty when he goes on trial in January for "blasphemy" and treason for writing favorably about Israel and unfavorably about Islamic terrorism. Of course, such censorship is "Over There" and beyond, not in the United States of America, right? And it can't, as they say, happen here. Right? Please, right?

I called 2006 "The Year of Speaking Dangerously," and that was before anyone likely imagined seeing "Behead Those Who Insult Islam" placards on jihadist display outside the Danish Embassy in London. What kind of year will 2007 be? What I fear most is that it will turn out to be "The Year of Shutting Up." As in: Why speak dangerously when you can simply not speak at all?

In fact, the Year of Shutting Up probably began back in September when Pope Benedict famously argued that the practice of forced conversion — key to Islamic expansion over the centuries — is inimical to both faith and reason. The eruption of anger among Muslims at such criticism was instantaneous and severe. Just shut up, the umma exclaimed. Basically, the pope did exactly that.

At the time, Daniel Pipes explained why placating such anger with silence was dangerous for the West: "The Muslim uproar has a goal — to prohibit criticism of Islam by Christians and thereby impose Shariah norms in the West. Should Westerners accept this central tenet of Islamic law, others will surely follow. Retaining free speech about Islam, therefore, represents a critical defense against the imposition of an Islamic order."

Mr. Pipes' language — "shariah norms in the West," "the imposition of an Islamic order" — evokes a potential transformation of our culture that is nothing short of revolutionary. Our elites seem not to have the slightest clue how devastating such a change, which comes under the rubric of Islamization, would be to our Judeo-Christian-rooted civilization. Indeed, it is increasingly clear that they don't know the difference between "an Islamic order" and Judeo-Christian-rooted civilization — or even that there is a difference.

There are exceptions. In November, there was Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, Florida Republican, who stood up for constituents' free speech under CAIR pressure. Now Rep. Virgil Goode, Virginia Republican, has become both the lone standard-bearer of free speech about Islam and the favorite whipping boy of the PC elites. In a letter to constituents about the decision of Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, Minnesota Democrat, to use a Koran at his swearing-in ceremony, Mr. Goode expressed what I take to be his recognition that the laws of Islam — which prohibit religious freedom, freedom of speech and conscience, equality before the law and women's rights — do not augment but rather contravene the founding principles of the United States.

He also wrote: "I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America." It's difficult to argue with Mr. Goode's logic. Indeed, the test case of the age — Europe — demonstrates that Islamic immigration brings Islamic law, which is demonstrably at odds with American values and beliefs. Forgoing debate, however, Mr. Goode's critics have resorted to name-calling and platitudes about "tolerance," failing utterly to notice the gross intolerance of the Islamic tradition. Worst of all, their tactics seem designed to shut up Mr. Goode, and anyone else who might follow his bold example. Will they?

It's the question of 2007.