- - Monday, May 11, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Two Islamist terrorists were dead and a police officer wounded in the aftermath of the “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in Garland, Texas. Despite what many would like you to think, it wasn’t the cartoons presented at this private gathering or the event itself that should concern Americans — it’s the blaming of the victim by many in the media, including some conservative favorites.

With a few exceptions, we have been told by pundits, journalists and even Donald Trump that the organizers of the event “incited” or “provoked” the terrorist attack. On Megyn Kelly’s Fox News program, Richard Fowler, a liberal radio talk show host, insisted that the cartoon contest was like “going into a theater and yelling out fire. … Freedom of speech comes with limits. This is a clear limit.” Furthermore, Mr. Fowler assured us, “If they never had that event, the jihadis would have never shown up.”

Really? So, we should tell battered women that they should just learn to make the sandwich perfectly, so as to not incite a beating? And what of the gay men who go into a barbecue restaurant and bar, as was the case here in New York on Cinco de Mayo, only to be beaten up and attacked with a chair? Do we say they were asking for it by going into the “wrong” restaurant?

As a reminder, you can yell fire in a crowded theater — when there’s a fire. Arguably, the culpability comes when there is a fire and you say nothing, condemning untold numbers of people to injury or death. And, of course, being free to do and say what we want matters because we have a choice. That choice includes knowing when to not be silent.

Ms. Kelly has been one of the few national personalities to forcefully reject the argument that the organizers are to be blamed for the terrorist attack. At Fox News, you’re hearing the entire spectrum of perspectives on the issue, which is a good thing. Ms. Kelly’s argument centers around free speech. Responding to Mr. Fowler, she said, “When people exercise their First Amendment rights, and two jihadis show up to murder them, the relevant question at that time is not what were they saying. … The more offensive the speech is, Richard, the more protection it needs.”

There is that argument, and then there is what’s happening on the ground.

American Muslims may or may not be offended by someone drawing a cartoon of Muhammad, but here’s what we do know: None of them was protesting the “Draw Muhammad” event in Garland. There has never been an organic uprising by American Muslims against cartoons or any deadly offense as perceived by jihadis. And do not mistake a paid, professional-agitator group such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations as representative of anyone but its members.

By their reckoning, terrorists live normal lives only to find themselves suddenly provoked into terrorism because they’re distraught by acts of infidels. You see, if the infidel would only shut up and do as they say, none of this would have to happen.

The truth is, rather, jihadis lie in wait. They create pretexts. They act on excuses. If we banned cartoons of Muhammad, another excuse for attack would be found. Would it be Jews being obviously Jewish in public? Would it be two gay women kissing each other goodbye at the airport? Would it be Megyn Kelly wearing a sleeveless dress?

We should look to the Middle East and note the Yazidis under siege in Iraq have never drawn Muhammad, but they were Christians. Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head on her school bus, never drew Muhammad, but she wanted to become educated. The Boston bombing victims never drew Muhammad, but they were Americans. Theo Van Gogh never drew Muhammad, but he made a film. The Egyptian Coptic Christians beheaded by the Islamic State never drew Muhammad, but they, too, committed the offense of being Christians.

There will always be a reason. There will always be a pretext.

So if the average Muslim isn’t turning violent but we bow to terrorists looking for an excuse to attack, for whom are we censoring ourselves? If we argue it’s out of respect for all Muslims, but the vast majority are not the ones demanding censorship, aren’t we conflating them with terrorists, and even using them as an excuse for censoring ourselves, or as Ms. Gellar puts it, using the language of the conquered?

This is why the general outrage directed at Pamela Geller and cartoonist Bosch Fawstin, the winner of the contest, is troubling. We’ve been told for years that radical Islamists and terrorists do not represent the average American Muslim, and I agree with that.

It’s likely some Muslims are offended by the notion of anyone drawing Muhammad. But for them, like most Americans, that offense will translate into conversations, blog posts and other forms of debate. When the “Piss Christ” so-called artwork offended Christians, there was massive social debate, but those people of faith weren’t compelled to kill the artist any more than average Muslims want censorship or the killings of cartoonists. There was certainly no call by the legacy media to censor criticism of Christianity’s critics.

In my interview with cartoonist Bosch Fawstin, we discussed the importance and point of the Garland event, made even more obvious by the reaction to it. His winning cartoon perfectly exemplifies the intent and meaning of his art: Muhammad yells at Bosch, “You can’t draw me!” He answers back, “That’s why I draw you!”

This is the answer to fascists and terrorists who demand our silence, using religion as the excuse. After all, if you can silence the American voice of freedom, then America is conquered.

⦁ Tammy Bruce is a radio talk show host, author and Fox News contributor.

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