Written by the amazing Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
It is a strange and bitter coincidence that the latest eruption of violent Islamic indignation takes place just as Salman Rushdie publishes his new book, Joseph Anton: A Memoir, about his life under the fatwa.
In 23 years not much has changed.
Islam’s rage reared its ugly head again last week. The American ambassador to Libya and three of his staff members were murdered by a raging mob in Benghazi, Libya, possibly under the cover of protests against a film mocking the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
They were killed on the watch of the democratic government they helped to install. This government was either negligent or complicit in their murders. And that forces the U.S. to confront a stark, unwelcome reality.
Until recently, it was completely justifiable to feel sorry for the masses in Libya because they suffered under the thumb of a cruel dictator. But now they are no longer subjects; they are citizens. They have the opportunity to elect a government and build a society of their choice. Will they follow the lead of the Egyptian people and elect a government that stands for ideals diametrically opposed to those upheld by the United States? They might. But if they do, we should not consider them stupid or infantile. We should recognize that they have made a free choice—a choice to reject freedom as the West understands it.
How should American leaders respond? What should they say and do, for example, when a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s newly elected ruling party, demands a formal apology from the United States government and urges that the “madmen” behind the Muhammad video be prosecuted, in violation of the First Amendment? If the U.S. follows the example of Europe over the last two decades, it will bend over backward to avoid further offense. And that would be a grave mistake—for the West no less than for those Muslims struggling to build a brighter future.
For a homicidal few in the Muslim world, life itself has less value than religious icons, such as the prophet or the Quran. These few are indifferent to the particular motives or arguments behind any perceived insult to their faith. They do not care about an individual’s political alignment, gender, religion, or occupation. They do not care whether the provocation comes from serious literature or a stupid movie. All that matters is the intolerable nature of the insult.
Update: You knew this was coming.