The outcry would be laughable if it weren’t lethal.
The Innocence of Muslims, an apparently poorly executed, low-budget film insulting Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, has sparked riots in the Muslim world, including attacks on American embassies, one of which resulted in a number of deaths. Among the dead is America’s ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.
In an attempt to milk the story – or is it a play to political correctness? – media outlets are exploring the allegedly sordid past of the film’s director. This is largely a diversion from what the focus of the story should really be: yet another example of outrageous violence perpetrated by particular, militant factions of Islam – by no means representative of all Muslims – in response to insults directed at their faith.
The quality of the film is irrelevant. The criminal past of its director is irrelevant. The motivation of the director – even if it was to stir up hatred – is irrelevant.
In Western democracies we support and promote free speech. Free speech includes speech you don’t want to hear, i.e. movies that offend you. It isn’t free speech if it’s censored the moment someone’s offended.
Respect for free speech is non-existent across vast swaths of this planet. Certain factions in this world have failed to master a basic lesson most Canadian children understand: “Put down the Molotov cocktail, the RPG, the AK-47 and use your words.”
It’s time we stop any semblance of apologizing for artistic statements coming from the West, however crude they may sometimes be. Few newspapers republished the Danish cartoons back in 2005, despite the fact they were so clearly a central part of a giant, international story. Editors justified the omission as a show of respect for the faith embraced by many of our citizens. But let’s be honest: It was fear that inhibited them.
Every newspaper in the West should have run a reprint of the cartoons – an act of solidarity and defiance. And while every journalist has a right to pursue stories about this filmmaker, publishers would do well to ensure the focus of the story remains the absurd response of militant Islamists, not the intentions of a filmmaker.
Embassies are the sovereign territory of the nation that occupies them. While a restrained response to incursions is a generally a good idea – one embassy can’t battle a nation, and international condemnation would fall on any nation whose embassy acted prematurely – ambassadors and their staff are well within their rights to treat any invasion of their sovereign compounds as an act of war. To the extent that it’s in their interests, once their borders are breached, embassy staff should use force to protect themselves and their territory, and it’s incumbent on our governments to provide them with the means and personnel to do so: invading hooligans should be met with a cloud of pepper spray and a withering hail of rubber bullets, and would-be assassins – those who enter embassies with weapons whose designed purpose is killing – should be met with lethal gunfire.