With guns pointed at his shaved and visibly battered head, Australian hostage Douglas Wood said things he didn't mean, parroting words his captors fed him. In a clip of film that has become a jihadist cliche -- masked gunmen, dehumanized captive, Al Jazeera logo -- Mr. Douglas called for coalition forces to withdraw from Iraq, a jihadist goal he doesn't share with the thugs who imprisoned him for nearly seven weeks. After his rescue by American and Iraqi forces this week, the 64-year-old engineer made it clear he'd been coerced on tape, that he had not been speaking freely. "Frankly, I'd like to apologize to both President Bush and Prime Minister Howard for the things I said under duress," Mr. Wood said upon arriving in Melbourne. He also sang out a jubilant chorus of "Waltzing Matilda," Australia's unofficial anthem.
What a twist, then, that this same week, in that same corner of Australia, just as Mr. Wood was exulting in his renewed pursuit of life and liberty, two of his fellow Aussies, Christian pastors Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot, were finding their own such pursuits derailed -- not by vicious criminals in Iraq, but by civilized state statute. Mr. Wood could breathe freely in Australia and speak his mind once again; but the pastors Nalliah and Scot have been ordered by a tribunal in the state of Victoria to make public statements against their will, their conscience and their faith: namely, to apologize for their teachings on Islam, and to promise never to so teach again. As the first to be convicted of vilifying Islam under Victoria's "1984"-style Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, these men have vowed to go to jail rather than surrender their freedom of speech.
The cases of the kidnapped engineer and the "guilty" pastors are not really parallel. The Victoria state court is not a murderous gang of jihadists. But there's something similarly outrageous about the coercion brought to be bear on these men -- coercion at gunpoint in Iraq, or on pain of prison time in Australia -- to revoke the precious and essential Western liberty to speak freely. Such liberty is what compelled both pastors to flee their native Pakistan, where "blasphemy" against Islam can be a capital offense. And there's another connection: The Islamic doctrine of jihad that inspires the terrorists in Iraq is precisely what lies at the core of the Australian pastors' lectures and teachings, which are based directly on verses of the Quran and other Islamic texts.