Why do we tolerate the intolerant 'martyr'?

Posted: Oct 13, 2006 12:01 AM
Why do we tolerate the intolerant 'martyr'?

The media love a martyr. And I don't mean "martyr" in the context of modern-day jihad. I mean the sort from our pre-Islamic consciousness, the long-suffering "victim" of "witch hunts" and moralizing of a singularly "right-wing" and "puritanical" kind. Such martyrdom never dims -- and I'm thinking, say, of Alger Hiss, or, on a different level, Bill Clinton. It beams on in perpetuity, alight with liberal pieties projected by a media culture that, in turn, basks in reflected martyrdom.

Tariq Ramadan, a Eurabian intellectual with a string of associates linked to terrorism, is becoming just such a media martyr. The State Department recently turned down his request for a visa -- and for a second time. (Go State!) But over at The New Yorker, George Packer is invoking no less than Thomas Jefferson to help proclaim "the national good" that would accrue to us through exposure to Ramadan's "ideas." "Truth is great and will prevail (over) error," Packer quotes Jefferson as saying, "unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate."

I'm not sure whether Packer is calling Ramadan "truth" or "error," but one thing is clear: We have exposure galore to his "ideas," as media ink spilled over his "plight" attests, not to mention the trove of books by Ramadan readily available, for example, via Amazon.com. Such "ideas," as Packer styles them, include arguing for "a large role for religion in Arab-Muslim states" (sounds like sharia to me) and "an assertion of Muslim identity alongside citizenship in the West" (ditto). Then there are his "ideas" about Israel. (Indeed, it was Ramadan's contribution to a Hamas "charity" that led Uncle Sam to nix that last visa request.) As Olivier Guitta notes at the Weekly Standard, Ramadan "strongly favors the elimination of the Jewish state." Which is an idea, all right, but should it win the guy a trip to Coney Island? I don't think so.

Denied the privilege, Ramadan is busy snatching media martyrdom from visa defeat, which he attributes to U.S. government "paranoia." And such paranoia, he wrote in The Washington Post, comes out in the "the fear of ideas" -- his own, natch. As someone who opposes and yes, fears, the incremental imposition of sharia on the Free World now in progress, I don't think "paranoia" is as apt a term as, say, "survival instinct." But I digress. We've got his "ideas." We hardly need to give him a key to the city in return.

The case of Robert Redeker, a French high school teacher, marks a serious contrast. For having written a passionate op-ed in a French paper criticizing the tradition of violence modeled by Muhammad and inherent to Islam -- the threat that fulfills sharia's promise -- Redeker received death threats from Muslims that forced him into hiding under police protection. It's not that he didn't receive a visa to visit another country; he's no longer safe in his own. So let's get this straight. The U.S. government has determined (mirabile dictu) that we, the people, can get along without Ramadan, which is not at all to say that anybody is blocking his lousy "ideas." The would-be assassins of Robert Redeker plot to kill the teacher for his "ideas" critical of Islam and Muhammad, thereby trying to deter him or anyone else from repeating them. So where is the crime against free speech? Where, to go back to Thomas Jefferson, is the real "human interposition" disarming truth of her "natural weapons" -- free argument and debate?

It is in this nightmarish climate of public intimidation that the intrepid scholar Robert Spencer has come out with his latest book, "The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion," (Regnery, 2006). Relying exclusively on Muslim sources, Spencer crafts a portrait of Muhammad that, for about the first time since political correctness gave Muhammad a pacifist makeover, places his violent, misogynist and supremacist example and teachings under an analytical light. Why? "The question of Muhammad -- of who he was, what he did, and what he believed -- is key to understanding today's global conflict with the jihadists, and what we must do about it," Spencer writes.

Sounds like an important topic for "free argument and debate" -- maybe as important as Mark Foley's IM's, or, for that matter, Ramadan's visa. Will our media martyrs initiate free argument and debate about it? Let's hope. Without her "natural weapons," it is truth who becomes the martyr.