On the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 jihad attacks, John Jamason, of Palm Beach, Fla., posted the following comment on his personal Facebook page:
"Never forget. There is no such thing as radical Islam. All Islam is radical. There may be Muslims who don't practice their religion, much like others. The Quran is a book that preaches hate."
Following these comments, a firestorm would consume Jamason for the next week as local media -- driven by the Hamas-linked Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and a waffling county administrator -- speculated whether Jamason would lose his job as Palm Beach County public information officer or be "disciplined." For what? Palm Beach County Administrator Robert Weisman spoke of Jamason's ignorance and hurtfulness, but in reality, Jamason had crossed the red U.S.-CAIR-Islamic-line which specifically absolves Islam from links to radicalism and/or hatred. For that, Jamason had to be punished, or at least feel the heat for a while.
And that he did. Before I describe the firestorm, it's worth noting a couple of points. It is ridiculously easy to prove Jamason's statement is reasonable and true according to Islam's supremacist, core tenets and a slew of Koranic verses. While years of conditioning ("Islam is a religion of peace") and an unbecoming commitment to convenience make us pretend otherwise, there is nothing in Islamic doctrine itself that lends credence to two Islams -- a "radical" Islam on the one hand, and a "moderate" Islam on the other.
Indeed, among others, Turkey's prime minister (and Barack Obama's great friend), Recep Tayyip Erdogan, takes strong exception to such a concept. "These descriptions are very ugly, it is offensive and an insult to our religion," Erdogan said in 2007. "There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that's it." From a different vantage point, the ex-Muslim scholar Ibn Warraq frames the issue similarly, while leaving space for variation in human nature: "There may be moderate Muslims, but Islam itself is not moderate."
Of course, if either man worked for Palm Beach County, he, too, would have been fighting for his job over the past week.
Why? Such thoughts and those who think them are the remaining obstacles to the advance of Islam across the American legal and cultural scene. Unchecked and unchastened, they might lead to a deeper debate about the transformative powers of Islamic teachings and sharia (Islamic law) in America. Therefore, such thoughts and those who think them -- worse, write them down on Facebook -- must suffer consequences that are as unpleasant as possible so that others think twice, even thrice, before following suit. In the end, no one will think about doing so at all.
That's partly why John Jamason had to have a very bad week, although, commendably, he refused to apologize. Other reasons include a painfully compliant media and Palm Beach County's constitutionally shaky administrator.
Evan Axelbank, a journalist for the local NBC affiliate, WPTV, broke the story. He wrote online: "There is a growing spotlight on a Palm Beach County employee who on 9/11 called the Qur'an hateful on his personal Facebook page." Somewhat breathlessly, he followed up on the air: "John Jamason reported for work as usual today, yet the county administrator says that he is considering disciplinary action against Jamason. ... The county administrator tells us that because it was a private comment only publicized because of our coverage, it is protected by the Constitution."
Not exactly a robust reading of the First Amendment.
Axelbank's report continued: "(Weisman says that Jamason) 'is a merit system employee who is protected by state law from arbitrary termination and has many employment rights as a result. If he was an at-will employee, for which I do have more discretion, I would be considering his termination today for the ignorance of his comments and that they are hurtful to part of our community.'"
Having driven a Mack truck through free speech protections, Weisman left an opening for continuing blackmail over "ignorance" and "hurtfulness." Even so, the Axelbank headline is shocking for permitting a reading in which CAIR is the governing body: "CAIR launches investigation into PBC employee over Qur'an comments." The Palm Beach Post followed somewhat less deferentially: "Muslim group demands public records after county communications staffer posts anti-Islamic message."
And then, just as quickly as the story flared up, it appears to have died down. "Palm Beach County public information officer won't be disciplined after Islam post," WPTV reported. The story was brief. "The county administrator said Jamason's comments were personal and not made during work, so his statements did not violate rules."
That's not the same thing as saying that free speech wasn't violated in deference to Islam -- again.