Originally posted January 12, 2015.
Remember Salman Rushdie? He wrote Satanic Verses, a book critical of Islam. Because of Satanic Verses, Ayatollah Khomeini in the late 1980s sentenced Rushdie to death. Iran’s supreme leader spoke to his people: “I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the ‘Satanic Verses’ book, which is against Islam, the Prophet and the Quran, and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death. I ask all the Muslims to execute them wherever they find them.”
Peggy Noonan explains here in the WSJ why Rushdie was the canary in the coal mine. Five years after Rushdie went into hiding, Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker and writer, was shot to death and nearly decapitated. His crime? Making a short film about women and Islam. Somelia-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Gogh’s associate, received death threats also and eventually fled to the U.S. Today, she is the outspoken voice for women’s rights all over the world.
Not long after Mr. Gogh’s disturbing assassination, another Dane, cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who drew a cartoon picturing Muhammad with a bomb hidden in his turban, was a target of two assassination attempts and was forced into hiding.
When asked about the massacre at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Kurt Westergaard stressed the importance for the media to not be afraid and to not surrender free speech He called the murderers “fanatics,” adding that he hopes for “a reaction from moderate majority of Muslims against this attack.”
As Peggy Noonan notes, “A singular feature of extremist Islamists is that they are not at all interested in persuasion. They don’t care about winning you over, only about making you submit. They want to menace and threaten. They want to frighten. They enjoy posing with the severed head.”
Ms. Noonan continues, “Here (America) freedom of expression is called free speech, and it is protected in the first of the Constitution’s amendments because it is the most important of our rights. It is the West’s job not to be overcome by fear, not to give an inch.”