Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Lest They Died In Vain: Pamela Geller's Courageous Choice Defends Liberty For American Muslims, Christians and Jews

After Charlie Hebdo, Pamela Geller stood up as an example to show the world, and the extremists, that IF Americans of any background treat the tenets of any faith with respect, it is because we choose to - not because we are afraid of murderers and bullies who try to force others to comply with their demands.

While many safely tweeted "Je suis Charlie" and pretended to stand in solidarity with an edgy and trendy French magazine whose staff were murdered for publishing cartoons, few actually did anything to truly show how important the right to a free press is. Pamela Geller honored their sacrifice by coordinating a free speech event in Garland Texas.

Without Ms Geller's legal, non-violent free speech exercise, others would be more intimidated and less willing to stand firm against other extremist demands, while the brutal would be encouraged to expand - and the sacrifices of Charlie Hebdo's staff, Theo van Gogh, Daniel Pearl, Steven Sotloff,  Fabrizio Quattrocchi,  and the dozens of journalists murdered all over the world every year, would all be for naught.

We all know this.

We all know that without Ms Geller's courage, gentler groups will suffer indignities and circumscription at an increasing and discriminatory rate, while belligerent ones will be allowed to ride roughshod over us.

We know this. Even those who fear to admit it to themselves, know this.

The discussion about whether it is polite or ethical in America to disparage Christianity or Judism or Islam does need to happen, because that is how Americans do things, but not now. It needs to happen at a time when every example of radical free speech (from Mapplethorpe and Serrano to Charlie Hebdo and Geller) receives equal treatment in that discussion.

And only after coercion, intimidation, and threats of violence or "law-fare" have been eliminated as factors of influence.

A fundamental truth on which America was founded, and which we still believe, is that without religious freedom for everyone, which must of necessity include complete freedom of speech and freedom of the press, the very root of all liberty for all people is endangered.

If legal or social coercion and threat of violence are what keep people silent, then there is no free speech, and it builds a wall.

Those who wish to avoid such walls between people must be aware of the reality of danger faced by Christians and other liberty-practicing peoples in this 21st Century.

At a time when lawful protections for freedom of religion in America itself are being eroded at a rate unimaginable 20 years ago; when Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world (mistreated for their faith in 151 countries since 2006, at least 41 of which are Muslim nations, and in Muslim-dominated regions of others); when "80% of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians"; when antisemitism against Jews is rising at an alarming rate on US college campuses; when Jews are persecuted in 95 countries despite being only 1% of the world's population; when the brutality of religious persecution in the Middle East, Africa, Indonesia and Asia is erasing or enslaving whole populations of Christians and other minority religions and this violence is undertaken by extremists claiming - even if wrongly - the flag of Islam for their unholy mayhem... such a time, it is no wonder that usually-accepting Americans, even if they are not Christian, have a very reality-based fear of similar instability being launched here.

At the same time, Muslims also faced persecution in 135 countries between 2006 and 2012. Persecution they should also be protected from - as they have been protected in majority-Christian America since our founding. In America, we make no distinction: we believe all people should have equal liberty to think, speak, pray, study, publish, associate, live, work, and abide by the same laws.

Muslim people of good will can find commonalities with Christians & Jews, if they wish to do so, and as so many have done for generations before these troubles started. In the United States at this time, Christians, Muslims and Jews share the serious and real threat of complete loss of freedom to actively practice our faith. We also share interest in moral and ethical matters such as public decency and modesty, marriage and divorce, home and family, children's education that respects parents' beliefs and decisions, honest business practices, ethical local government, stewardship and freedom from debt.

If Muslim people of good will wish to engage others of different faiths, they must remove fear and threat of violence from the picture. That includes letting go of the name-calling: mislabeling Pamela Geller a "bigot" or falsely claiming she is "racist" or pretending her honest factual statements are "hate speech" is just another form of violence against freedom of speech and the rule of law in a nation of free people.

As Governor Bobby Jindal said on Monday, a firm and truly unequivocal statement (not one that uses the word unequivocal but goes on to slander Ms. Geller) "is not too much to ask.":

"The truth of the matter is that even though President Obama will not admit it – Islam has a problem, and it is called radical Islam. And the proponents of radical Islam hate our First Amendment, they hate freedom of speech and they want to destroy it and us.
"We can never deal with this problem without admitting it exists. It’s time for our President to stand up and speak the truth to the American people and to the world.
"It is also time for Muslim leaders everywhere to step up and declare that perpetrators of such violence are the enemy, they are wrong, and they will NOT be rewarded in the afterlife. These Muslim leaders also need to directly state that they are tolerant of every person in the world who does not share their religious views, and they condemn anyone who commits violence in the name of Islam. This is not too much to ask." 
We know that most Muslim people do not practice radical Islam and do not support it. It is unfortunate but necessary that such Muslim people of good will must now also be brave and stand up against radical Islam alongside Pamela Geller and other people of good will and differing faiths and beliefs: united despite our differences in a passion to preserve equal liberty for all.

Pamela Geller's courageous work shows that Americans - of any faith or none - Christian, Jew, Muslim - are polite and civilized by choice, that our Constitutional freedoms are a valuable heritage we can share that protects us all from being forced to comply with anything - and that we will ALL always choose to extend that same freedom expressly to others of differing faiths and opinions.

To the credit of Ms Geller, the other organizers, the participants and attendees, the Muslim community of Garland and surrounding areas, and the City of Garland, the event was almost completely uneventful: a model of what the ordinary exercise of free speech at an art show should be. The two attackers had to drive a long way to attempt to repeat the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and they failed.

In their failure,  Pamela Geller succeeded, and there is now a new standard in the world. America, and Texas, overwrote the Charlie Hebdo atrocity with a defiant "LIBERTY FOR ALL", writ as large as ever.


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