America should not apologize for values that clash with hostile Islam
In an interview, 'Infidel' author Ayaan Hirsi Ali says violent protests against an anti-Islam video stem from a religion and culture with no room for criticism. 'Westerners should quit the moral relativist posturing and get down to the hard work of defending their values,' she says.
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“I do have to say that, more broadly, we believe in the First Amendment. It is one of the hallmarks of our Constitution that I am sworn to uphold, so we’re always going to uphold the rights of individuals to speak their minds. On the other hand, this film is not representative of who we are, and our values, and I think it is important for us to communicate that. That’s never an excuse for violence against Americans, which is why my No. 1 priority and my initial statement focused on making sure that not only are Americans safe, but that we go after anyone that would attack Americans.”Skip to next paragraph
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So Prime Minister Erdogan is not ready to compromise on the issue of free speech, and President Obama swore to uphold the American Constitution, of which the First Amendment is a hallmark. To me this symbolizes the “Clash of Civilizations” that professor Samuel Huntington described so eloquently in 1993, less than five years after the end of an epic confrontation of ideas with the former Soviet Union.
And this is the stark and unpleasant reality that faces both civilizations: There are certain values that cannot be compromised by those who hold them.
Erdogan has been tireless in leading initiatives on behalf of the Muslim nations of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (currently 57 in total) to create legislation through the channels of international law that bans blasphemy.
Mr. Obama has been tireless in communicating to the Muslim world that America seeks friendship and peaceful cooperation with the Muslims all over the world. He has vowed to pull out American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan; he has not stood in the way of toppling even those dictators that were an ally of the US; he has snubbed Israel and some of the Jewish population in the US by trying to show that Palestinians are as much an ally of the US as Israel.
In reality, neither leader nor the people who elected each of them is prepared to give the other what he wants: Obama – or any other American president regardless of party – will not compromise the First Amendment; ErdoGan or any other Muslim leader (at least in the short run) will not sit back and accept blasphemy against Muslim icons.
Gardels: The democratization of the media in the West – with social media like YouTube and Twitter – means any marginal kook can post a video. Thanks to the Internet, today the reach of the media is planetary, including to the politically awakened Muslims no longer suppressed by autocrats. That is a combustible combination that likely means more conflict of this nature, not less.
Hirsi Ali: I agree. As I said, Western nations are based on the principle that the free exchange of ideas is constitutionally protected. In America, Google, YouTube, and the other Silicon Valley engineers and entrepreneurs are celebrated. There is nothing sacred in Hollywood and New York’s giant publishing houses.
If a movie is good, the makers get an Oscar or some other honor. If it is bad, the makers are mercilessly mocked in the reviews. If a book is good, the author is shortlisted for a Pulitzer. If it is bad, he is laughed out of town. No subject is out of bounds: Jesus Christ, the private lives of the Founding Fathers, sex, money, gays, Jews, women, you name it.
What Erdogan and President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt don’t understand is that in a constitutional democracy, the prime minister or the president does not have the power to limit free speech. They can say over and over again that the film “Innocence of Islam” is “distasteful” and that “it does not represent the work of the government or what mainstream Americans believe,” but that is just their opinion. It is not a pledge to introduce legislation to punish the people behind the work.