One of the interesting examples is that of Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr., news commentator discussing the recent Mountain Meadows Massacre movie that was very hard on Joseph Smith the Latter-day Saints. I listened to an interview several days later on the Hugh Hewitt radio show, where he was asked by Hugh whether would make similar statements about Islamic terrorists. He said he would not dare to do so, because he may pay with his life at the hands of Muslims, whereas the Mormons are completely harmless.
This is one of MANY reasons why LDS Public Affairs people and scholars trying to draw similarities between Mormons and Muslims are seriously mistaken.
Thanks very much,
The most brutally efficient way to get rid of critics, of course, is through murder. An Islamic supremacist killed filmmaker Theo van Gogh on an Amsterdam street in 2004 in revenge for van Gogh’s film criticizing the mistreatment of women in Islam. Similarly, the artists who drew the Danish Muhammad cartoons in 2005 received numerous death threats, and some were forced into hiding. As recently as February 2008, Danish authorities arrested two Tunisians for plotting to strangle to death one of the cartoonists, seventy-four-year-old Kurt Westergaard. 26
Violence works. When free speech advocates called upon newspapers in Europe and America to reprint the Muhammad car toons as a reaffirmation of free expression, nearly all refused. Many editors and publishers professed a newly-found respect for religion that they had never shown when a crucifix dipped in urine and a dung-encrusted portrait of the Virgin Mary were publicly displayed as works of art. That strange new deference clearly had other derivations: most Christians, of course, are not in the habit of attacking and killing people to avenge insults to their faith.
Violence against Western “blasphemers” of Islam has been part of the public landscape at least since 1989, when the Ayatollah Khomeini called for the murder of Salman Rushdie after he published a book that Khomeini deemed “blasphemous to Islam.” Rushdie is still alive today, but Iran never rescinded the fatwa on his head. Although he spent a decade in hiding, Rushdie must be considered lucky—one of his translators was murdered and several others attacked.
The death sentence passed on Rushdie elicited shock and revulsion in the West when it was first publicized. But today, nearly twenty years later, all too many Westerners placidly acknowledge violence as an acceptable element of the cultural landscape. When the Swedish artist Lars Vilks drew Muhammad as a dog in 2007 as a gesture in defense of artistic freedom, al Qaeda put a $100,000 bounty on his head. Incredibly, CNN’s Paula Newton reacted by condemning Vilks, arguing that he “should have known better because of what happened in Denmark in 2005, when a cartoonist’s depictions of the prophet sparked violent protests in the Muslim world and prompted death threats against that cartoonist’s life.” She registered no such disapproval of those who actually issued the threats.27
The same dynamic of fear was exhibited by Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr., MSNBC’s senior political analyst and a panelist on The McLaughlin Group, who gained national attention late in 2007 for an emotional attack on Mormonism. Radio host Hugh Hewitt asked him, “Would you say the same things about Mohammed as you just said about Joseph Smith?” In reply O’Donnell expressed with unusual candor what many other journalists were undoubtedly thinking: “Oh, well, I’m afraid of what the … that’s where I’m really afraid. I would like to criticize Islam much more than I do publicly, but I’m afraid for my life if I do.”28
John Voll, associate director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, also seemed quite ready to condemn those who insulted Muslims—while raising no complaint against Muslims who engaged in violent threats and intimidation. In May 2008 in the Netherlands, the Iranian avant-garde artist Sooreh Hera exhibited a series of photographs that included depictions of Muhammad and his son-in-law Ali, the hero of Shi’ite Islam, in provocative homosexual poses. Death threats followed, forcing the cancellation of the exhibition. Hera’s “art” might justly have been deplored or condemned, but that was no justification for threatening her life. Still, Voll chided her for provoking the threats. “Can you imagine,” he asked, “what would happen if John McCain used the n-word about Obama while campaigning? There are consequences. Free speech is not absolute.”
Yet if McCain really had done such a thing, he probably wouldn’t have been killed or even threatened with death. The consequences would have been condemnation and electoral defeat. Voll, however, went farther, essentially suggesting that threats of violence in such circumstances were perfectly justifiable.29
The violence unleashed by Muslims throughout the world in response to perceived Western slights of their religion has softened up Western cultural elites, making them more conducive to accept the limits on free speech demanded by Islamic diplomats. Indeed, with commentators such as Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr., already censoring themselves out of fear, the adoption of international conventions outlawing blasphemy of Islam would just legally enshrine restrictions that many frightened Westerners already observe. With potential critics intimidated into silence by the knowledge that voicing their concerns about Islam will likely result in ostracism on charges of “bigotry” at best or physical violence at worst, very few commentators are left who are willing to stand up publicly to the full scope of the jihadists’ efforts.