An enraged mob attacked the United Nations compound in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, on Friday, after they learned of an eccentric Florida pastor who put the Koran on “trial,” then “executed” it with gasoline and matches. The provincial governor initially claimed this was a Taliban insurgent attack which used angry, but peaceful, demonstrators as cover. It turns out the mob was a lot more than just a smokescreen, but there are suspicious signs of a shadowy hand orchestrating the attack.
There seem to have been “seven to 15 insurgents” mixed in with the thousands of demonstrators who overran the compound, according to a Saturday report from the Associated Press. Knowledgeable U.N. personnel say “the killers spoke in a dialect not common to Mazar-i-Sharif.” Several of those arrested after the bloody riot proved to be from hundreds of miles away.
Automatic weapons were seized from guards who had been ordered not to fire on civilian crowds. Terrified U.N. workers were dragged out of hiding places and shot or decapitated. Three U.N. workers and four Nepalese guards were murdered. One of them was a woman, 53-year-old Lt. Colonel Siri Skare of Norway. The mob allowed U.N. personnel who could pass for Muslims to get off with a savage beating.
Many were quick to pin blame for the incident on Terry Jones, the Koran-incinerating pastor. Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants him “brought to justice.” The Associated Press says Staffan de Mistura, the top United Nations envoy in Afghanistan, “placed direct blame on those who burned a copy of the Muslim holy book in Gainesville, Florida, last month.” It took a while for the news to crawl into the barbaric mountains of Afghanistan, but clearly someone made sure they eventually heard about it, and took care to beef up the angry crowd with some high-octane imported killers.
“The demonstration was meant to protest against the insane and totally despicable gesture by one person who burned the holy Koran,” said de Mistura. He’s not Muslim as far as I can tell – his mother was Swedish and his father Italian – so it was awfully nice of him to throw that “holy” in there. It makes him sound so very sensitive, and submissive.
“Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of offending culture, religion, or traditions,” de Mistura continued. “Those who entered our building were actually furiously angry about the issue about the Koran. There was nothing political there.”
He couldn’t be more wrong on all of those counts. The United States should insist on his immediate relief from duty. No one with such a poor understanding of Western civilization can be allowed to serve as its envoy to the most savage and benighted corners of the Earth.
Freedom of speech most certainly and absolutely does include the freedom to be offensive, even the freedom to be dangerous. If everyone listening to free speech is allowed to veto whatever offends them, it is not “free.” Muslims say a lot of things that Christians, and especially Jews, find deeply offensive. Should they be allowed to censor Islam? If so, I suggest sending Steffan de Mistura into the most offensive corners of the Islamic world to impose those speech codes. The poverty of his understanding of freedom will quickly become apparent to him.
A “right” must be applied universally to be morally valid. The “right” to silence provocative speech cannot logically be universal. You can declare, as our Constitution does, that everyone is equally free to speak, but you cannot say that everyone is equally empowered to censor the speech of others. No one is interested in Terry Jones’ list of unacceptable ideas that should be suppressed. None of the multicultural munchkins skittering through the halls of the United Nations cares what Christians, Jews, Hindus, or Buddhists find unacceptable.
Of course all of this is political, contrary to de Mistura’s assertion. Organized violence is inherently political. As noted above, there is clear evidence of planning and preparation for the Mazar-i-Sharif atrocity. The mob that killed those U.N. workers will not retreat to its caves and settle down, its bloodlust sated by a half-dozen human sacrifices. The point of their attack, along with Islam’s many executions of apostates, is to create a political climate of fear and submission. Their success can be measured by artistic expression voluntarily suppressed, from newspaper cartoons to episodes of South Park. It can also be measured in Swedish-Italian bureaucrats reverently speaking of the “holy Koran” and “Prophet Mohammed.”
If some Christian fundamentalists went off the rails because of the nasty caricature of trailer-park fundies in the recent Simon Pegg movie Paul, and burned down movie theaters, no one would even think about blaming Pegg for inciting the violence. Anyone who did so would find themselves ruthlessly purged from polite society. We are, however, putting up with a lot of people who blame an eccentric in Florida for the deaths of seven people in Afghanistan.
The success of violent, political Islamic extremism can be seen in the number of Westerners, and even Americans, who are willing to submit by surrendering their God-given right to be dangerous. They are demonstrating not just cowardice, but foolishness. What we are is provocative. Freedom is an outrage. Every word in the Constitution and Bill of Rights is dangerous as hell to totalitarians. The American spirit is a flame that has burned many tyrannies to ashes. All of the world’s monsters are wise to fear it.
Burning books is stupid. Burning anyone’s sacred book is stupid and rude. Granting murderers the power to strip us of the right to do so, as easily as they can slit a throat, is both shameful and insane.