CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 4, 2015 – In the midst of all the uproar in Baltimore, and before that Ferguson, another disruption took place in Garland, Texas, over the weekend that has similar repercussions.
The problem is that most of the media does not recognize it.
The troubling aspect of the Texas shootings is that they were predictable, yet they also represent a serious “catch 22” when it comes to dealing with Islamic extremism.
Following the Charlie Hebdo slayings in Paris, well-known critic of Islam and founder of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, Pamela Geller, organized the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest. On one hand, the project was about free speech and the rights of non-Muslims to express themselves without fear of being attacked by those who might be offended.
The opposite view is whether the rights of Muslims were disrespected by displaying portraits, cartoons and other representations of the Prophet Muhammad, which are forbidden by Islam.
Geller has been promoting the exhibition on her website for months. It was obviously meant as a provocation to Islamic extremists, a statement that their slaughtering attack in the French capital was not going to deter freedom-loving people in the West from their right to speak out.
At the same time, Geller was keenly aware that she was slapping the Obama administration squarely in the face for its hemming and hawing approach to foreign policy.
She knew before she undertook the exhibition that the “this-has-nothing-to-do-with-Islam” proponents would be out en masse to once again reinforce their “victimization” philosophy.
Geller’s idea was to draw attention to the fact that visual renderings of any person is far less “radical” than mass beheadings, which have become almost a non-pay-per-view phenomenon on social media to such an extent that they are no longer shocking.
That said, there was no doubt that somewhere, somehow, some way somebody was going to respond to the Muhammad exhibition in a violent manner. It was inevitable. While the attack lasted mere seconds with two gunmen being killed and a security guard being shot, it was still enough of an incident to remind us all that Muslims do not take insults to their religion, perceived or otherwise, lightly.
The question then becomes whether it is a matter of free speech or a deliberate attempt to provoke Muslims to respond in an extreme manner. Certainly the long-range effects will be felt eventually when other attacks occur and the Muhammad exhibition provides the “justification” for those incidents. That much is almost guaranteed.
Geller and Robert Spencer, another prolific critic or Islam, have long attempted to create global awareness of the threats we face from Islamic extremism. When their efforts fail, not only with the president of the United States and his administration, but also with the media, who go ballistic every time there is a questionable racial event in an American city, it can lead to events such as the art contest in Texas in order to get the message out.
Further adding to the controversy was the fact that the keynote speaker was Geert Wilders of the Dutch parliament, who has also been outspoken in his views on Islam. Wilders, like Brigitte Gabriel, is always surrounded by bodyguards and security personnel because of his beliefs. Wilders has compared the text of the Koran to that of Mein Kampf and has boldly called Islam a totalitarian ideology.
Though Barack Obama was severely criticized by conservatives for not showing up for a solidarity march following the Charlie Hebdo shootings, it can also be said that, other than marching through the streets of Paris, little else has been done by other world leaders to fight back against global extremism. Many analysts stated at the time that without follow-up the march would be meaningless.
Thus the Muhammad cartoon exhibition was an attempt by non-government experts to demonstrate that Americans and the West will not be intimidated to give up their right to free speech by Islamists or anyone else.
Out of fear, one newspaper publishing a story about the Texas incident blacked out the pictures of Muhammad. Was that political correctness, or was it an acknowledgement of appeasement to Islamists?
That is the question Pamela Geller and others like her are asking. Either way, the answer is not positive.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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