WASHINGTON, May 6, 2015 – Last month, cartoonist Garry Trudeau, creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning comic strip “Doonesbury,” wrote a piece for the Atlantic magazine that was less than supportive of his fellow cartoonists. At least those murdered by jihadists.
Concerning the Dutch artists who rattled the Islamic world in 2005, Trudeau condemned their editor for fighting “what she felt was the suffocating political correctness” imposed upon her artists and wrote that their Muhammad cartoons did not “enlighten” or “challenge authority” but only sought to “provoke.”
Adding the cartoonists and editors gunned down in the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo to the mix, Trudeau wrote, “What free speech absolutists have failed to acknowledge is that because one has the right to offend a group does not mean that one must. Or that that group gives up the right to be outraged… Freedom should always be discussed within the context of responsibility. At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism.”
A more articulate confession of cowardice has never been penned.
Dutch writer Kåre Bluitgen, a man of the political left, was writing a children’s book, no doubt intended to build a bridge between his nation and its Islamic immigrants.
Amazon.com describes Bluitgen’s “The Koran and the Life of the Prophet Muhammad” as “a nice opportunity to acquire more knowledge about how the life of Muhammad is traditionally interpreted by Muslims.”
But Bluitgen encountered a problem. He couldn’t find an artist willing to provide illustrations for his book. One told him why: the murder in Amsterdam of Dutch director Theo van Gogh in retaliation for his film “Submission,” which chronicled the suppression of women in Islamic society.
The script was written by a victim of said suppression, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, originally from Somalia. At the time, she was an elected member of the Dutch Parliament.
In fact, the lifeless body of filmmaker van Gogh served as a paperweight for Islamic killer Mohammed Bouyeri’s manifesto. The note was personally addressed to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
“Since your appearance in the Dutch political arena you have been constantly busy criticizing Muslims and terrorizing Islam with your statements… you have unleashed a boomerang effect and you know that it is only a question of time until this boomerang will seal your fate,” wrote Bouyeri.
Hirsi Ali eventually fled the Netherlands to reside in the U.S.
“A society ruled by Sharia law—in which women who have sex before marriage are stoned to death, homosexuals are beaten, and apostates like me [she is a Christian] are killed, Sharia law is as inimical to liberal democracy as Nazism,” she told the London Evening Standard in 2007, adding that “violence is inherent in Islam—it’s a destructive, nihilistic cult of death. It legitimates murder.”
And so, it was in this atmosphere that writer Kåre Bluitgen found artists fearful to draw pictures illustrating his children’s book on the Prophet Muhammad lest they offend the sensibilities of totalitarian killers.
When the Dutch news service Ritzau ran an article on the rise of artistic self-censorship resulting from the violence perpetrated by radical Islamists in the Netherlands, the newspaper Jyllands-Posten asked 42 members of the nation’s illustrator’s union to provide their interpretation of the Prophet Muhammad. Only 12 submitted illustrations.
“Modern, secular society is rejected by some Muslims,” wrote Jyllands-Posten’s culture editor Flemming Rose in the explanatory text accompanying the publication of the Muhammad cartoons. “They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where one must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule. It is certainly not always attractive and nice to look at, and it does not mean that religious feelings should be made fun of at any price, but that is of minor importance in the present context… we are on our way to a slippery slope where no-one can tell how the self-censorship will end.”
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French cartoonist Jean-Baptiste Thoret slid a little further down that slope during an interview with Charlie Rose. He dismissed any comparison between the attack on his publication, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris and the attempted assault on artists gathered at a Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas.
“There is no comparison, absolutely no comparison,” Thoret said, insisting that Charlie Hebdo’s artists skewered all religions equally and not Islam “in particular.”
That is an absurd distinction without a difference. Religious zealots may come in many flavors, but it was those of a distinctive Islamic tang that gunned down 12 of Thoret’s colleagues and attempted to do the same in Texas.
Cartoonists Garry Trudeau and Jean-Baptiste Thoret fail to understand that there is no compromise to be made with radical Islam. Freedom of conscience and of speech is, whether they like it or not, absolute, inviolable, unalienable.
“To preserve the freedom of the human mind… every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, “for as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement.”
And any compromise—any—with backward, totalitarian Islamists unravels the hard-won “improvement” called freedom.