Let me stipulate up front that drawing caricatures of Muhammad as a form of social commentary is not my style. It’s not something I would do. And it’s not something the American Family Association would be a part of.
That being said, the reaction to Pamela Geller’s “Draw Muhammad” event in Garland, Texas is worrisome and is lurching the U.S. in the direction of becoming an abject, fearful Shariah-compliant nation rather than a proud, bold Christian one.
The issue is simple. Regardless of whether we would enter a contest like the one Ms. Geller sponsored, or even approve of it, the question is this: should somebody be murdered in cold blood for publishing a political cartoon?
The First Amendment prohibits the federal government and all of its branches from interfering with “the freedom of speech.” By this plank, the Founders intended to protect robust political speech.
We as a nation had just emerged from an era in which the Crown sought to suppress and punish any political commentary it didn’t like, and the Founders made a point of ensuring that kind of oppression would not be acceptable in America.
(By the way, the Founders were protecting political speech. They were not protecting pornography, obscenity, vulgarity or even profanity. They would be scandalized at the way in which the First Amendment has been perverted to protect things that would have horrified them.)
The Texas state constitution is equally clear: Every person shall be at liberty to speak, write or publish his opinions on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that privilege; and no law shall ever be passed curtailing the liberty of speech or of the press.
This means that, in America, we must all be prepared to listen to political speech that agitates us and offends us. Trust me, this happens to conservatives every day when we read the New York Times and other members of the low-information media.
Constitutional provisions regarding free speech mean public debate over the nature of Islam is fully protected. The government must protect freedom of robust political debate, and is prohibited from restricting it in any way. The merits of Islam, the truth about Islam, the truth about Muhammad, the question of Muslim immigration, etc. are all proper topics for public discussion.
Such debate includes, as it has since the dawn of the Republic, political cartoons, which were often used to make salient points on a matter of public concern.
Many voices, on both the left and the right, have condemned Pamela Geller in this circumstance rather than the Muslim shooters. She has been blamed for getting shot at by figures on the right such as Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly. She has been faulted for going ahead with her event knowing it could possibly trigger Islamic violence.
Such critics do not realize, by the way, what they are saying about the religion of Islam. The mere fact they argue Ms. Geller should have known better means they know that Islam is not in fact a religion of peace no matter how hard they try to convince themselves (and us) otherwise.
Worse, arguing that no criticism of the prophet should be allowed in America because it might incite violence would in a functional sense place our entire nation under the rule of Shariah law. Christ, the Prophet of Christianity, could freely be criticized, lampooned and cartoon-ized but not Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. America would be turned upside down.
As James Taranto observed in the Wall Street Journal, “In the case at hand, it would effectively make Shariah’s prohibition on images of Muhammad the law of the land. The terrorists really would have won.”
That’s not the America the Founders bequeathed to us. And it’s not the America we should accept today.