Monday, March 17, 2008
Even as the clouds of a financial storm gather, brought on by the foolishness of "government bailout crack", our government is involved in a bailout of another, far more obscene kind: The moral bailout of the intellectually bankrupt Islamic faith.
In a recent summit held in Senegal, leaders of Islamic countries reaffirmed that their religion is at war with the West as they outlined a new tactic. In the process, they all but admitted that their religion has nothing constructive to offer to man, the rational animal.
[L]eaders of the world's Muslim nations are considering taking legal action against those that slight their religion or its sacred symbols. It was a key issue during a two-day summit that ended Friday in this western Africa capital.Before I move on, the president of Senegal has it exactly backwards. One cannot have freedom of speech at all by imposing limits.
The Muslim leaders are attempting to demand redress from nations like Denmark, which allowed the publication of cartoons portraying the Prophet Muhammad in 2006 and again last month, to the fury of the Muslim world.
Though the legal measures being considered have not been spelled out, the idea pits many Muslims against principles of freedom of speech enshrined in the constitutions of numerous Western governments.
"I don't think freedom of expression should mean freedom from blasphemy," said Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade, the chairman of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference. "There can be no freedom without limits." [bold added]
Given the all-encompassing nature of a religion such as Islam, that is nearly devoid of any influence from rational philosophy, one need not even consider the example provided in the story of what Islamic "limits" on freedom of speech would, by their nature, entail. And yet there it is: If these primitives had their way, we would be unable simply to draw or display a cartoon of their "prophet" (who is, incidentally, this blog's mascot).
And that's for starters. As the rational animal, man's tool for survival is his mind, which enables him to survive by discerning the facts of reality and acting accordingly for the sake of his own benefit. Freedom of speech directly benefits man by allowing him to pool cognitive resources with other men, be it by sharing truths, uncovering falsehoods, or even warning against arbitrary doctrines (such as Islam) that are, as Wolfgang Pauli would put it, "not even wrong".
The value of freedom of speech lies in its connection to reality, which any prohibition, however apparently innocuous, will sever. Having no evidence or proof that there is such a thing as Allah, I do not pretend that He exists. Is saying as much "blasphemy"? Marking paper and saying that the marks represent Mohammed is. Is openly defying some of this alleged being's commandments blasphemy? Is openly questioning the basis of the tenets of Islam blasphemy?
This last is an important question because the whole prohibition against blasphemy is rooted in the assumption that there is a God and this act displeases Him. (Incidentally, my use of capitals here is done only out of love and respect for English grammar. I have neither for Islam.) There is no other basis for this prohibition.
Acceptance of such a prohibition by any government, then, removes all objectivity from its legal system by smuggling in religious justification -- arbitrary commandments -- as a basis for preventing men from acting according to their own rational judgement.
Once we have accepted such a premise, the sky's the limit for what other laws can be introduced because in the course of arguing their merits, the fact that they are based on a religion we don't all follow will necessarily come up. And past a certain point -- as we saw with the Danish cartoons -- the Moslems will claim that the discussion is closed on the grounds that it has become blasphemous. Our freedom would not immediately end with a prohibition against blasphemy, but its demise will be all but assured.
This incompatibility between Islam and freedom of speech -- and hence the benefits of modern civilization -- should be manifest to all in the West. But it apparently isn't. At least not to some of those whose job it is to protect that freedom, officials from the government of the United States:
While the Muslim world worries about the image of Islam in the West, the U.S. envoy to the OIC attended the summit to try to tackle the thorny question of America's image among Muslim states.In the objective sense that freedom of speech promotes man's life, it is a value. In the sense of being appreciated by all men, it is plainly not "universal". To pretend that America has any "common ground" with those who have pledged to attack freedom of speech is to betray that value. The fact that we sent an envoy to such a conference is bad enough, but the fact that our envoy apparently did not protest this declaration of war is a remarkable act of appeasement.
Sada Cumber calls his campaign the "soft power" of the U.S. -- an effort to find common ground with Muslim nations by championing universal values the U.S. holds dear like religious tolerance and freedom of speech. [bold added]
When I think I have a good idea to offer, I fight for it by marshaling evidence and arguments in its favor and submitting it to the rational judgement of someone I respect. If I am right and convince that person, we will benefit. If I am wrong and he corrects me, we still benefit. Were I to force someone else to accept my idea, we would act upon it even if it were wrong, compounding the crime of my violation of that person's autonomy.
The unique aspect of the government that these Islamic leaders hope to take advantage of is that it is holds a legal monopoly on the use of force that its citizens have to act in self-defense, but have delegated to it. These "leaders" hope to subvert that force from its proper purpose -- the protection of our lives and rights -- and use it to squelch dissent instead. That is, they hope to turn our governments against us.
This is not just a thinly-veiled declaration of war, it is also a startling admission of intellectual bankruptcy. If Islam is so great, present me with an argument. Present me with facts in its favor. Explain to me how following its tenets will improve my life on earth. ("Submit or die," doesn't count because a threat is not an argument.) If you are right and I am wrong, but don't buy into it, move on. The fact that these leaders haven't and won't speaks volumes.
Too bad that our government, rather than presenting them with an unambiguous refusal to yield on the principle of individual rights, is giving them the moral bailout of its sanction, by pretending that we have even one speck of common ground. They know that their words, unbacked by the gold of reality, are worthless, so they plan to use our government to make us accept them as legal tender.
Our government, by saying nothing now, has averted the collapse they deserve and effectively told them to to go ahead with their plan.
Today: Minor edit.