Pakistan’s The Nation reported Saturday that a Christian has been arrested for criticizing Muhammad. That is the sort of thing that happens frequently in a state that enforces Sharia blasphemy laws, but in Europe and North America, we are more enlightened. We value the freedom of speech, and understand that free and unrestricted discourse is an indispensable foundation of a free society. Or at least we used to. A few recent news items show how far Islamic blasphemy laws have advanced in the West.
In Britain last week, a hamburger vendor named Jim Gardiner refused to serve a customer, Piers Palmer, after Palmer disagreed with Gardiner’s Islamocritical views. That was a bit rude, but then Palmer reported Gardiner to the police for “hate speech.” Gardiner went to court, and was fined.
It’s police state behavior to turn in someone to authorities for ideological deviance, perhaps hoping to curry favor by doing so. Piers Palmer will soon be living in the Britain he has chosen and that he wants, and by then he may regret the course of action he has taken, but at that point it will be far too late.
The Belfast Telegraph reported several weeks ago that “three men have been arrested in relation to suspected hate crime in Armagh and Coalisland. Police conducted searches and arrested three men age 31, 38 and 47. They have been arrested as a result of an investigation following reports of anti-Islamic material being displayed in the Armagh area….”
The Belfast Telegraph, sensitive to Islamic sensibilities, does not tell us what this “hate crime” consisted of. If it involved direct incitement to violence, then these men should have been arrested for incitement to violence. But if it consisted solely of criticism of Islam, then the question becomes, would they have been arrested for anti-Christian material? Anti-Jewish material? Or is it a “hate crime” only to criticize Islam in Northern Ireland? If so, when did the U.K. become a Sharia state?
These cases show that the freedom of speech is dead in Britain. It is illegal to hold critical views of Islam or Muslims. If Jim Gardiner or these three Northern Irish had criticized Christianity and Christians, they never would have run afoul of the law.
In France, meanwhile, journalist Éric Zemmour has been charged with “incitement to discrimination and hatred against people of Muslim faith” for the crime of saying that Muslims “have to choose between Islam and France,” and that “Jihad is a religious duty,” and that “Muslims consider jihadists as good Muslims,” and that “moderate Islam does not exist.” These statements are all demonstrably true, but truth appears to be no defense in Sharia France. Zemmour, like Gardiner, would not be facing any charges if he had criticized Christianity or any religion other than Islam.
And in Canada, the American political activist known as “Wild Bill,” Bill Finlay, was invited to speak in Calgary about the impact of Sharia on women and children, and about the freedom of speech. But he never got there: Canadian authorities stopped him at the border and confiscated his iPad, accusing him of attempting to smuggle “hate speech” into Canada.
Can it happen here? Of course. In New Jersey in late June, Prospect Park Mayor Mohamed Khairullah grew enraged during a contentious Prospect Park Board of Education meeting when board member Emma Anderson stated: “This is not Sharia law, this is an orderly session.” Khairullah called for her resignation, as did the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). So far Anderson has not obliged, but clearly Khairullah and CAIR are trying to set a precedent: even the most offhanded remark, if it is even remotely critical of Islam, is cause for firing and ostracism.
They’re well on their way to success already. All over the West, non-Muslim authorities are willingly adopting Sharia blasphemy norms. Where will it end? Will the West passively acquiesce to the full implementation of Sharia, or will at some point authorities draw the line and say Thus far, and no farther? If they ever intend to do that, they should do it quickly, for as these cases indicate, the freedom of speech is eroding rapidly. No one seems particularly concerned about that now, but they may find that they miss it when it’s gone.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Iran. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.