]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]      THE AYATOLLAH WICKER          [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[
                          By Joanne Jacobs               (03/10/1989)
           (Knight-Ridder Syndicate, 3/9/89, Title by Sysop)


              [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 29210IVES]

    The Ayatollah Khomeini calls for the murder of a novelist,
offering a ticket to paradise and several million dollars to the
successful assassin.
    I decide not to write a column out of it, because the whole thing
is so obvious. It's bad- crazy bad- for a religious leader and head of
state to call  for the murder of someone who writes a book he doesn't
like. Bad, bad, bad.  What else is there to say?
    A lot, as it turns out.
    First came the round of columns denouncing Khomeini, and then the
round of columns denouncing European publishers for chickening out of
publishing Salman Rushdie's SATANIC VERSES, and booksellers for
pulling it off the shelves, and the Bush administration for its ho-hum
"regrettable" response.
     Eventually, the great dialectic of the Op-Ed page swung into
action. Everybody got bored with attacking Khomeini for being a
murderous lunatic and started attacking the West for our ignorance of
Islam, secularism, cultural imperialism, hypocrisy and bad breath.
    Of course, the ayatollah went a bit far when he put a price on
Rushdie's head, the apologists say, and, of course, Rushdie shouldn't
actually be murdered, they concede, but it was an awfully insulting
book, though we're not sure why because we don't know anything about
Islam, and isn't this all the West's fault because we hurt their
feelings?
    Well, the West can't apologize for Rushdie's insults to Islam
without apologizing for our basic political, economic, religious
and cultural values and freedoms.
    "We" didn't write THE SATANIC VERSES. Only a fallen-away Muslim,
like Rushdie, could have hit so hard at so many tender spots. What the
West did was to give Rushdie the freedom to leave his native India, to
reject his religion, to create literary works and to publish and sell
his books.
    Western ignorance of Islam is beside the point. We know Rushdie
angered the believers, we don't have to know why.
    Western values say that if you're offended by a book, you can
denounce it and urge people not to read it and even boycott the
publisher or bookstores that sell it, but you can't resort to murder-
by-hire to express your displeasure. That's not OK.
    Even if it really, really offends lots and lots of people.
    If Islamic values say it's hunky-dory to murder blasphemers, then
they have lousy values. If Islam is a kinder, gentler religion that
tolerates diversity, as the apologists say, then where are the Muslim
leaders coming forward to denounce Khomeini's fanaticism?
    The cultural relativism mush is augmented by the so's-your-old-man
argument: the West can't condemn Khomeini because governments try to
suppress tell-all books by ex-spies on national security grounds, and
books claiming the Holocaust didn't happen don't get picked up by the
Book-of-the-Month Club.
    Freedom of speech is meaningless, complained Nabil Al-Hadithy, of
the Committee for Fair Representation, in a March 2 column, because
the Jewish-infiltrated media censors Louis Farrakhan's explanation of
why Judaism is a gutter religion (it's because Jewish doctors inject
AIDS into black children) and because Revisionists who say Hitler
didn't kill Jews are "gagged, bombed, and murdered."
    So intellectuals have no right to defend Rushdie until they "hold
a read-in of 'censored' Revisionist and Farrakhan literature in
front of bookstores and libraries."
    True, the First Amendment doesn't require publishers to print
historical lies, or even bad novels, or the press to report hate
propaganda. It also does not require anybody to pay for somebody
else's free speech.
    In a NEW YORK TIMES column offering more bad analogies, Tom Wicker
confuses threatening to murder a writer with threatening not to pay
him.
    A judge ruled that Catholic University in Washington, D.C., may
obey a Vatican order and refuse to let a heretical priest who is a
tenured professor teach Catholic theology.    Several companies
decided not to buy advertising time on "Married... With Children"
after a woman wrote to complain the show was sexist and anti-family.
    Chicago veterans' groups interfered with an art exhibit that
encouraged viewers to step on the American flag.
    "Where, in response to any or all of these attempted restraints on
freedom of expression, is the outrage that so many writers, artists,
academics, and others have displayed at the Muslim reaction to Salman
Rushdie's novel THE SATANIC VERSES?" he asked.
    Where is the outrage? Well, where is the restraint on freedom of
expression?
    Surely, the Catholic Church can tell a Catholic priest what he can
teach about Catholic theology at Catholic University. It's their
religion. They get to say what's in it and what isn't.
    Curran can say what he wants- just not on the church's payroll.
    Fox can broadcast a show that some viewers find to be crude and
sexist- but Proctor and Gamble doesn't have to support it with
advertising dollars.
    If I choose to cancel my NEW YORK TIMES subscription, am I
infringing on Tom Wicker's freedom of expression?
    The veterans' attack on the flag exhibit was an attack on free
expression, but it was an attack by individuals, not by the state, and
the state will arrest them if they keep trying to close the exhibit.
    It's time to stop belittling Western values or apologizing for
them. Our culture values individualism and freedom and rationality- at
the expense of  tradition and civility and faith. Heretics R Us.  So
who's to say who's right? I'll say it: We're right.

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