Je Suis Pamela Geller

tags: Muslims, Pamela Geller

Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. He is the author of "Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education," which was published in March by Princeton University Press.

... Unless we speak up on behalf of every victim of Islamic terror, including Pamela Geller, we cede the free-speech argument to anti-Islamic bigots like Geller. And we implicitly confirm her most vicious claim: that Muslim people are inherently violent and intolerant. Why else would they require special protection from offensive speech?

To be fair, Geller didn’t invent Islamophobia. Writing in Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1741, Benjamin Franklin wondered aloud whether it was worse to follow Mahomet—another name for the Prophet Muhammad—than Satan. Thirty years later, on the eve of American independence, Continental Congress delegate John Dickinson worried that Islam would impose “oppressive superstition” and “miserable slavery” on everybody else.

The same fear seized Americans in the 19th century, when the Ottoman Empire seemed poised to conquer the world in the name of Islam. “Hereafter, upon the fair face of your beloved America … a night of apostacy may settle down,” an American missionary to Turkey told a Boston audience in 1833, “and hordes of yet unnamed barbarian invaders fasten deep the blight of some new Mohammedanism.”

Nor did Muslims submit to the authority of anybody else, as disgruntled American officials would discover after the United States acquired the Philippines in the early 20th century. The most resistant “natives” were the Moros, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote, a Muslim people whose warlike and capricious ways reminded him of the Sioux and Apache who were the “terror of our settlers” in the American West.

Back in the West itself, finally, bigots likened Muslims to another hated population: the Mormons. Both groups practiced polygamy and promised their adherents eternal grace, the argument went. And, most of all, both appeared intent upon conquering the globe.

A century ago, in other words, all of the elements of our present-day anti-Islamic prejudice were already in place: Muslims were ferocious brutes, bent on world domination. But this cartoon received a huge boost on September 11, 2001, which brought real jihadists—not imagined ones—into America’s consciousness.

The 9/11 attacks also spawned a new generation of Islamophobes like Pamela Geller, whose own cartooning project last Sunday elicited precisely the kind of barbarism that she imputes to Islam as a whole. She’s wrong about that, but she has every right to say it. As one of Charlie Hedbo’s surviving editors recently said, during a visit to New York to accept the PEN award, you are for free speech or you are not. There is no middle ground.

Read entire article at Politico

comments powered by Disqus