Bill Donohue is the Muslim of Catholicism. What I mean by that is that he thrives on offense, and though he doesn’t kill anybody when he’s offended, he’s made a career out of raging at those who insult the Pope, the Church, preachers and nuns, or anything associated with the Vatican Mafia. So far Catholics have been loath to criticize him, but his latest piece at the Catholic League site, “Muslims are right to be angry“, may change that. For in it, Donohue pins a fair amount of blame on the murders on the Charlie Hebo journalist and cartoonists themselves. The only way I can account for this lapse in judgement is from Donohue’s own personal history. For he’s spent so much time defending his own religion against perceived smears that he’s now taken it on himself to defend Islam, too, and so sees the satirical cartoonists as just as offensive as those who criticize Mother Teresa.
In his first paragraph, Donohue gives the game away. He pays lip service to morality by decrying the murders (he more or less has to; who would approve of them?), but then shows where he’s going:
Killing in response to insult, no matter how gross, must be unequivocally condemned. That is why what happened in Paris cannot be tolerated. But neither should we tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked this violent reaction.
With that out of the way, Donohue goes off the rails, arguing that Charlie Hebdo brought the murders on themselves by “intentionally insulting” Muslims in a vulgar way. The bolding below is mine (indeed; the whole thing should be in bold):
While some Muslims today object to any depiction of the Prophet, others do not. Moreover, visual representations of him are not proscribed by the Koran. What unites Muslims in their anger against Charlie Hebdo is the vulgar manner in which Muhammad has been portrayed. What they object to is being intentionally insulted over the course of many years. On this aspect, I am in total agreement with them.
Stephane Charbonnier, the paper’s publisher, was killed today in the slaughter. It is too bad that he didn’t understand the role he played in his tragic death. In 2012, when asked why he insults Muslims, he said, “Muhammad isn’t sacred to me.” Had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive. Muhammad isn’t sacred to me, either, but it would never occur to me to deliberately insult Muslims by trashing him.
Anti-Catholic artists in this country have provoked me to hold many demonstrations, but never have I counseled violence. This, however, does not empty the issue. Madison was right when he said, “Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as the abuses of power.”
A touchstone for a right-thinking person in this tragic situation involves whether or not they blame the magazine itself for the murder of 12 people. If they do, they should be ridiculed or dismissed, for they’re claiming that if you make fun of people’s faith, you’re complicit in your own murder.
That’s like blaming rape victims for dressing in a way that supposedly provoked their attack. Donohue, in fact, is not acting like the person who tells women that their chances of being raped may be higher if they wear scanty clothing or walk in unsafe places; he’s acting like the person who says they deserve what they get. The people at Charlie Hebdo understood the dangers, and went ahead and published anyway. As cartoonist Stephan Charbonnier said, “I would prefer to die on my feet than live on my knees.”
By claiming that Charlie Hebdo committed an “abuse of liberty,” Donohue aligns himself with every fascist and tyrant who would stifle the criticism of authority. And he’s made himself irrelevant. The proper response to this tragedy by any enlightened person is to defend the right of free speech and condemn those who kill to prevent it.
But we have a palliative article, and, surprisingly, it’s in the New Yorker, which has been notoriously soft on religion. I would have expected the magazine to decry the killings but avoid blaming religion. But they pin the blame directly where it belongs: on the excesses of faith. In George Packer’s website pice “The blame for the Charlie Hebdo murders“, you’ll find stuff that you rarely see in a major journalistic venue. Read and cheer:
They are only the latest blows delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decades. It’s the same ideology that sent Salman Rushdie into hiding for a decade under a death sentence for writing a novel, then killed his Japanese translator and tried to kill his Italian translator and Norwegian publisher. The ideology that murdered three thousand people in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. The one that butchered Theo van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam, in 2004, for making a film. The one that has brought mass rape and slaughter to the cities and deserts of Syria and Iraq. That massacred a hundred and thirty-two children and thirteen adults in a school in Peshawar last month. That regularly kills so many Nigerians, especially young ones, that hardly anyone pays attention.
Because the ideology is the product of a major world religion, a lot of painstaking pretzel logic goes into trying to explain what the violence does, or doesn’t, have to do with Islam. Some well-meaning people tiptoe around the Islamic connection, claiming that the carnage has nothing to do with faith, or that Islam is a religion of peace, or that, at most, the violence represents a “distortion” of a great religion.
He’s talking about you, Ben Affleck, Glenn Greenwald, Robert Pape, Krista Tippett, Karen Armstrong, and the rest of the unctuous Islamic apologists.
A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents. Islam today includes a substantial minority of believers who countenance, if they don’t actually carry out, a degree of violence in the application of their convictions that is currently unique. Charlie Hebdo had been nondenominational in its satire, sticking its finger into the sensitivities of Jews and Christians, too—but only Muslims responded with threats and acts of terrorism. For some believers, the violence serves a will to absolute power in the name of God, which is a form of totalitarianism called Islamism—politics as religion, religion as politics. “Allahu Akbar!” the killers shouted in the street outside Charlie Hebdo. They, at any rate, know what they’re about.
. . . The cartoonists died for an idea. The killers are soldiers in a war against freedom of thought and speech, against tolerance, pluralism, and the right to offend—against everything decent in a democratic society. So we must all try to be Charlie, not just today but every day.
Why I see this incident as a watershed moment in the war on terrorism is that it’s almost impossible to pin the murders on anything but blind adherence to religious faith. The murders come directly from the belief that making fun of or even depicting the prophet is a capital offense. Why else would the terrorists target Charlie Hebdo instead of, say, French government offices? If the murders are due to colonialism or simply angry males looking for an outlet, it’s hard to see why the target is so obviously connected with Islam. What may have changed with this tragedy is people’s willingness, as we see in Packer’s piece, to recognize that religion causes people to do bad things. That has been obvious to most of us for some time, but has been adamantly resisted by religionists like Karen Armstrong, who are incapable of finding any harmful consequences of faith, and liberals who, in their desire to coddle the underdog, will blame Muslim violence on the colonialism and oppression by the West.
Yes, some of that violence is undoubtedly due to other factors besides religion. But the time is past to say that all of it is. Right now the West is not occupying the Middle East, and much of the violence we see is not only inflicted by Muslims on other Muslims, but, as in this case, is explicitly justified in the name of Islam. It’s only when we recognize this that we can fully apprehend the problem.
I don’t know how to address the problem of terrorism save by increased surveillance and intelligence. But I do know that the way not to solve it is by demonizing free speech. For if we do that, we become like the enemy—and then we are truly lost.
And a p.s.: Read Ayaan Hirsi’s reaction at The Daily Beast. A snippet:
The ball is now in the court of the media. If the press responds to this by not reprinting the cartoons, by not defending the principle that Charlie Hebdo was defending, then we have given in. Then they have won. Those three men yelled, “Allahu Akbar.” They yelled, “The Prophet is avenged. Charlie Hebdo is dead.” Our duty is to keep Charlie Hebdo alive. Our duty is to make sure that they realize that the Prophet is not avenged.
In 2006, when Jyllands-Posten in Denmark published the Muhammad cartoons, the mainstream media made the decision not to reprint those cartoons, to respect the sensibilities of Muslims and to avoid Muslim rage. This time it would be the biggest mistake for the Western press to repeat that—absolutely the biggest mistake.
. . . But the most important point I want to make is about what the press does now. When you’re all sitting in your editorial rooms and you’re reflecting on this, when you’re asking yourselves, “Should we reprint these cartoons or not? Should we print cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad? Should we use satire to depict these things?” Please ignore those voices saying, “Please let’s not provoke.”
I would urge everyone in the media to take a stand now. An entire magazine has been wiped out. If you think they won’t one day come for you, too, just because you abstained from mocking the Prophet, then you are gravely mistaken.
h/t: Ben Goren, Chris