It is necessary—but should be superfluous—for me to begin this post by saying I have no truck with Lauren Southern. A darling of extreme right-wingers everywhere, she’s a nativist, a jingoist, an anti-immigrant activisit, and, I suspect, a white supremacist. You might contest the latter characterization, but there’s no doubt that she’s a bigot.
Nevertheless, she has the right to speak and the right to go anywhere she wants in public. In this encounter, though, she wants to enter to a “no go” part of Sydney, Australia inhabited largely by Muslims. There’s no doubt she wanted to stir up trouble, as she did when she and her minions distributed “Allah is gay” flyers in Luton, England. The thing is, she has a right to do that; and, indeed, calling public attention to Islamic homophobia or sharia law has its beneficial side. Just as I’d defend anybody’s right to utter offensive speech, and just as the ACLU defended the American Nazi Party’s right to march in uniform and display swastikas in the largely Jewish town of Skokie, Illinois in 1977, I emphatically defend Southern’s right to say and do what she wants in public.
But there’s no First Amendment, I guess, in the Australian constitution. Here, in a 4-minute video, an Aussie police inspector tries to keep Southern from entering a “no go” zone”: the Sydney suburb of Lakemba. His reason? He has “grave concerns that she might cause a breach of the peace” because the area is “highly religious”:
Regardless of what you think of Southern, her counterarguments are sound: any “breach of the peace” would be the fault of those who would cause the trouble, not Southern. The cop, in fact, tells her that she isn’t allowed to enter the area and almost threatens her with arrest. He asks her “why do you want to criticize Islam?”, when in fact his warning answers that very question.
This, and the no-go zones in Paris I talked about yesterday, where Jews are unsafe, indicates how thoroughly the Muslims have insulated themselves from criticism—indeed, from the presence of non-Muslims!—in some parts of the West. While street harassment of that type is not unique to Islam—I’m told there are parts of Jerusalem where those dressed “provocatively” on the Sabbath will be harassed by Orthodox Jews—the problem of “no-go” zones is largely due to the threat of Muslim offense. That threat is what has made this cop a coward, and has made the French government timorous when it comes to that nation’s burgeoning anti-Semitism.
If we allow Muslims, or those of any faith, to silence dissent by making threats of violence, then we might as well prohibit any cartoons that mock, disparate, or criticize religion, like the magazine Charlie Hebdo. Indeed, we might just silence any speech that offends someone else. And lest you say that the cop’s argument is sound because Southern’s presence might cause “imminent violence,” it is not a call for imminent violence, something that’s illegal under the courts’ construal of the American First Amendment. The call for violence comes from the Muslims who would attack her, not from Southern.