Charlie Hebdo were asking for it: it’s reverse ecumenicism, dummy
In 2006, Christopher Hitchens spoke about the Kurt Westergaard, the Danish caricaturist came under attack from Islamists after he had drawn a 2005 caricature of the Prophet Mohamed with a bomb hidden in his Turban. The cartoon was one of 12 similar cartoons on Mohamed published Jyllands-Posten newspapers.
Westergaard was forced into an life on the run. Hardline Muslims wanted him dead.
One day, a 28-year-old man broke into Westergaard’s home. He was armed with an axe and a knife. Westergaard was home looking after his five-year-old granddaughter, Stephanie. Westergaard ran into his “panic room”. Stephanie was outside in the living room.
So. Hichens in 2006:
Let’s do a brief thought experiment. I tell you the following: On New Year’s Eve, a man in his mid-seventies is having his granddaughter over for a sleep-over, his five-year old granddaughter. He is attacked in his own home by an axe-wielding maniac with homicidal intent. Your mammalian reaction, your reaction as a primate, is one of revulsion. I’m trusting you on this. [Laughs.]…
Hitchens: Then you pick up yesterday’s Guardian, one of the most liberal newspapers in the Western world, and there’s a long article that says, ah, that picture, that moral picture, that instinct to protect the old and the young doesn’t apply in this case. The man asked for it. He drew a cartoon that upset some people. We aren’t at all entitled to use our moral instincts in the correct way.
It’s reverse ecumenicism. It first became obvious to me when the fatwa was issued against Salman Rushdie in 1989. The reaction of the official newspaper of the Vatican was that the problem wasn’t that the foreign leader of a theocratic dictatorship offered money, in public, in his own name, to suborn the murder of the writer of a book of fiction in another country, who wasn’t an Iranian citizen. The problem was not that.
You and I may have thought, bloody hell, this is a new kind of threat. But it’s an old level of threat. Blasphemy is the problem. That was also the view of the archbishop of Canterbury. The general reaction of the religious establishments to that and to the Danish case—and, by the way, of our secular State Department in the Danish case—was to say the problem was Danish offensiveness. A cartoon in a provincial town in a small Scandinavian democracy obviously should be censored by the government lest it ignite—or as Yale University Press put it, instigate—violence…
These people are saying the grandfather and granddaughter were the authors of their own attempted assassinations. These are some of the same people who say that if I don’t believe in God I can’t know what morality is. They’ve just dissolved morality completely into relativism by saying actually, occasionally, carving up grandfathers and granddaughters with an axe on New Year’s Eve can be okay if it’s done to protect the reputation of a seventh century Arabian man who heard voices.
The right to cause offence has been hard won. Don’t let the enemy set the change that. If you want free speech with a ‘but’ – an appeasement – then they’ve won…