Cowardice Rules on Speech Rights & Islam
by Adam Turner • Oct 17, 2010 at 10:34 pm
Recently, I contacted the ACLU of NJ to find out if they were preparing to defend Derek Fenton, the NJ Transit employee fired for burning the Koran. Granted, Mr. Fenton's Koran burning may be considered offensive by some. However, the ACLU is well-known for defending the free speech rights of even the most unsavory characters (e.g., Klansmen, neo-Nazis, communists, etc.). Moreover, experts (including an ACLU spokesman) agree that Mr. Fenton has a strong case.
Surprisingly, the NJ ACLU representative on the phone denied any contact with Mr. Fenton. When I asked the inevitable follow-up question, "Why not?," he replied in a monotone "I cannot respond to that." I gathered from this conversation that the NJ ACLU is not planning to protect Derek Fenton's free speech rights from the NJ government's interference. This is a major problem, because the fact is that laws by themselves don't protect anyone: it is the willingness of society to enforce them that protects people.
So what makes Mr. Fenton's case so disagreeable to the ACLU? I suspect they, like many others, are simply afraid to take on violent Islamists. It is one thing to defend neo-Nazis; the folks they offend understand the concept of freedom of speech. They won't be happy, but they won't try to kill you either. But to defend someone who inflames Islamic Jihadists, who threaten and riot and murder and maim…well, that requires real bravery.
Sadly, Islamist violence against free expression, once confined largely to Europe, is seeping into the US and the fear it generates is damaging our willingness to stand up for free speech rights whether in print or court. Other recent examples include:
In modern Western society, religious persons of almost every faith have had to accommodate themselves to offensive speech targeting their religion. Ask any Christian, Jew, Hindu, etc. But one religion alone – Islam – is protected from criticism these days. And everyone knows why Islam is so protected. If the adherents of Islam are offended, you see, the offenders of Islam will be targeted for death. Today, cowardice rules, and, as a result, Islam is untouchable by commentary or criticism.
Just like Sharia law demands.
UPDATE 11/06/10: As demonstrated by this article (http://www.newsmax.com/US/US-Quran-Burned-Conductor/2010/11/05/id/376199) the ACLU has indeed taken up the case of Derek Fenton. Congratulations to them, and - in the words of a famous SNL character - "Nevermind" when it comes to my specific criticism of the ACLU.
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