Robert is a national treasure…….
THE COMPLETE INFIDEL’S GUIDE TO FREE SPEECH (AND ITS ENEMIES)
Robert Spencer delivers another indispensable book.
What would we do without Robert Spencer? In over a dozen definitive books, and on his invaluable Jihad Watch website, he has served as a one-man truth squad on the subject of Islam, providing readers with lucid, cogent accounts of the belief system itself, of the Koran, of jihad, and of the life of Muhammed. In Stealth Jihad (2008), he described the ways in which Islamic law is being forced upon America, subverting the nation’s constitutional freedoms in aggressive but peaceful and even, at times, seemingly reasonable ways. Now, in The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Free Speech (and Its Enemies), he looks at the same phenomenon from the other side – providing a compendious if not comprehensive history of the ways in which Western governments, media, and others in positions of authority have enabled stealth jihad and punished its critics.
Needless to say, it’s a depressing story. In my 2009 book Surrender, I told it up to that point – the Salman Rushdie fatwa, the murders of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh, the Danish cartoons. As it happens, Spencer kicks off his account with the cartoons, reminding us that the good guys (notably Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who refused to discuss freedom of speech with Muslim ambassadors) were outnumbered by the bad guys (the UN’s Louise Arbour and Doudou Diène, the EU’s Javier Solana, and – surprise! – Bill Clinton, all of whom condemned the cartoons). Spencer then takes a long leap back – not to Rushdie, but all the way back to Muhammed, who himself, Spencer points out, initiated the time-honored Islamic practice of eliminating critics tout de suite. After each of several poets – among them Ka’b bin a’l-Ashraf, Abu Afak, and Asma bint Marwan – publicly mocked Islam, Muhammed, prefiguring Henry II, asked aloud, “Who will rid me of [insert poet’s name here]?” Each of these versifiers was promptly dispatched by one of his faithful followers. And a beloved Islamic custom was born.
Spencer doesn’t just focus on Islam. By way of demonstrating to American readers that they shouldn’t put too much faith in the indelible, rock-solid nature of the First Amendment, he harks back to the 1798 Sedition Act – under which several individuals were imprisoned for mocking then-President John Adams – and the 1917 Espionage Act, under which Socialist Party leaders were jailed for opposing the draft. History, warns Spencer, “shows that First Amendment protections of free speech are most likely to be curtailed in a time of serious and imminent threats to the nation.” Have we reached that point now? After all, look at the procedural encumbrances that have been placed on the Second Amendment in many jurisdictions. Who’s to say that the same can’t happen to the First?