FREEDOM vs. TOLERANCE
I am humbled and gratified to be given this honor by the American Freedom Alliance, and somewhat overwhelmed by the recognition. For it is the AFA and like groups, institutions and charities at the cutting edge – on the front line, as it were – that are the real champions. Likewise, of course, all the troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel, and the members of our various intelligence agencies. Everyone who sacrifices for our security and our freedoms, who puts their own safety on the line: they are the true heroes, and they are ultimately our salvation.
People like me are in fact the ones who should be grateful, because we are given an opportunity to support those in the front line, without risking our lives, or even our life style. Geert Wilders, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Irshad Manji, Wafa Sultan, Nonie Darwish, Zuhdi Jasser and countless others, moderate Muslims, Arab women, Marines, undercover agents — they are the ones who deserve our everlasting gratefulness, our thanks and our generosity.
It usually goes without saying that we are living in important times. And yet, particularly at gatherings like these, it is important to re-affirm the critical nature of the task before us. Radical Islam, while battered and bruised, remains a ferocious opponent, the advocates of Shariah law a dangerous fifth column.
In the Muslim world, Radical Islam is encroaching on a dysfunctional and nuclear-armed state in Pakistan. It is resurgent in Afghanistan, awaiting our precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, and posing as the harbingers of a new, Judenrein regional order by way of the theocrats in Iran.
Here in the West – the primary concern, unabashedly, of those of us gathered here tonight – the threat is just as real, if not as immediate. The reach of Shariah extends even further into both the de facto and de jure reaches of North America and Europe, welcomed with all-too-open arms by the multi-culturalists and relativists who dominate our intellectual classes — and even some Western governments.
As a result, beheadings, honor killings, draconian restrictions on women, even absurd aversions to pork – all are on the up-and-up. As for the victories of radical Islam in suppressing our precious freedoms of expression and of conscience, our civilization’s comparative advantage in inquiry and truth-telling…well, I will leave such things to the experts.
From where does this insidious commonality derive, between the extreme left and the fascist Jihadist movements like Hamas and Hezbollah? What are the origins of this red-green alliance?
Perhaps it is the fact that these coalescing extremes share one special ideological tenet – that of the certainty of their paths and their righteousness, and thus the obligation to impose these beliefs on society, removing choice – and ultimately the basis of freedom — from the imperfect masses. From the rest of us.
This is finally the challenge of our times, whether Shariah from the right or relativistic, multicultural political correctness from the left.
But the point here is not to frighten, or to catalog our losses, or to express despair or remorse. No, no – quite the contrary. The point here is to remind ourselves that we have arrived at a critical juncture in our efforts to protect our unique freedoms, and to ensure the expansion of those freedoms to those who yearn to taste it, to our natural allies all over the world. And to remember that at times like these, those efforts become that much more urgent, that much more crucial.
Perhaps no recent event better captures the “fierce urgency of now” – to borrow a phrase from our new leader of the free world – than the recent on-goings in Geneva. There, we observed all the farcical and frightening idiocies of the United Nations, whose “human rights” commission convened a meeting on racism and discrimination attended by a litany of racists and discriminators to discuss a previously-endorsed racist and discriminatory document – a document that was produced by delegates to that infamously anti-Semitic Durban conference in South Africa in 2001. The bloodied hounds of the virtuous – Sudan, Iran, Syria, Libya – were everywhere present.
[As an aside, and as a South African who protested against the apartheid regime, the association of this international disgrace with the so-called “rainbow nation” of my youth carries a particularly sad irony.]
Returning to Geneva. It warrants mention that, this time around, the conference delegates – led, once again, by the paragons of human rights from the Organization of the Islamic Conference – that this time around these delegates managed to go even further down the path of absurdity. This time, the commission very nearly “banned” so-called religious defamation, attempting to classify critical media like the Danish cartoons or Mr. Wilders’ courageous film as criminal violations of human rights.
As a result, the UN’s official human rights body came bizarrely close to abrogating the fundamental rights to free expression and conscience as laid out in the UN’s own universal declaration of human rights. Orwell could not have written it better.
Indeed, I venture to say that even Orwell could not have foreseen this same “human rights” conference being addressed, by none other than Iran’s hate-spewing Islamist president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The world thus witnessed a man who mimics Hitler in both style and substance receiving ovations from a UN body not only for denying the consequences of the genocidal policies perpetrated by his tutor, but also for attacking the legitimacy of Israel, a UN member state that ranks among its few genuine democracies. And this while Holocaust survivors still bear witness.
What’s more, it was the horror of those very same policies that, in many ways, led to the creation of the United Nations itself, and it was the creation of the United Nations that helped bring Israel into existence. Perhaps Kafka is indeed the man to read.
And yet, to echo the theme above, all is not lost. For it is important to remember that the United States -even under our most multi-culturalist, internationalist, and arguably most appeasement-happy administration to date – these United States boycotted this absurd, disturbed, and thankfully non-binding conference. So did the Western outposts of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and of course so did Israel. Perhaps most importantly, Germany, Italy, Poland, and ultimately Czechoslovakia – four former epicenters of totalitarianism – also joined the boycott, along with Mr. Wilders’ own Holland.
In addition, the 24 remaining delegates from Europe walked out on the tyrant Ahmadinejad, that latter day Hamman, in an all-too-rare display of European unity in the face of aggressive anti-Semitism. And the disgraceful ‘religious defamation’ resolution was eventually dropped, for the time being, replaced by a watered-down version focused on the individual and not the faith.
Small victories in a purely symbolic setting, I do concede. I dare say that no-one who knows me or my writings would accuse me of dewy-eyed optimism. But I do believe that these events help point out the critical nature of the work being done by the American Freedom Alliance, and like-minded advocates of human freedom and opponents of fundamentalism and tyranny. By calling Radical Islam for what it truly is – a threat to Western values and civilization – we help draw the right lines in this battle of ideas. We encourage the unity of freedom-loving people and discourage weakness in the face of hatred and extremism. And we challenge the stranglehold of self-loathing, self-defeating cultural relativists on the terms of debate in the West. All these efforts help tip the balance in our favor, and in the favor of our children.
To continue down this path, we need to remind Americans that our country’s unrivaled success is not a reason for complacency, but rather for strident attention. America needs to focus on preserving its unique culture and character – its future ultimately depends not on security or military superiority, but rather on its citizens not going the way of Antwerp, Marseille and London’s Finsbury Park. It depends on preventing Sharia proponents from subverting – whether by legal, financial, or political means – our openness and our freedoms. It requires the recognition that our weaknesses lie within, not without: with our lack of love for, our lack of commitment to and belief in, the value of our heritage, our religions, and our unique Judeo-Christian civilization.
The consequences of these weaknesses are tragically apparent in Europe. To stem that tide of appeasement and prevent it from reaching our own shores, we must acknowledge and forcefully protect the strengths that define us: freedom, liberty, and the power of reason over fear.
We are, after all, living in important times.
Perhaps never more so.
Just last night I was fortunate to have dinner with Alan Craig and Geert Wilders during which time I first heard the auspicious news of Geert’s strong showing in the European Parliament elections in Holland. With good fortune he may be the next Prime Minister, he may indeed become the first force to roll back European Appeasement, the first leading politician to make a stand and say:
He has my congratulations.