18 Sep 2010

The Muslim Blame Game

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Jonah Goldberg examines the liberal notion that you are to blame for people’s deaths if you do something Muslims do not like, like burn a Koran or draw a cartoon image of Mohammed, and Muslims riot and kill someone or get killed.

When Pope Benedict delivered his Regensburg address in 2006, he suggested that Islam had a link to violence. In response, many Muslims rioted. It’d be funny if it weren’t so sad.

When Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was asked in an interview about Koran-burning, he brought up former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ famous comment that the First Amendment “doesn’t mean you can shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater . . . Why? Because people will be trampled to death. And what is the crowded theater today? What is the being trampled to death?”

There are a number of grave problems with the crowded-theater cliche. First, you can — even must — yell “fire” in a crowded theater: It just has to be the truth.

But more to the point, fires are not human beings. Fire has no choice but to burn because that is what fire does. Humans have choices. Yet in this formulation (from which Breyer has somewhat retreated), Muslims are akin to soulless, unthinking flames. Taken seriously, this comparison suggests rational people have every reason to fear Muslims in much the same way they fear fire.

There are complex issues here. But the simple truth is the Islamist extremists who behead and riot do have a choice. They want to murder. What they want is an excuse, and they’ll find one no matter what.

Read the whole thing.

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