The Muslim world has been giving the United States a lot of advice and information lately. No doubt we’ll hear more thoughtful recommendations and guidance in the next few days, as Muslim leaders come to New York for a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. America needs to decide how to respond.
In Egypt — where only days ago raging mobs stormed the U.S. embassy and ripped down our flag — the new President, Mohamed Morsi, says in an interview with the New York Times that the United States needs to fundamentally change its approach to the Muslim world and show greater respect for Muslim values. In the meantime, the head of the largest fundamentalist Islamic party in Egypt, which supported Morsi, is calling for U.N. to act to “criminalize contempt of Islam as a religion and its Prophet.” And in Pakistan — a supposed ally — the government Railways Minister has offered a $100,000 payment to whomever kills the makers of the YouTube video The Innocence of Muslims and called upon al Qaeda and the Taliban to help in murdering the videomakers. (Fortunately, the Pakistani government says it “absolutely disassociates” itself with the comments of its Railway Minister. Thank goodness!) And we haven’t even heard yet from the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who will be speaking to the U.N. General Assembly, too.
It’s heartening to hear from the enlightened leaders of a region that is widely recognized for reasoned discourse and thoughtful consideration of opposing viewpoints. But I’d like to see whoever speaks for America at the U.N. General Assembly share some of our views with the assembled Islamic leaders — and do so in pointed terms. We should say that we relish our First Amendment, and we’re not going to change it no matter how often Muslims go on murderous rampages at some perceived slight. We should say that will fight any effort to criminalize speech and will veto any ill-advised U.N. resolution that attempts to do so. We should emphasize that we think that the world needs more freedom, not less, and that we stand with the forces of liberty. We should tell the Muslim leaders that their real problems are not with freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but with tribal-based, anti-female societies that crush individual initiative, medieval economies that leave huge swathes of the population unemployed and ready to riot at any moment, and corrupt leaders who are more interested in amassing their own fortunes than helping their people realize a better way of life. Oh, and we should make clear that we won’t do business with government where ministers are offering bounties on the heads of filmmakers.
I’m tired of our simpering, whimpering approach to defending our fundamental freedoms. It’s high time that we stood up for what we believe in and told the Islamic world that they can riot all they want: we aren’t going to back away from our liberties.