In matters of culture and religion, political correctness circumscribes the right to freedom of expression
Two renowned Jewish Americans spoke about the issue of Islamic radicalism in the GTA this week.
Both recognize Islamism as a threat to peace and security; both acknowledge the existence of peace-loving Muslims, who must join hands with others fighting extremism; both wish to defend Western values.
Yet one speaker is tolerated more than the other.
Pamela Geller, blogger and author, is known for her virulently anti-Islam views. She was effectively barred from speaking at a Thornhill synagogue by York Region police.
This was followed by a rebuke from the Toronto Board of Rabbis to the JewishDefense League, for hosting Geller at the Zionist Centre in Toronto. The board was afraid this might exacerbate already tense relations between Jews and Muslims in the GTA.
Meanwhile, The Muslim Committee Against Anti-Semitism, under the umbrella of the Canadian Thinkers Forum formed by Tahir Aslam Gora, invited Daniel Pipes to speak on Wednesday, May 15 on the causes of anti-Semitism, why it now exists predominantly among Muslims and what can be done to counter it.
Pipes is the founder and director of the Middle East Forum and an acclaimed scholar. The Muslim Commitee Against Anti-Semitism is a group of Muslims newly formed to oppose anti-Semitism.
Pipes takes a conciliatory approach towards the fraying dynamics between Jewish and Muslim communities. He also appears sanguine about an Islamic reformation.
At his lecture, he took a sympathetic view of mainstream Muslims by drawing a distinction between Islam and Islamism. He suggested it is Islamism, a political ideology, that inspires hatred of “the other,” rather than Islam.
He said the religion of Islam itself is not inherently hostile to Jews, and Muslim anti-Semitism scarcely existed before the establishment of the state of Israel.
He emphasized that while Islam has existed since the age of the prophet Mohammed, Islamism is a recent phenomenon and need not be considered an authentic expression of Islam.
To be sure, many Muslims may disagree with his distinction, believing instead that Islam is an ideology and Islamism its mere execution.
While Pipes is soft-spoken, Geller is fiery and provocative.
Geller criticizes Islam point-blank and makes no distinction between Islam and Islamism.
In her speech, recorded by the website BlazingCatFur, she insisted jihad is inherently violent and that Islamic terror is a major threat to Western values, peace and security. Geller does not mince words, pointing out rampant anti-Semitism among many Muslims.
Pipes and Geller both see Islamic radicalism as a threat, but the reason Pipes is tolerated and Geller is not may lie primarily in semantics and tone.
Regrettably, in matters of culture and religion, political correctness circumscribes the right to freedom of expression. Muslim practice and precept may be criticized, if it is couched in language that is neither offensive nor blunt.
The Jewish Board of Rabbis seemed to reprimand Geller for her language, stating she uses language intended to “shock and ridicule.” Yet her vehemence may simply reflect the strength of her feelings.
Pipes and Geller are equally aware of the threat of Islamic extremism. They touch upon the same issues. They stress the importance of mobilizing peaceful Muslims to defend our Western values, societies and communities.
The same message certainly needs to be heard in different ways, from fiery speakers no less than from conciliatory ones.
THURSDAY, MAY 16, 2013 08:27 PM EDT | UPDATED: THURSDAY, MAY 16, 2013 08:29 PM EDT