It’s the classic routine of Good Cop, Bad Cop. And Bad Cop.
Their names are President Barack Obama, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.
There you are, having been brought into the station to be “interviewed” by the thought police for having “offended” Muslims by “defaming,” “denigrating,” “mocking,” “dis-respecting” Islam. They’ve not arrested you – they want you to understand that, and you’re free to go any time you wish, except that the interrogation room door is locked and there are cops in riot gear guarding it outside – they’ve only manhandled you into the police car and driven you to the station so you can offer your point of view so they can better understand “where you’re coming from.” They wouldn’t have done that if they hadn’t received complaints and warnings from the offended parties that you are hovering close to “inciting violence” by bad-mouthing Islam.
The world-weary, jaded-looking guys just want you to admit responsibility for having caused recent riots. They want to go home and get some sleep, even though they have roused you from a deep sleep at 1 a.m. They commiserate with you about exhaustion and working odd hours. Then you can go, once you recant and sign a lengthy letter of apology to the rioters and to the dead and maimed the rioters have caused and to all Muslims for having “insulted” their faith. They want you to distance yourself from other “offenders.” They want you to repudiate your convictions. After all, what’s a conviction worth. You can’t eat one, or deposit it in the bank. What are you, obsessed or something? Get with the program.
The offended parties wish to see justice done. They keep shouting that they “don’t get no respect,” except they’re not trying to be funny like Rodney Dangerfield and wouldn’t emulate him if they could, because Dangerfield was Jewish. They want “respect” and they want restitution. They wish to silence you on the matter of Islam while not restricting your First Amendment rights. You’ll be allowed to denigrate Jews and Christians and atheists and Buddhists and other non-believers to your heart’s content, as they do. Muslims are a protected “minority” and have been granted dispensation and a variety of legal indulgences. But the offended parties have warned the authorities that they cannot calm their collect for too much longer, as their outrage is real and cannot be contained indefinitely. They might begin to riot and harm the police sent to preserve the peace, and it’ll be all your fault.
You are informally accused of being an “extremist,” “hate-monger,” “racist,” and “bigot.” But just understand that you’re not under arrest, you’re only being charged off-the-record, you have every right to be any one or all of those things. Understand that the umbrella term for all those things is “Islamophobia,” and that you have the Constituitonal right to be a pariah, which is all you can be by criticizing Islam in any form whatsoever. It’s the law, you see. It’s your choice, we’re not here to force you to do anything you don’t want to do, this is a free country.
Your crime? You might have posted a scurrilous cartoon of Mohammad on the Internet, showing him in a tutu performing an intimate act on a goat. Or you might have depicted Mohammad on his knees, worshipping a statue of the original “Allah,” a pagan moon god, with the caption, “I wonder if they’d mind if I stole you.”
You might have had the audacity to direct and post on the Internet an awfully amateurish satiric video on the life of Mohammad with phony backdrops and a third-rate cast and dialogue that would make a third-grader blush.
You might have developed an extensive knowledge of Islam and all its key documents and wrote for various Internet publications that these documents call for the enslavement of all non-Muslims if not their conversion to Islam, and if not their enslavement or conversion, then their violent extinction. In other columns, you have underscored the fact that 99% of the murders and bombings and attacks on the West over the last several decades have been committed by Muslims, and posed the question: Is there a coincidence? Does anyone see a “pattern” here?
You might have been satirically poetic and posted a comment similar to: “The handful of wilted daisies and tulips that Muslims claim constitutes irrefutable proof of Islam’s desire for peace and tolerance and goodwill is intended to disguise a mound of stinking, putrid mulch garnered from the psychotic mental meanderings of an iconic thug a millennium and a half ago, and treated as the last and only word in nurturing and preserving a society of humble and uncomplaining gimps.”
Of course, neither the cartoon, nor the video, nor the scholarly essay, nor the poetic license was ever intended for Muslim eyes, but for the amusement or edification of like-minded individuals who are wondering why darkness is enveloping their world. You can’t tell Muslims not to look at any of it – it’s a free country, isn’t it? – but they do, and are predictably incensed, and warn that if nothing is done about it, they will do something about it.
You are being “interviewed” in order to answer for the flagrant abuse of your First Amendment right to freedom of speech. You are suspected of “falsely shouting ‘fire'” across the street from where a real fire was consuming the lives of thousands, none of whom were warned that their theater was about to go up in flames with all the exit doors locked. You were not in that theater; therefore, you had no right to shout “fire!”
After you say nothing in answer to all their beseechments – you know better than to volunteer information to the cops – Good Cop delivers an impassioned speech about Muslims having been persecuted and discriminated against for centuries, and that while their violent reactions to that persecution and discrimination are inexcusable, you’ve got to understand that their deepest convictions have been questioned and examined and shown to be lacking in any desire for peace, tolerance, and goodwill, except for other Muslims. The Good Cop declaims, with dramatic gesticulations and the appropriate facial expressions:
So let us remember that this is a season of progress. For the first time in decades, Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans voted for new leaders in elections that were credible, competitive and fair.
Your mind utters a silent “Huh?” They elected dictators, and theocratic purists. It was “one man, one vote, once and for all, forever and ever.” End of ‘democracy.'” Does this guy know what he’s talking about?
Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism. On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding, more than 10 Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a, several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul.
Your mind makes a face. A handful of Muslims murdered by Muslims is supposed to balance the 3,000 murdered on 9/11, as a declaration of war by the states that sponsored the attack, and the uncounted thousands murdered by Muslims over 1,400 years? Give me a break.
The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt. It must be claimed by those in Tahir Square who chanted, “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” The future must not belong to those who bully women. It must be shaped by girls who go to school and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons.
You can’t remember the first time Good Cop ever said anything before now about the Copts. And all that stuff about Tahir Square? Doesn’t he know that the Muslims are running the Copts out of town? And that Tahir Square is the last place a female Western journalist ought to think of collecting the news, except inside a Bradley Fighting Vehicle?
The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied.
Sorry, old chap, you mentally say to Good Cop, but you can’t have it both ways. It isn’t going to happen. As a specially protected and patronized and suffering minority – at least in this country – Muslims will damn well say what they wish about anyone else’s religious icon, and claim First Amendment rights, too. They are allowed to offend, insult, and denigrate anyone. And if you reply to it, it will be called “hate speech.” You see, they don’t spew “hate speech.”
Good Cop scrutinizes you for a moment, surprised that you haven’t objected or responded to anything he’s said. Ostensively disappointed, he sighs and leaves the room and you are alone with Bad Cop.
Bad Cop circles you like a hungry wolf. He stands behind you for a moment, breathing heavily, to let you wonder what he’s going to do next. Then he stands across the table from you and begins pounding it and shaking his fist at you and pacing like a tormented tiger. He kicks the legs of the table so hard that the unused ashtray and can of Coke Good Cop was kind enough to buy for you fall to the floor. He sounds a little like Laurence Olivier in Richard the Third, Act One, Scene One, “rudely stamped” and not “shaped for sportive tricks,” but with none of Olivier’s sense of timing or elocution. He simply rants on, hoping his raw anger will make you slump in your chair from sheer funk, a sure sign of admitted guilt, or at least of complicity.
“Those Zionists!” he barks, “their days are numbered!”
That statement, you realize, is only tangentially connected to the freedom of speech issue. Then he mentions Salman Rushdie and the fear he was living in as a result of abusing his First Amendment privileges with his blasphemous novel.
“If he is in the U.S., you should not broadcast it for his own safety.”
You blink in astonishment. Rushdie was not a U.S. citizen, but a British citizen, and so his freedom of speech was not protected by the First Amendment. But, then, neither is that of other British citizens. Anymore. Bad Cop careens wildly back and forth over other issues. You lose interest. You have not slumped in your chair. This man is either a bad actor, or genuinely crackers.
Iran has been around for the last seven, 10 thousand years. They (the Israelis) have been occupying those territories for the last 60 to 70 years, with the support and force of the Westerners. They have no roots there in history. We do believe that they have found themselves at a dead end and they are seeking new adventures in order to escape this dead end. Iran will not be damaged with foreign bombs.
Bad Cop finally concludes by “hewing himself out with a bloody axe” and stomping out of the room, slamming the door behind him. The door opens again almost immediately and instead of Good Cop, a short, scruffy-looking man in a suit comes in whom you recognize as a convicted felon but who is now the head of an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood working closely with the authorities to preserve the peace. He does not introduce himself, but glares at you and launches into a tirade about “responsible speech.”
“We must acknowledge the importance of freedom of expression. We must also recognize that such freedom comes with responsibilities, especially when it comes with serious implications for international peace and stability.”
He ends with, “You, infidel, are the primary guarantor of that peace and stability by not offending Islam and taking liberties with your tongue with our honored Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. If there is chaos and bloodshed and misery, it will happen because you have failed.”
You want to respond, but you know that the room is wired for sound. You settle for flicking the fingers of your right hand under your chin in his direction. It’s an offensive Italian salute, but you can always say you had to scratch an itch.
By 5 a.m. more attempts by Good Cop, Bad Cop, Scruffy Man, and some pious members of the Interfaith Dialogue Barbershop Quartet have failed to get you to open up and cry your heart out that you didn’t mean for any bad things to happen. You are escorted out of the station and given a ride home. You merely nod thanks to the friendly driver in blue. You have said nothing. You have confessed nothing, admitted nothing. You’ve defeated their system. You may as well have been deaf and dumb.
It’s 6 a.m. and you’re just in time to watch the morning news. A nicely groomed anchorwoman begins by announcing that a bipartisan House committee will introduce legislation criminalizing not only deprecatory speech about Islam, but also any criticism of White House policies and programs.
“The move is seen as a means to curb reckless, irresponsible speech that contributes to the turmoil that is disturbing national security and delaying economic recovery,” says the blonde. “The bill is expected to pass the Senate without much amendment, and be signed by the President.”
You shut the TV off and go to your study. You discover that your laptop computer is gone, as well as the external backup drive, all your thumbnail files, and your filing cabinet with your hard-copy research has been rifled and half its contents missing.
A hand-written note is taped to your empty computer desk. It reads: “It’s for your own good. BPUH.”
It’s then that you realize that it’s all over but the jail time.