After two knife attacks in France this morning by Muslims screaming “Allahu akbar,” the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, took to Twitter to declare that “Since you have blamed all Muslims and the Muslims’ religion for what was done by one angry person, the Muslims have a right to punish the French. The boycott cannot compensate the wrongs committed by the French all these years.” Twitter took down another tweet from Mahathir that explained what he thought would actually compensate for those alleged wrongs: “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.”
The rhetoric from some quarters of the Islamic world has been escalating against France for the last few days, ever since it became clear that French President Emmanuel Macron was going to move decisively against supporters and enablers of jihad violence inside the country. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan declared: “The Prophet lives in our hearts. When he is ridiculed, when he is insulted, it hurts… We human beings understand one thing: The pain of the heart is far, far, far more hurtful than physical pain. And that’s why the Muslims react to this.” Khan even likened this pain that Muslims feel over cartoons of Muhammad to the pain Jews felt during the Holocaust. Yes, he really did.
Some of this is personal, as NBC News reports:
A front-page illustration published by the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday showing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lounging in his underwear, pulling up the skirt of a woman wearing a hijab to reveal her bottom, has escalated an already hostile war of words between him and French President Emmanuel Macron: “Macron is against Muslims. He is sowing seeds of hatred,” Erdogan said Wednesday. “Turkey will take necessary legal, diplomatic actions against ‘loathsome’ Charlie Hebdo publication.”
All this has created a climate of hostility in France that leads to attacks of the kind we have seen Thursday morning.
But now Mahathir has ratcheted up the tension considerably. Even though Twitter took his tweet down, it was without any doubt seen and noted by jihadis all over the world, and manifests the desire of Mahathir (and others) to see a showdown between the West’s support for the freedom of expression and the Sharia death penalty for blasphemy against Allah, the Qur’an, or Muhammad.
Those two principles cannot coexist in peace, although up to now Western leaders, including Macron, have preferred to pretend that they could. Erdogan and Mahathir are now trying to force Western countries to choose either the freedom of speech or the acceptance of Sharia blasphemy restrictions, and they aren’t alone. Khan has demanded that Facebook ban criticism of Islam: “Given the rampant abuse and vilification of Muslims on social media platforms, I would ask you to place a similar ban on Islamophobia and hate against Islam for Facebook that you have put in place for the Holocaust.” The Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, has stated that “cartoons insulting our great prophet, which are promoted by some newspapers, magazines and even some policies, are absurd. They are a break from all moral restrictions, international customs, and general law.” Accordingly, he has called for “international legislation that criminalises acts of hate and discrimination against Muslims worldwide.” By “hate and discrimination,” since he is speaking in the context of the Muhammad cartoons, he clearly means any mockery or even criticism of Muhammad or Islam at all.
Western leaders are eventually going to discover they cannot ignore such calls indefinitely. Europe, the U.S., and the world at large are eventually going to have to choose: freedom of speech, or submission to Sharia blasphemy laws. Which one they will choose is in doubt at the moment. Submission was galloping forward until Samuel Paty was beheaded. That seems to have galvanized the French government into acting to defend free expression. But how long their resolve will last is an open question, especially now that jihad seems to have been declared against France worldwide, and Mahathir has called for genocide of the French.
Defend our principles, or surrender: there is increasingly little room for a third option.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.