There were “mere anecdotes” aplenty. Amjad Mahmood Khan told unsettling stories about the persecution of his fellow Ahmadiyya Muslims in the Islamic world. Marshall talked about the feminist Taslima Nasreen, who “had to flee Bangladesh for her life because her writings were accused of being ‘against Islam’”; about Nobel-winning novelist Naguib Mahfouz, who lives “under constant protection” in his native Egypt “after being stabbed by a young Islamist”; and about Ali Mohaqeq Nasab, “imprisoned by the Karzai government for publishing ‘un-Islamic’ articles that criticized stoning as a punishment for adultery.”
British barrister Paul Diamond discussed some of the high-profile cases in which he’s been involved – such as that of a Christian airline employee who was prohibited from wearing a cross on the job even though members of other faiths were allowed to wear religious symbols. And Mark Durie, a linguist, human rights activist, and Anglican vicar in Melbourne, provided a rivetingly detailed chronicle of the notorious trial in Australia of two pastors for vilifying Islam, at the end of which the pastors were ordered never to “express their views about Islam in public” again and forced “to take out prominent advertisements…reporting the findings against them, at an estimated cost of over $50,000.” (The pastors won on appeal, but while their Muslim accusers had been represented pro bono, the pastors ended up hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket.)
Can such conferences make a difference? The fact that the audience stayed for hours to listen attentively to paper after paper made it clear that they were interested in what they were hearing; their visible and audible reactions to many of the “mere anecdotes” indicated that these stories, which have been largely ignored by mainstream media, were new to them; and the questions they asked at the end of the day showed that they had taken it all very seriously, that they were shaken by much of what they had learned, and that they didn’t want it to end with just talk. What could be done about all this?
Well, one thing they could do is to use their own positions to draw attention to these matters and help bring the wall of PC silence and fearful self-censorship crashing down. On the way to and from the caucus room, I passed the office of the courageous Representative Pete King of New York, whose hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims have brought to the awareness of Congress, and in turn the American people, the extremism of supposedly mainstream U.S. Muslim organizations and mosques and the danger posed by creeping sharia to American freedom. Imagine a Congress with ten Pete Kings, a hundred Pete Kings – legislators who realize that taking seriously “mere anecdotes” about the consequences of the Islamization of the West means nothing more or less than taking seriously the lives of the people who pay your salary and whose constitutional liberties you’ve sworn to uphold.
One thing’s for sure: if we want to preserve freedom of speech in an age when celebrated writers and artists, military leaders and police chiefs, and once-great newspapers can be cowed by the fear of being called Islamophobes (or of having their homes or offices blown to bits), we need more anti-jihadist heroes like Pete King – and we need them, most desperately of all, in the corridors of government power. Unfortunately, as that fiasco in Arlington so vividly underscored, our high-level public servants have tended to be among the smoothest and most accomplished of Islam’s appeasers and whitewashers. Let’s hope that the “mere anecdotes” aired at the Cannon House Office Building on November 4 reached one or two influential people who can mount a real challenge to that disgraceful state of affairs.
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