Arab News sympathetically profiled one such hacker, a Saudi native, in 2011. “An Alkhobar woman studying in the United States is taking credit for destroying 23 Danish websites that denigrated the Prophet Muhammad,” the piece begins, relaying material originally published by an Arabic-language source. “Nouf Rashid told the Arabic newspaper she was hacking into Danish websites having references to cartoons of the Prophet along with other sites that had questionable content in her view,” including pornographic ones.
Rashid joins a veritable army of Islamist hackers — most in Muslim countries, but some in the West — who target those demonstrating insufficient deference to their faith. Examples abound. Hackers commandeered the website of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo when it ran an issue with Muhammad as the “guest editor” in 2011; the electronic vandals left a message decrying the “disgraceful cartoons using excuses of freedom of speech.” A year earlier, others hijacked the site of a newly opened Spanish nightclub called Mecca and posted a video predicting “a great war between Spain and the people of Islam” if it was not renamed. The sites of anti-Islam European politicians, including Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders and recent French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, have been defaced, as has the online home of Swedish Muhammad-as-a-dog artist Lars Vilks. To this day, dedicated anti-jihad websites are regularly disabled.
The most prominent controversies bring collective punishment, as whole populations are forced to suffer for the speech of a few. By February 8, 2006 — at the height of the uproar over the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons — more than 900 Danish websites had been hacked to convey warnings about caricatures of Islam’s prophet, some incorporating threats of violence. A similar fate befell countless Dutch websites following the 2008 release of Fitna, a short film by Wilders that draws links between Islam and terrorism. Further, in 2011, an Algerian hacker still upset with France’s former colonial rule of his nation took control of French Catholic websites.
As much as Western governments work to curtail speech deemed offensive to Muslims — from putting citizens on trial to bolstering the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s push to prohibit “defamation of religions” — it is never enough for Islamists, who are not shy about demanding greater and greater conformity with Shari‘a, particularly its anti-blasphemy provisions. In fact, misguided efforts to placate Islamists actually fuel their fire and promote do-it-yourself censorship.
When politically correct government officials reflexively smear scrutiny of Islam as racist and bigoted, they paint a target on ads and websites that express Islam-critical views, granting a degree of legitimacy to the desire to silence their messages. Likewise, bowing to Islamists’ neuroses about the female body only raises their expectations to be shielded from such images. It is no coincidence that MAAD’s drive to cover photos of women commenced soon after the Advertising Standards Authority, the industry’s self-regulator, frowned upon underwear ads near mosques. Give an inch and they will take a mile. Capitulation to direct threats is especially problematic. The operators of the aforementioned Mecca nightclub, it should be recalled, did change its name, thereby inspiring every Islamist who dreams of strong-arming Westerners into curbing their own words. Moreover, the sight of high-profile entities caving to pressure creates an atmosphere of intimidation that is exploited by suit-and-tie Islamists, whose soft-spoken accommodation requests provide a seemingly easy path for avoiding short-term pain — though their long-term objectives are no different than those of the vandals.
Vigilante censorship by Islamists and their allies is a growing challenge — and America is not immune. The proper response surely must begin with fortitude, not appeasement. Secure those websites that tackle the tough questions about Islamic supremacism, replace each destroyed ad with two more, and insist that governments do their job and protect free speech, the linchpin of liberty. Sergio Redegalli put it best when he explained why he keeps repairing his burqa mural: “I don’t believe bullies have the right to stand over people and deny us our freedoms.” Larger doses of this resolve are necessary as speech comes under increasing assault, through methods both lawful and unlawful, by Islamists aiming to leave the Western world ignorant of their designs, defenseless against their jihad, and ultimately transformed beyond recognition.
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