Last week, author Salman Rushdie was made a knight by Queen Elizabeth, setting off many in the Islamic world on account of his authorship of a novel which made fun of Mohammad and implied he manufactured his religion. Since its publication, The Satanic Verses has earned Rushdie death threats and even bounties for anyone who could kill the author or those who helped publish the novel; his knighting reignited those flames of hatred.
Curiously absent in all this has been the American press which is quick to condemn outbursts of intolerance (on a much smaller and less violent nature) when they come from the Christian community. L.A. Times media reporter Tim Rutten picked up on this (h/t Patterico):
If you're wondering why you haven't been able to follow all the columns and editorials in the American press denouncing all this homicidal nonsense, it's because there haven't been any. And, in that great silence, is a great scandal.
Is there something beyond the solidarity of the decent that ought to have impelled every commentator and editorial page in the U.S. to express unequivocal support for Sir Salman this week?
what is the societal cost of silence among those who have not simply the moral obligation but also the ability to speak — like American commentators and editorial writers?
What masquerades as tolerance and cultural sensitivity among many U.S. journalists is really a kind of soft bigotry, an unspoken assumption that Muslim societies will naturally repress great writers and murder honest journalists, and that to insist otherwise is somehow intolerant or insensitive.
Lost in the self-righteous haze that masks this expedient sentiment is a critical point once made by the late American philosopher Richard Rorty, who was fond of pointing out that "some ideas, like some people, are just no damn good" and that no amount of faux tolerance or misplaced fellow feeling excuses the rest of us from our obligation to oppose such ideas and such people.
If Western and, particularly American, commentators refuse to speak up when their obligations are so clear, the fanatics will win and the terrible silence they so fervently desire will descend over vast stretches of our world — a silence in which the only permissible sounds are the prayers of the killers and the cries of their victims.
Spot on. Never underestimate the power or breadth of white liberal guilt to condone actions which would be met with horror and outrage if perpetrated by a regular American.
Ace also has a lot more on the Rushdie silence.