Diane talks with Ari Berman, senior reporter at Mother Jones and author of the book, “Give Us The Ballot: The Modern Struggle For Voting Rights In America.”
Guest Host: Indira Lakshmanan
The extremist group that calls itself the Islamic State claimed it played a role in the attack in Garland, Texas on Sunday, but offered no proof. Two assailants with assault rifles were killed by a police officer after they injured a guard at an anti-Islam gathering. The event was a $10,000 contest for the best cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. For many Muslims, images of the Prophet are sacrilegious, but some are defending the anti-Islamic group’s right to free speech — even if it’s hateful. We explore the reach of the Islamic State, political tolerance and the boundaries of free speech.
- Jonathan Turley Professor of public interest law, The George Washington University Law School.
- Paul Pillar Non-resident senior fellow at the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University; former CIA National Intelligence officer.
- Ebrahim Moosa Professor of Islamic studies, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies; co-director, contending modernities program at the Keough School for Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame.
- Steven Clemons Editor-at-large, The Atlantic.
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANThanks for joining us. I'm Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg News sitting in for Diane Rehm who is getting a voice treatment. Law enforcement authorities continue their investigation into an attack in Texas on a group that gathered to share cartoon images ridiculing the prophet Mohammed. The two attackers were shot and killed by police.
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANISIS claimed the men as its soldiers, but gave no proof that it trained them or orchestrated their action. Joining me to talk about the attack, it's possible link to ISIS and free speech, Paul Pillar of Georgetown University and formerly of the CIA, Steven Clemons of The Atlantic, Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School and from a studio at the University of Notre Dame, Islamic studies professor, Ebrahim Moosa. Welcome to all of you.
MR. PAUL PILLARGood morning.
MR. JONATHAN TURLEYThank you.
MR. STEVEN CLEMONSGood morning.
LAKSHMANANThanks. We will be taking your questions and comments throughout the hour. We want to hear from you and what you think about these issues, so call us on 1-800-433-8850. Send us your email at email@example.com and join us on Facebook or on Twitter. Steve Clemons, what can you tell us about the investigation so far?
CLEMONSRight now, the investigation is focusing on the question of how much contact particular previous to the attack Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi had with ISIS and there was clearly relationship between some of them online, but it wasn’t clear to whether this ISIS claim that they took credit for the attack is legitimate and real unless there was real pre-positioning before the attack took place.
CLEMONSSo that's, right now, where the focus is going. The second piece of this which is sort of out of left field is that a moniker, someone who tweets under the moniker Abu Ibrahim Al Ameriki has intimated that more of these kinds of incidents are on their way, allege that there are 71 trained people in the United States across 15 states, like Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, California, Michigan and 23 of these signed up for attacks similar like to these on Sunday.
CLEMONSHe's known to have fought and joined terrorist groups in Pakistan before so it is a new dimension to this, but it's a serious threat.
LAKSHMANANAnd the two assailants, they were born in the United States. They're from Phoenix.
CLEMONSThey're from Phoenix, Arizona, and they drove, in part, to this event essentially bringing cartoonists together who would essentially depict photograph or pictures of Mohammed and the group that picked this site in Garland, Texas, which has a very diverse community, 114 languages spoken in the schools, a mayor that's very inclusive that just in January hosted an event against Islamophobia.
CLEMONSSo the group that went there, that these two attackers went after, essentially were responding essentially to an event that said, let's not embrace Islamophobia. Let's embrace a much more tolerant approach. This other group came in, basically supporting free speech and the right to draw cartoons of anyone they like and then that is what precipitated this.
CLEMONSSo it was just basically a lightning strike, but these people were not from Garland, Texas.
LAKSHMANANThey crossed state lines to get there. Okay, Paul Pillar, ISIS has claimed responsibility. Is there evidence for what would be the first ISIS-lead attack inside the U.S.?
PILLARNo. I think the only evidence we've seen publically so far are the reports of the electronic communications that indicate there was sympathy for, an affinity toward ISIS by at least one of the perpetrators as well as some Twitter messages with perhaps individuals in Syria or Somalia urging people in America to do like-minded things. But as far as an organizational tie with ISIS, the group, nothing's come up so far.
LAKSHMANANSo lone wolves, we've heard that term before, is that we think those were?
PILLARYes. Basically lone wolves, but with a stimulus and shall we say a framework and a ideology and something beyond whatever inner demons may have driven them, which is what an external group like ISIS provides.
LAKSHMANANSo an inspiration, essentially.
PILLARInspiration, essentially, and I might add there that, you know, claim statements after the fact are a dime a dozen in the history of terrorism, in effect. There's a long history of multiple claims by different groups for the same thing and that's, of course, far different from something that was said at the very time of an attack, let alone before it.
LAKSHMANANI was struck that Elton Simpson, one of the two assailants, was investigated by authorities back in 2010 and so that's actually four years before ISIS even named itself, right?
PILLARWell, that's right. He was -- he had said some things about going to Somalia to wage jihad and he was actually prosecuted and convicted of lying to FBI agents and saying he was not gonna go to Somalia, but he was not -- there was not sufficient evidence to convict him of something greater than that. But yes, he's been a known person to the FBI since at least 2006.
LAKSHMANANSo you sort of wonder whether some of these folks are inspired by whatever group is most popular at the time, al Qaeda a few years ago, ISIS now.
PILLARThat's exactly it. I mean, what we're dealing with are brand names and the al Qaeda brand had been, especially since 9/11, but even before that, the most recognizable, illustrious-in-the-eyes-of-radicals brand. It has, over the last two years, been somewhat eclipsed by ISIS because of the spectacular successes on the ground of this particular group. But it's -- think of it as a brand name, as a franchise to which people adhere.
LAKSHMANANSo Paul, what are the similarities between this attack and the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris?
PILLARWell, obviously, one was foiled and the other one wasn't. There was, perhaps, a greater degree of organization and sheer firepower in the Paris attack, whereas the two individuals in Garland, Texas, reflected absolutely nothing in the way of training, organization. In fact, it's noteworthy that you had these two people arrive at the scene, reportedly with body armor and rifles, but they were both gunned down fatally by an off-duty policeman who'd been hired as a security guard to provide security.
PILLARSo it obviously was not a very sophisticated operation. I think the thing in Paris had a little bit more organization to it.
LAKSHMANANRight. And the two attackers in Paris, apparently, had training from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, I think.
PILLARReportedly so, but the thing we should think about in the Texas incident is, you know, no training was required and no training was in evidence.
LAKSHMANANRight. So Jonathan Turley, there have been other incidents of violence sparked by cartoons or videos depicting the prophet Mohammed. Tell us about those.
TURLEYWell, there certainly has been. You know, we had, of course, the spasm of violence that followed the publication of the Mohammed cartoons by Danish cartoonists and we've had an almost regular outburst of this kind from one cause or another. But the drawing of Mohammed has been one of those lightning rods we've seen occur over and over again.
TURLEYAnd that does present a serious problem for the West because we remain committed to the concept of free speech. You're allowed to draw pictures of Mohammed. You're allowed to say anything you want about Mohammed. And that, of course, is colliding with these core religious views and that has created a certain crisis of faith, I think, in the West and countries have actually gone in different directions.
LAKSHMANANRight. I mean, I thinking also of the video that was considered very offensive, portraying the life of the prophet Mohammed that back in 2012 set off protests at embassies all across North Africa.
TURLEYNo, that's right. And one of the interesting aspects about that case is you had a YouTube video, rather low grade one, that caused, you know, that particular spasm of violence and the United States said, immediately, we believe in free speech. The president went on and said, correctly, he has the right to do this. But the next image that the world saw was his being put in cuffs and thrown into a car and put under arrest.
TURLEYNow, he was arrested for a probation violation and most of us that do criminal defense work were rather surprised that he would be arrested for such an offense, but the intent was clear. You know, the United States wanted to show the world that this guy was, in fact, arrested. And that had a countervailing troubling message for the free speech community that perhaps we're trying to achieve the same result by different means.
LAKSHMANANNow, Steve Clemons, you've known Pam Geller, the founder of Stop Islamization of America, the group that sponsored this Texas cartoon contest for years. Tell us about her.
CLEMONSWell, Pamela is a prominent blogger. She has been blogging under PamelaGeller.com, or AtlasShrugs is the real name of it, for some years. She is basically been part of a group of people who've raised concerns about the footprint of Islam in the corridors of American power and has worked with a number of people on a whole variety of areas. I would put her in the camp of sort of pugnacious nationalists tinged with a little bit -- with quite a bit of Islamophobia.
CLEMONSShe was a very big advocate of Ambassador John Bolton and his sort of pugnacious brand of nationalism and she's been out there. What she was doing in Texas, in this particular case, is convening a group of people and making the point that, you know, America's laws and provision and constitutional right of free speech applies just like, as Jonathan Turley said. But her style -- and I think it's one of the things that she's trying to defend herself.
CLEMONSShe just wrote a piece in TIME magazine this morning, essentially saying, I didn't cause this. Perpetrators who, you know, sought to kill people for expressing their right of free speech did. But Pamela has been very aggressive in certain commentary, occasionally saying -- for instance, in the UK, the police and the military ought to be coming back from places like Afghanistan and Pakistan -- sorry, Afghanistan and Iraq and begin deportation of Muslims.
CLEMONSShe's embraced and endorsed and said, the way our government should deal with this Muslim thing is to take a page from Ataturk in Turkey of destroying mosques, purging any element of Islam and basically putting down and she said, i.e. killing Muslims. And so she has been a participant in the escalation of at least words that have lead to this very tense point.
LAKSHMANANSo very quickly, she's considered -- her group is considered a hate group, correct, by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
CLEMONSIt's considered a hate group by many and this is where, you know, things like -- and I really respect Jonathan Turley's writing on this, where freedom of speech becomes very complicated because it's in those uncomfortable parts of our equation as a civil society that defending the right of free speech and deciding where the line is between hate speech and whatnot.
CLEMONSI'm reminded of groups like Westboro Baptist Church and Matthew Shepherd, that they had a right to go to a certain point and a line they couldn't cross.
LAKSHMANANWe're gonna take a short break. I look forward to hearing your questions and your comments. Stay with us.
LAKSHMANANWelcome back. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, sitting in for Diane Rehm. This hour, we're talking about the Texas attack, ISIS and the limits of free speech with Paul Pillar of Georgetown University, Steven Clemons of The Atlantic, Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School, and by phone from Notre Dame, professor Ebrahim Moosa, a professor of Islamic studies. Professor Moosa, how would you characterize the response to the attack by American Muslim groups?
MR. EBRAHIM MOOSAWell, American Muslim groups have been condemning these attacks, and one major group said that, you know, attacking and killing or attempting to kill people is worse than the offense caused the prophet by these cartoons. So I think there's been very strong reaction from the American Muslim community to these kinds of actions by these individuals, whether they are lone wolves or whether they are part of an orchestrated ISIS campaign to destabilize American society.
LAKSHMANANI noticed that not only the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is a Muslim civil rights organization, but also a group of Muslims in Garland, Texas, itself, came to the podium and spoke up and said this is a hateful message, but we defend her right to say it.
MOOSAAbsolutely, and I think one of the big challenges that Muslims globally and especially Muslims living in the West face is that groups like ISIS are exploiting something that is theologically problematic, and that is the question of blasphemy and offense to the prophet as historically being dealt with in a way that deserved the death penalty.
MOOSAAnd I think the challenge to Muslim theologians today, especially those living in the West, is to rewrite those rules in terms of the new conditions under which Muslims are living, living in nation-states, democracy, freedom of speech and those kinds of values that are not part of core Muslim values. The challenge is that Muslim theologians have yet to rewrite those rules and regulations. So therefore groups like ISIS are very strategic in the way in which they target the issues that they believe are hot-button issues that will elicit some sympathy from some members of the Muslim middle.
MOOSAAnd so one of these issues do involve the question of blasphemy and giving offense to the prophet that they take action on. And I call this to be some of these un-deactivated theological hand grenades in the hands of militants, that what really this requires is that Muslim theologians need to put these ancient doctrines to rest and say they are no longer applicable today.
LAKSHMANANAll right, well, we're not, educate us. What is the history of the ban on images of the prophet Mohammed?
MOOSAThe rule basically is that it's not about images, but it's about giving offense and slander and defamation of the prophet Mohammed. Images of the prophet Mohammed that were portrayed in a positive light, a large segment of Muslims in the past accepted that. The question is about defamation or lampooning or satire that in the past was dealt with under Muslim political theology by, when Islam was an empire, by political authorities.
MOOSAThose kinds of offenses were punished by the death penalty, and therefore groups like ISIS still rely on that doctrine, and they enforce it whenever they have an opportunity.
LAKSHMANANSo the Quran itself doesn't actually prohibit a depiction of the prophet Mohammed?
MOOSAThe Quran is silent on that, and there are some reports in the prophetic tradition in which some people find validation for this. The Quran basically says that, you know, some of these offenses God himself will deal with those kind of people who offend God and his prophet. Muslim theologians in different parts of the world at different times said that it is best to ignore these kinds of offenses. But it seems that those who are rigorous, or fundamentalists like ISIS and al-Qaeda and other groups, and you can clearly see that that was the strategy that the people who caused the death at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and also in Denmark, they relied on these kinds of interpretations that are of ancient pedigree, that some still feel should be applicable under the moniker of Sharia.
LAKSHMANANWell, so it's actually contemporary interpretation that makes it blasphemous. And I'm wondering, is there someone who passed a fatwa? I mean, who said that this should be punishable by death?
MOOSAContemporary, no one has said that it should be punishable by death. We did have, in the 1988, '89, when Salman Rushdie wrote the novel "Satanic Verses"...
MOOSAThe Ayatollah Khomeini just restated the position, and obviously we know what happened to Salman Rushdie, he had to go into hiding. But, you know, this doctrine is still live on the books, classical textbook, and individuals who do become devout Muslim, or, I mean, especially when they had a bad record before they tried to redeem themselves very quickly, so they go on this quick, you know, fixed path to Sharia. Then they discover these kinds of doctrines, and then they want to enforce it in order to become Islamic heroes.
MOOSAAnd that's precisely what we find in the kind of actions of Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi and several other individuals.
LAKSHMANANSo the doctrine is really more against defamation, not so much depiction, it sounds like.
MOOSANo, a depiction that is praiseworthy and that is laudatory of the prophet, very few people will be offended by that. Some individuals might because they would say the prophet can never be represented, but in the past, in Persian miniature and other kinds of depictions, when the prophet was depicted in a positive way, Muslims accepted that.
LAKSHMANANWell, and certainly in the Old Testament, we have, you know, the prohibition against graven images in the Ten Commandments. So that's a common theme, I think, in monotheistic religions in that respect. Jonathan Turley, where's the line in U.S. law between free speech and hate speech?
TURLEYWell, that line is sometimes difficult to discern. One of the concerns among the free speech community is that we may be losing that clarity. But the United States still remains, I think, fairly said to be the bastion of free speech in comparison to some of our closest allies, like Canada, England, France, where we've seen tremendous erosion of free speech principles.
TURLEYIn the United States, you're talking about a crime that involves a true and immediate threat. We have still considerable protection for people to say things that are unpleasant, maybe stupid, certainly obnoxious. You're allowed to do all those things. In other words, you're allowed to insult people. And what we've seen in terms of this departure between the countries is that some of our closest allies are taking a different path.
TURLEYAnd so in Canada, you see a growing amount of criminalization of speech, any speech that is deemed as insulting to a person's status or religious. England and France have shown the same disturbing trend. People are being arrested because they have said things that are unkind or offensive about religion or homosexuals or any other subject.
TURLEYThat puts the United States in a sort of vulnerable spot, where we have most, many of our closest allies, who seem to be frankly falling out of love with free speech. You know, free speech is a costly thing. It means really obnoxious people are allowed to say really obnoxious things. And eventually people just lose patience and say, why are we letting them do this. And the answer, it's really not about them, that this is the touchstone of the American Constitution and the First Amendment.
LAKSHMANANBut here in this country we do define some things as hate speech, right?
LAKSHMANANAnd what are those things, and what are the penalties for that?
TURLEYWell, the criminalization of speech was defined most clearly in Brandenburg in 1969. And that case has been both heralded and condemned by free speech advocates. In one way, the Supreme Court said, look, you can't criminalize free speech, in that case racist speech, unless you can show that there's an imminent threat of violence or an imminent threat of crime.
TURLEYAnd what concerns people post-Brandenburg is how do you define something that's imminent. And this actually came to head under Hillary Clinton as secretary of State because Clinton changed U.S. policy, to some extent, and worked with some of close Muslim allies to create what many of us viewed as sort of a warmed-over international blasphemy standard that allowed, endorsed the right of nations to criminalize attacks on religion, criticism of religion.
LAKSHMANANShe endorsed this right? How so?
TURLEYWell, the United States worked with our allies and said, you know, we can have an international standard that recognizes the right of countries to criminalize speech when it creates this imminent threat of violence or social disorder. And many of us, myself included, criticized that effort and said, look, that's a warmed-over blasphemy standard because if you look at these Muslim countries, they're always saying that anything that you say about religion is threatening imminent violence.
TURLEYAnd so there was a great deal of criticism of the Obama administration for that change, but it shows the concern in the free speech community that we may be losing our sort of navigational beacons in the First Amendment.
LAKSHMANANThat's interesting. Does the gathering in Texas that was hosted by one of Geller's groups, she calls it the American Freedom Defense Initiative, does that fall under free speech protections?
TURLEYIt most certainly does, and it's not a close question. But here again, you see the problem in losing that clarity because many people said you're inviting violence by holding this event. And what the free speech community has said is, you know, that's not the way you need to look at this. You can't look at speech and say your speech is inviting violence. It's speech, and the people who are being violent are coming to it. They're the cause of the violence.
LAKSHMANANSteve Clemons, does that, you know, we've heard Pope Francis, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, say that it's wrong to insult others' faith and that doing so should be expected to provoke a violent reaction. Some Americans also feel that there's a decency line that can't be crossed.
CLEMONSIt's very hard to know where that line is. As Jonathan said, in France, shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, you began to have nearly five dozen criminal cases on free speech grounds, basically arguing that some were engaged in anti-Semitism, hate speech of various kinds. There was a famous comedian who was arrested for basically saying I am Charlie Coulibaly, who is a play off of one of the terrorists in the Charlie Hebdo attack.
CLEMONSSo at the same time that the world is marching and saying I am Charlie, I want to support free speech, you have a crackdown on the uncomfortable parts of that equation. You know, in the United States it would be interesting if across the street from Pamela Geller's convening you had had a convening of flag burners. Flag burner also fits within the freedom of expression. There is an effort to go out there, to pass a constitutional amendment, but to this day, at this point, flag burning is legal, and it's seen as a right of free speech in the United States.
LAKSHMANANAnd that would be a real irony.
CLEMONSThat would be a huge irony.
LAKSHMANANI wonder whether Pamela Geller's group would support the people's right to burn the flag.
CLEMONSObviously not, and a lot of the people who have come into Pamela Geller's orbit used to be also in the orbit of people like Jesse Helms, who himself set out against people like Robert Mapplethorpe to inhibit government funding going to certain artists that he had problems with, that he saw as erotic or as not within the spirit of what the art should've been.
CLEMONSSo we've been struggling with this for many, many, many years. It also comes back to this issue of, you know, screaming fire in a crowded theater. We've been negotiating that Supreme Court case for a very long time, and so that line between what people feel is appropriate or not or decent or not is a complicated one, and as I tell people, it's never when you see the system behaving well that you know whether, you know, what the norms of society are. It's when the society is stressed out and is at a moment of real extremes when you know to what degree you have free speech or not.
CLEMONSAnd I agree with Jonathan that Pamela Geller and her team were completely within the realm of free speech, but they have a legacy of riling up tensions, and so there's a complicated line between someone who does that as a political act, almost wanting to prompt the collision or the clash of civilizations that she writes so often about.
LAKSHMANANWell, that's an excellent question. I mean, does this sort of intentional provocation and this notion of what is decent speech, does that in part explain the decision by some writers this week to boycott an awards dinner at which Charlie Hebdo magazine was going to be given a freedom of expression prize?
CLEMONSWell, I think that those sorts of questions are very important. I don't know the particular case of the writers with the Charlie Hebdo thing, but I will tell you that in the world, against Jonathan Turley has written a lot about this, I believe in a rule of law in which people who defame, slander, cause harm, we've had a lot of discussion in the United States about bullying and the consequences of that and who is accountable in that process, and people like Pamela Geller, when they write and embrace the notion that a population should be deported, that's a crime against humanity in the U.N. charter on human rights.
CLEMONSSo that should be challenged in a legal way so that we can begin processing these sorts of claims. And that, then, will help us make a greater distinction between free speech and hate speech or actually the harm of others.
LAKSHMANANI'm Indira Lakshmanan. You're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Ebrahim Moosa, you have called this issue an internal problem for Muslims. What do you mean by that, and what are the strategies to deal with it?
MOOSAI think that the Muslims in the United States and Europe in particular should be putting out a much more robust theology that enshrines free speech because I think Muslims themselves benefit from free speech. I think the question about decency is something that Islamic ethics and Christian ethics or even secular ethics can regulate by itself. That is a duty of civil society, the kind of values and points of view that we adopt, politically or otherwise, is something that we can, that communities and individuals can adopt for themselves.
MOOSABut I think what this requires is a question such as blasphemy or apostasy laws and so on that are still in the textbooks of classical Islamic teachings, these need to be revised by Muslim theologians. Now it's important to note that in the United States for instance, two prominent Muslim theologians, Yasir Kazi at the Rhodes College and Sheikh Hamza Yusuf of Zaytuna College for instance, on the Charlie Hebdo incident, they condemned these attacks, and ISIS in their magazine had basically identified the two of them as apostates, technically meaning that anybody can, there's a target on their back, and anybody ought to kill them because they are now outside the fold Islam.
MOOSASo I think those kinds of practices must be done in a very systematic way, and Muslim systems, imams, theologians, should be teaching communities in a very explicit manner that when people do offend the prophet Mohammed, the Islamic teachings are basically that you ignore such offenders. By reacting, you only fuel the Pamela Gellers and other kind of provocateurs, and that free speech is something that Muslims ought to value as something important. They benefit from it, and it also enhances freedom within a society.
LAKSHMANANWell, the old sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me thing that we teach our own children. Paul Pillar, how does ISIS compare to al-Qaeda in its global reach, in its ability to orchestrate attacks outside of Iraq and Syria?
PILLARI think we ought to start with a basic difference in strategy and ideology, but mainly strategy, between al-Qaeda and ISIS. The big strategic innovation of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in al-Qaeda was this idea of hitting the far enemy, meaning the West, meaning in particular the United States. That's what 9/11 was all about. It was part of an effort over the long term to sow divisions between the United States and its friends in the Arab and Muslim world and to export anti-Americanism. There wasn't any short-term effort to build a caliphate or anything like that. That was always going to be a very long-term effort.
PILLARISIS has been quite different. Hitting the far enemy has not been part of their basic strategy. Rather, their approach has been to try to build a caliphate here and now, in territory that they can seize and control, which they do now in Iraq and Syria. So that's far different in the sense that hitting the far enemy and hitting us is not a basic part of their approach to things in the way it was with al-Qaeda. That said, if we hit them, they're going to want to hit us.
LAKSHMANANHold that thought. We're going to take a short break now, and when we're back, your calls and questions. Stay with us.
LAKSHMANANWelcome back, I'm Indira Lakshmanan, sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're talking about the Texas attack, ISIS, and the limits of free speech. I'm gonna read a post that we got here, an email from Jean, who says that if someone published cartoons of women, LGBTs, blacks, or a dozen other protected groups, wouldn't they be prosecuted as hate speech? And why does offense of anti-Islamic speech get a pass in the name of free speech? Jonathan Turley.
TURLEYWell, first of all, they would not, necessarily, be prosecuted as hate speech for posting pictures of that kind, that are offensive. That isn't the bright line that we have in this country. There's no imminent threat, there's no criminal content. There's simply an insult. And that, I think, really puts your finger on the operative question here. You know, there was a case called the zombie Mohammad case out of Pennsylvania, because a guy was attacked because he was dressed like a zombie Mohammad in a Halloween parade.
TURLEYAnd he was attacked by an Islamic man and he got pulled in front of a judge, Mark Martin, and to everyone's surprise, Martin started to slam the victim. And he said, notably, this is quote, way outside your bounds of the first Amendment. He said, it's unfortunate that some people use the first Amendment to deliberately provoke others. That's the judge, and many of us were quite shocked, because indeed, that's what the first Amendment's about. When we talk about provocation, the most important speech in our country often is provocative.
TURLEYIt often is insulting, for good or for bad. But here, you have a judge who's telling a victim, you know, this was really your fault, because you should have known you would have provoked others by this imagery. So, the line still remains clear, despite what Judge Martin said. You -- the fact that you're insulting, obnoxious, offensive, is not enough for a hate crime.
LAKSHMANANAll right. Let's take a call from Carol in Indianapolis. Carol, you are on the air.
CAROLThank you. I just have a couple of comments. A little bit off topic and no disrespect to your esteemed guests.
LAKSHMANANNo disrespect taken. Go ahead.
CAROLBut I am disappointed at the over coverage of this incident. I am constantly terrorized as an American. We have no gun laws in this country. And we overblow this incident where these two idiots didn't kill anybody, they're dead. Okay, end of story. Go on. You know, I'm afraid of some teenager with an AKA. I'm terrorized every day.
LAKSHMANANSo, your point being?
CAROLAnd we overblow the Muslims -- I think we just overblow this ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Granted, we had a Boston bombing, but we had a Timothy McVeigh. There are weird people out there that do horrible things and I just think we incite more people who want to become jihadist because they get to be in the news.
LAKSHMANANAll right. Carol, an interesting point. She's also bringing up the issue of copycats, not only media coverage, but media coverage that incites copycats. Paul Pillar.
PILLARI think an important point to make on coverage is this. This incident got attention here in the United States because shots were fired, people were killed. A lot more people could have been killed if it turned out differently. If Pamela Geller's event had gone on without incident, few Americans would have taken any notice of it at all. I can assure you that many people in the Muslim world would have taken notice. It's exactly the sort of thing that has gotten a lot of attention overseas when we've had things like pastors burning Korans in Florida or American Generals in uniform saying, my God is better than their God.
PILLARThis gets noticed. And that's part of the consequence and part of the price we have to take into account. It is one more stimulus to the kind of anti-Americanism that can take violent turns, even though you or I cannot draw a direct link between a particular incident and a particular terrorist attack. But regardless of how American media would have or would not have covered this incident, the very fact of Geller's event, without any shooting, would have been noticed overseas.
LAKSHMANANSo, she's getting the attention she wants, with or without CNN and Fox News there. Steve, you're a member of the media. Take that question. Are we creating more attention for these people than they deserve or inciting copycats?
CLEMONSWell, she raises an interesting point about not hyper ventilating in this country about what basically are criminal or simply criminal attacks and not blowing them up larger. The problem with that approach is that when you have, for instance, an attack on a synagogue or a Jewish day school, and it's designed to be violence perpetrated against a class of people, that's something that animates fears and passions across a great number of folks and has a perfect place in the media in my view.
CLEMONSWhen you have two people, or at least one, who's saying that he was inspired by ISIS and trying to, essentially, sign up, if you will, by these acts and we're fighting a very complicated battle with ISIS in various parts of the world, that has concerns. When ISIS has basically said, we want people to rise up, take their knives and attack police and attack others in western societies, that's something that I think is not hyperventilation. It's something that we need to be aware of and vigilant about.
CLEMONSI agree that we shouldn't overinflate it, but we should discuss it and ask ourselves what are the implications for it. What is going wrong in our equation here in this country?
LAKSHMANANAll right. We have an email from Randall in Tulsa, who says, you know, he takes the opposite point of view to those who say that Pamela Geller was inviting violence. He says, saying that a cartoon exhibition in Texas was inviting violence is like saying that a woman in a short skirt was asking for it. It's victim blaming, simple as that. Jonathan Turley, that sounds kind of like what you were talking about with that judge and the zombie Mohammad case.
TURLEYIt is. You know, we are too often hearing this debate being framed as to what are the consequences of speech? That's the question we should not be asking. At least in this country. But it is a question that we're hearing more and more. After that earlier YouTube video incident that we discussed, I was very concerned to hear the United Nations Secretary come forward and say quote, when some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate others, this cannot be protected. And he was followed by the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and she said, our tolerance must never extend to tolerating religious hatred.
TURLEYAnd so, you're seeing this erosion of this core principle that we're going to start to look at speech by its consequences, by its impact. So far, the United States has resisted that, but we have heard voices in this country adopting that approach, that our European allies are increasingly adopting.
LAKSHMANANPaul Pillar, I want to go into the question of ISIS a little bit more. What is the profile of those people who are attracted to ISIS's message, whether they're lone wolves or whether they actually make it over there to Syria and Iraq to get training, who are these people in America attracted to that message?
PILLAREvery individual's story is different, and I think it's a mistake to try to come up with a single profile. That's, anyway, profile, the archetypal terrorist is the holy grail of counterterrorist studies. You know, they were never going to obtain. In the case of these two individuals from Phoenix, who were involved in the Texas incident, one of them, for example, Soofi, reportedly had been living a relatively happy life when he was in Pakistan. He was the product of a Pakistani-American marriage. And then, when he got to this country, he was in medical school for a while, but then, apparently, for whatever reasons, dropped out.
PILLARAnd wound up in circumstances that seemed to be less, shall we say, less nurturing of his self-esteem than what he faced in Pakistan. And so...
LAKSHMANANBut he had a pizza and hot wings restaurant here, didn't he? So, you know, in some ways, he was highly assimilated.
PILLARRight. And assimilation, per se, doesn't stop things from happening. Look what happened with Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter. You know, a US Army officer/psychiatrist. That's about as assimilated as you can get. And he did deadly harm. It's impossible to model every case different combination of whatever are the individual circumstances combine with the framework, the brand name, the ideology, the stimulus like ISIS or Al-Qaeda overseas provides.
LAKSHMANANSo, how different is this from Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in Oklahoma 20 years ago?
PILLARWell, obviously, it's a completely different set of ideologies in terms of, you know, what their particular grievances were. But I think if we look at individual circumstances and how, you know, the professional or personal lives were, there may be probably even more parallels than we would like to think between this sort of nativist, right wing hate figure that we knew as Timothy McVeigh and these individuals who are obviously coming at it from a totally different ideological direction.
LAKSHMANANIt sounds like you're also talking about people whose lives just didn't work out, one way or another. Being attracted, grasping onto some kind of ideology, whatever it may be.
PILLARThat is basically it, but of course, we always have to hasten to add that the great majority of people whose lives don't work out don't become terrorists.
LAKSHMANANYeah. Good point. Now Paul, ISIS has terrorized large parts of Iraq and Syria, but is it really a threat to the United States homeland?
PILLARWell, I go back to my earlier comments about what its overall strategy is. It's not a basic part of the approach, as it was with Al-Qaeda. That said, to the extent that we in the United States get ISIS in our gun sights, which we literally are, you know, now, in Syria and Iraq, that almost automatically means there's a factor of retribution and revenge. So I would not be surprised if, as an organizational, at least, aspiration. At this point, we can only say it's aspiration.
PILLARISIS would want to do more, but I think at this point, the organization in Iraq and Syria's probably going to be more satisfied with providing the inspiration and the provocation to lone wolves and people like the individuals in Texas to do things here in our shores, and given our inherent vulnerability, it is so easy, without any training, without any organization, to do shoot 'em ups that are a lot more lethal than what we just experienced in Texas.
LAKSHMANANOkay, let's take another call from Hannah in Castleberry, Florida. Hannah, you're on the phone.
HANNAHThank you for taking my call, Ms. Lakshmanan.
HANNAHIf the group that organized this event was so concerned about an attack that they hired a lot of security, would that organization have been liable for damages if the attack had succeeded?
LAKSHMANANInteresting. A legal question about culpability. Jonathan Turley, can you take that for us, as the resident lawyer here?
TURLEYThe fact is they would not be liable in terms of inciting the violence through an act of free speech. The only liability that would occur is under (word?). That is, if they took insufficient precautions that reviewed as necessary, they could be sued for negligence, but I would find that very difficult to establish. Just because other people hate you does not mean that you have to spend a huge amount of money to protect the community. There is a responsibility of the state, of these cities, to guarantee free speech.
TURLEYAnd so once you start to impose liability on these groups, you silence them. The Supreme Court effectively said that when it was dealing with this Westborough Church business and came down in favor of this hate filled church that would go to peoples' funerals and cause all types of problems. And the court came down very heavily against Tort liability that could chill their speech.
LAKSHMANANI'm Indira Lakshmanan and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We got a comment here on Facebook from Joseph who says it frankly seems obvious to me that the event in Texas was set up as a trap. If nothing had happened, the organizers would claim a victory for free speech, and since something did happen, it plays into the group's narrative of Muslims being enemies of America. So, the two perpetrators played right into the hands of the organizers in allowing them to claim that they had been targeted by terrorists. Ebrahim Moosa, can you comment on that?
MOOSAI think there's a pattern of this around the world, that, you know, provocateurs set this up and Muslims, driven by a certain kind of ideology, fall right into it. The damage that they do is that they damage these lone wolves or these orchestrated attempts, depending how you look at these reactions by individuals who claim to be part of the Muslim community. Does damage, tremendous damage to the image of Muslims around the world, but especially in American and Western Europe.
MOOSAAnd I think they play right into the hands of those who are advocating a clash of civilizations. It also fuels Islamophobia. In the last couple of months, we've seen that, you know, although the law enforcement people don't think that these are hate crimes, but what happened in Chapel Hill, an individual got killed in (word?), got killed in Texas. Someone got killed in Kentucky because of road rage. Also, a Muslim background. In the eyes of the Muslim community, American Muslim community is afraid of these actions on the part of people who favor Islamophobia.
MOOSAAnd these kinds of incidents only make it more difficult for the community to play the positive and constructive role that they wish to play in American society. And I think this requires a lot of soul searching on the part of America's Muslim leadership, of how they are going to demonstratively distance themselves, demonstratively. Issuing statements is one thing. But the challenge is really, and this is a difficult question. I have sympathy for the national leadership on this issue of how do you find demonstrable ways of putting sunlight between yourself and these kinds of militants and radicals who really are out to provoke a clash of civilizations. And because it favors their agenda.
CLEMONSIn Pamela Geller's Time Magazine article published today, she writes, now after the Charlie Hebdo attack and the Garland attack, what are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters? If the monsters are defined as the two men who planned to attack and kill at her event, that's one thing. If monsters are defined as all Muslims in America as being responsible and culpable for this, that is the debate that, in fact, we need to have as a nation.
CLEMONSIt's interesting that a man named Imam Zia, who tweets @imamzia, who is a Muslim leader in Garland, wrote that the community stayed away from this event, that they did not want to have this collision, they did not want to do this. And that he said these were probably lone wolves. So, there was a lot of awareness of this potential train wreck that was coming.
LAKSHMANANSo, Garland, Texas Muslims knew this event was happening, but none of them went.
CLEMONSAnd they decided to stay away. And they decided to stay away and they said, we're not going to be defined by this attempt to rile us up and to force something there, but it was, in fact, that kind of clash that many believe that Pamela Geller wanted to create.
MOOSAAnd the point isn't...
LAKSHMANAN...oh, I'm sorry. Go ahead, Professor Moosa.
MOOSA...and the point isn't, Indira, that one of the difficulties that American Muslims face is that these kinds of incidents force them to take collective guilt. And no one should be taking collective guilt for the actions of these two individuals or those people who committed the acts in Paris. So, that is a great obscenity that many people from the right expect American Muslims to take responsibility for this. This is an issue, as Steve Clemons pointed out, that the Garland Muslim community did not want to participate in that. They took the right ethical approach.
MOOSAThat is the contemporary Islamic position, the ethical position that ignored these provocateurs. Don't respond to them, because they have already subscribed to the notion of free speech, even though they feel offended by what he said about them, they know that by reacting or saying or participating in that only gives legitimacy to these Islamophobes. And therefore, I think, that is the correct strategy. I think more people need to adopt that. And I think if the theology also reinforces free speech, that will become a win/win situation for American Muslims.
LAKSHMANANJonathan Turley, we have just 30 seconds left, but tell us, are there signs that events like last Sunday's foiled attack are gonna weaken US resolve on free speech protections?
TURLEYI think that is the fear, that many people look at this and say, what's the value of this speech? And it's not the value of given speech, but the value of free speech we talk about. That's why that march in Paris had a bit of fraudulent aspect to it, when they gathered beneath those statues depicting liberty, equality and fraternity. We're sacrificing too in the name of fraternity, and you'll end up with none of the three.
LAKSHMANANOkay. Interesting questions we'll leave you with at the end of this hour. I'm Indira Lakshmanan sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thank you so much for listening.
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