One of the premises I maintain in my soon-to-be-published book, Muslim Mechanics, is that Muslims, as a group, do not fare so well in a free-speech, free-market economy. They may do well in their niche, but when dealing with outsiders, they flop. Muslim armies were unstoppable, but in the arena of ideas, with no violence allowed, they stink. The various articles I have published on this website give reasons for this understanding. One blog explains that Christianity promotes capitalism and labor productivity, while other religions (including Catholicism) do not. Another reason we explored were the results of the Ottoman Empire shutting down the printing press for 400 years. Perhaps the biggest reason is the lack of critical thinking and reasoning. Another reason Muslims do not fit into a free speech society is they don't accept criticism about their religion.
Teaching MBA courses in a Communist country, I realized it is apparent that free speech is a necessity for having a free market. Restricting free speech restricts a free market. I recognize some throttles must be put on speech. For example, irresponsible behavior such as yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre when there is no such crisis is dangerous and immoral; the behavior must be penalized to keep it from happening again. The U.S. is going through such a revolution on speech on tech platforms, and the powers to be favor restricting speech. A free market favors open speech so consumer and business markets can be more competitive. Competition is the driver of the free market. Some products excel, and some don't, but the consumers can see the differences and make a free choice. In a free market, the best products win the most consumers.
Religion As a Product?
Accept my premise that religions are a product. People expend resources to consume the benefits a religion offers. An exciting proposition by Rajiv Malhotra, an Indian American humorist, suggested that the product that the three great Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are selling has two theological components:
1. God's love in paradise and
2. Insurance from eternal damnation in Hell.
We can smile that God's salvation breaks down into a "product" that each religion can try to sell, as evidenced by the number of converts to any given religion.
Christianity (and Catholicism) are products of a free market economy. Consumers that consume Christianity expect certain benefits for the time and effort of their faith. If the benefits are not forthcoming, individuals are free to criticize the religion or leave it to find another. Pew Research does show that over 20 percent of attendees do leave Christianity. Consequently, Christianity and Catholicism spend some resources to improve their outreach and theological offerings, retaining more satisfied believers. This is the process by which that religion improves its product to meet the needs of its congregation.
On the other hand, Islamic adherents are not used to being in a free-speech country. They can only compete by shutting down criticism of their "product." Their audiences are self-perpetuating families. Pew Research also found that a little over 20 percent of attendees would leave the religion if given a chance. Only in a free-speech, free-market country do Muslims have that opportunity to leave the faith. An organization that loses 20 percent of its base in a free-market society will not stay in business long. They think they must stop the criticism of their product.
We saw two events unfold this past week that support this accusation.
The Satanic Verses Episode continues
First, in the news this past week, Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed in the neck, arm, and abdomen on August 12 by a man who stormed onto the stage as the author was about to lecture in western New York. The knife attack against Rushdie took place more than 33 years after a fatwa was decreed against him by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. The decree sentenced Rushdie to death for writing the novel The Satanic Verses. Khomeini claimed the novel was an insult to Islam. Pope Urban VI was the last Catholic Pope to issue death decrees in the late fourteenth century. The Catholics got over it. Why can't Muslims?
CAIR Loses Appeal
Second, CAIR filed a lawsuit because they felt a community college was teaching a wrongful view of Islam. On August 14, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district judge's 2020 ruling that a community college professor's coursework and quizzes about Islamic terrorism did not violate a Muslim student's First Amendment rights. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed the lawsuit on behalf of student Mohamed Sabra.
You might remember from a previous blog that CAIR was founded in 1994 as a lobbying organization in Washington, D.C. It was founded in response to the movie True Lies, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, in which Arab and Muslim groups were typecast as villains. CAIR is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization funded with zakat money. Zakat is a mandatory 2.5 percent wealth tax that Muslims give to Islamic causes and charities, of which CAIR is one. To better understand zakat, see my blog entitled "How much do you owe?"
CAIR thought a college course about Islamic terrorism inhibited students' First Amendment rights. The 3-panel court ruled that a curriculum that merely conflicts with a student's religious beliefs does not violate the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment. CAIR sued the college and the professor individually, but the courts agreed that he had qualified immunity for work-related issues as a public employee. The message was clear: CAIR will legally attack all individuals trying to present Islam in an unsuitable context.
One Possible Solution
Islamic provocateurs are handling this the wrong way. If Islamists ignored the insults, the problem would go away. There are always idiots willing to say or do anything to provoke a fight and get attention, but by ignoring the problem, the serious issues would disappear within a couple of years. Publishers are using cartoons because they know it irks the Muslims and will get a response. Fight the urge to get even. Ignore the insults. In Matthew 5:39, Jesus says to turn the other cheek. This is simply a metaphor for ignoring the random insult or the intentional slight. Any violent response takes away from Islam's image as a peaceful religion.
I'll close with a quote from Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged (1957).
Rand said, "Once a country accepts censorship of the press and of speech, then nothing can be won without violence. Therefore, so long as you have free speech, protect it. This is the life and death issue in this country: do not give up the freedom of the press, of newspapers, books, magazines, television, radios, movies, and every other form of presenting ideas. So long as that's free, a peaceful intellectual turn is possible."
She's 100% correct.
Credit to Wikipedia Commons for the images of Urban Blight, Salman Rushdie and Ayn Rand.