By Brian Pellot
Police shot dead two gunmen who opened fire at Pamela Geller’s “Muhammad Art Exhibit” in Garland, Texas last night.
The news hit hard for three reasons:
- A security officer was needlessly shot and a town terrorized, ostensibly over art.
- The gunmen’s actions fit perfectly into Geller’s narrative of anti-Muslim hatred and will only strengthen support for her Islamophobic agenda.
- I’m questioning whether publishing or showcasing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad now constitutes direct incitement to imminent violence, and if so, what that might mean for freedom of expression.
Validating that third premise could render some depictions of Muhammad illegal in the U.S., context-depending. It might also imply that Pamela Geller brought this on herself and doesn’t merit our support or defense.
Ten years ago I would have scoffed at the notion that a cartoon could incite such violence. After this year’s bloody attacks in Paris, Copenhagen and Texas, I’m less cavalier.
If there’s reasonable assumption that a controversial display will prompt an attack, should authorities step in and shut it down? Should social taboos become legal prohibitions? Should portrayals of historical figures be banned?
No matter how I try to rationalize or justify these scenarios, I can’t bring myself to endorse them.
As much as I disagree with Geller’s tactics and politics, I can’t bring myself to blame her for this attack or to suggest that police should have canceled her event. The precedent of doing so would be far too dangerous for freedom of expression.
So where does that leave us?
It leaves me defending Geller’s legal right to have hosted this “art exhibit,” criticizing her relentless politics of hate, and condemning the gunmen who chose to display their dissent with violent attacks rather than peaceful protests.
Where does it leave you? In a free society, should the law bar us from poking hornets nests or force us to face the potential consequences of doing so? Click here to see the article on its original site http://brianpellot.religionnews.com/2015/05/04/pamela-geller-garland-texas-muhammad-cartoon-geert-wilders-charlie-hebdo-pen/