The Morning Joe crew scrapped whatever their previously planned schedule may have been to cover the events in Paris this morning. This included having Mika’s father, Zbigniew Brzezinski, provide some insight on how we should all be prepared to respond to the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The “perspective” in this case seems almost alien. The video will be at the bottom of this article and it starts about one minute in.
We have to be very measured in how we respond to this. The most important thing we have to do, in my judgement, is to avoid becoming the enemy number one of Islam, in the eyes of the believers around the world of Islam. I think we have to draw clear lines and be patient. And also we have to be responsible. We have to preserve our rights… that is to say our freedom of expression and the freedom to express our views, but we must avoid being provocative, unnecessarily nasty. Some forms of humor, for example, directed at the Prophet, in some publications in Europe, were extraordinarily provocative.
Their other guest goes on to nod his head sagely in agreement and ask Brzezinski if enough is being done in Europe to not be provocative and to “narrow that gap with those that are being marginalized.”
We are a multi-ethnic society and multi-religious society, so perhaps it’s a little easier for us. It’s engrained in us that this is a world of diversity. The European countries are, by and large, ethnically and religiously more or less homogeneous. So reactions tend to be more, kind of one sided. So I think the European leaders have more of a difficult time in dealing with these problems…
We are democracies and we have that freedom of expression, but it doesn’t do any harm to be measured, even in terms of humor. And to avoid engaging in forms of humor and sardonic whatever that then becomes offensive to the deepest religious motivations of people who are insecure, who are confronting modernity for the first time, who easily interpret slights into offensive, intolerable acts, and who can then be swept up by a fanatical movement.
This was said before in recent days, particularly by Michael Potemra over at National Review Online, but it bears repeating.
It risks sending a message of dangerous moral equivalence — one side is wrong in killing and making death threats; the other side is wrong to offend religious believers. We must keep clear in our minds the moral distinction here: All people have a right not to be murdered; nobody has a right not to be offended.
This is not to say that Brzezinski is directly apologizing for or forgiving the terrorists, since he takes pains to make sure he condemns the violence. But that message becomes completely muddled when you begin adding on the usual caveats we see here. It is simply unacceptable to say that there is some duty incumbent upon the West to avoid being provocative, unnecessarily nasty. That flies in the face of the principle which Potemra so clearly defines. No religion has a right to not be offended. One could argue that it is part of the historical definition of religions that they are always offended by practitioners of other faiths. The definition of civilization can be found in how a people respond to such offenses. Christians tend to stick with the somewhat boring (to the media) route of praying for the non-believers and turning the other cheek. When your response is to shoot up a deli, you have left the ballpark of acceptable civilized behavior.
I also have very little sympathy for Zbigniew’s assessment that these terrorists are confronting modernity for the first time and must therefore be coddled. This is not some lost tribe in the deepest Amazon who still think that the jet planes going overhead are the steel birds of the gods and attack some explorers because they’re afraid of your cell phone. There may be a few tribes deep in Afghanistan who almost qualify for such a description, but the people with the Kalashnikovs driving a black Audi are more than sufficiently indoctrinated into the modern era for us to demand civilized behavior out of them.
The video follows. I’m still shaking my head over it.