Today, radical Islamism is a major driving force behind such extreme forms of speech suppression. The Charlie Hebdo massacre is a stark reminder of this reality; so is the horrific punishment meted out in Saudi Arabia to Raif Badawi, a liberal blogger sentenced to prison and repeated floggings for insulting Islam. One would think that any advocate of civil liberties would be concerned about this danger. But to Greenwald, all concerns about radical Islamism are merely a smokescreen for the West’s alleged relentless war on Muslims.
And there is another telling detail. At one point, Greenwald correctly asserts that Muslim extremists have no monopoly on violent responses to offenses against religious sensibilities. As evidence, he cites a couple of cancellations—one of them promptly reversed—of American productions Terrence McNally’s play about a gay Jesus, “Corpus Christi,” because of bomb threats. Yet there is a far stronger example: Vladimir Putin’s Russia, where three young women from the Pussy Riot punk activist group were jailed in 2012 for a protest performance in a church. What’s more, in recent years, violence by Russian Orthodox vigilantes—from vandalism of “blasphemous” art to beatings of gays and assaults on Pussy Riot supporters—has been occurring with disturbing frequency and impunity. While none of this even comes close to the level of religious repression in Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Pakistan, it is still a stark example of state-sanctioned faith-based coercion under the color of Christianity.
But this goes unmentioned by Greenwald, who in the past has whitewashed the Kremlin’s suppression of dissent in the Russian media. Apparently, it’s strictly “see no evil” when it comes to anti-American movements or anti-American regimes.