A cynic might look at the PEN American Center, an association of prominent writers and editors, giving its annual courage award for freedom of expression to Charlie Hebdo and conclude that victimhood has its rewards.
But the murder of 12 people at the Paris offices of the intentionally scandalous satirical weekly is far too heavy a price to pay for such accolades. Similarly, as the apparent first target in America of ISIS, or the Islamic State, anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative is utilizing international attention to champion its cause. Many see the group’s cartoon contest featuring the Prophet Muhammad as an incendiary provocation to taunt Islamic militants. In that sense it was successful; fortunately the two gunmen were killed before they could gain access to the Garland, Texas, event and take aim at some 200 attendees.
The Anti-Defamation League’s national director, Abraham Foxman, told The Jewish Week his organization condemned the terror attack in the strongest possible language, but added, “that does not diminish Pamela Geller’s offensiveness, or inoculate her against criticisms of her racism, bigotry and hatred” of Muslims.
One does not have to endorse Charlie Hebdo cartoons to champion free speech, and one does not have to risk public safety to call attention to its precious protection.