According to the Associated Press, Borders and Waldenbooks won’t stock the April-May issue of Free Inquiry, because it republishes several of the cartoons that had Muslim extremists all in a tizzy a few months ago.
The Associated Press quotes Borders Group Inc. spokeswoman Beth Bingham as saying,
For us, the safety and security of our customers and employees is a top priority, and we believe that carrying this issue could challenge that priority.
It is nice for Bingham to give every nutcase cause out there an open invitation — just make a few violent threats, and Borders will pull any offending material.
The odd thing is that Free Inquiry regularly contains articles that large numbers of people would find offensive to their faiths. Hell, I’m an atheist and I can usually find one or two things to be offended at in any given issue of Free Inquiry.
The difference, of course, is that the Christian creationists — to whom most of the April-May issue is devoted to debunking — won’t threaten to kill Paul Kurtz if he doesn’t shut the hell up. Most likely they’ll write boring letters that, like the original magazine itself, almost no one will actually read.
Borders and Waldenbooks decision not to carry this issue is especially delicious in light of an article by Ibn Warraq that apparently accompanies the cartoons. Warraq notes that ever since the Enlightenment, Western scholarship has engaged in a relentless critique of received wisdom and a wholesale intellectual assault on non-secular sources of knowledge. But, he writes, Islam has been largely given a free pass in that endeavor,
QurÂ’anic criticism, on the other hand, has lagged far behind. But surely, Muslims and non-Muslims have the right to critically examine the sources, the history, and dogma of Islam. The right to criticize is a right of which Muslims avail themselves in their frequent denunciations of Western culture, in terms that would have been deemed racist, neocolonialist, or imperialist had they been directed against Islam by a European. Without criticism, Islam will remain unassailed in its dogmatic, fanatical, medieval fortress: ossified, totalitarian, and intolerant. It will continue to stifle thought, human rights, individuality, originality, and truth.
Western intellectuals and Islamologists have totally failed in their duties as intellectuals. They have betrayed their calling by abandoning their critical faculties when it comes to Islam. Some Islamologists have themselves noticed this appalling trend in their colleagues. Karl Binswanger has remarked on the “dogmatic Islamophilia” of most Arabists. Jacques Ellul complained in 1983 that “in France it is no longer acceptable to criticise Islam or the Arab countries.” As early as 1968, Maxime Rodinson had written, “An historian like Norman Daniel has gone so far as to number among the conceptions permeated with medievalism or imperialism, any criticisms of the ProphetÂ’s moral attitudes and to accuse of like tendencies any exposition of Islam and its characteristics by means of the normal mechanisms of human history. Understanding has given way to apologetics pure and simple.”
Borders, Waldenbooks Won’t Carry Magazine. Carolyn Thompson, Associated Press, March 29, 2006.