Recently, Salman Rushdie did not attend a literature festival in India after Indian authorities warned him he was a potential target of assassins, and after numerous protests by various Islamist groups. This is not the first time that Mr. Rushdie found himself at odds with Islamists over his free speech. In 1988, he published his book The Satanic Verses, whose “blasphemous writings” first resulted in death threats to Mr. Rushdie from Islamists — including a fatwa against him by Ayatollah Khomeini — and first alerted the world to the problems Islamists had with free speech concerning Islam-related topics.
After initially trying to apologize to appease his Islamist censors, Rushdie was forced to go underground under protective detail. In 2012, almost a quarter of a century from when he first found himself enmeshed in the struggle for free speech, Mr. Rushdie faced a similar threat and once again was forced to back down.
Unfortunately, the Rushdie example is all too representative of how things are going in the Western struggle to protect speech from Islamist thugs. In other words, not well. Things are probably getting worse.
Back in 1989, most in the Western world were still shocked by the threat against Rushdie, and after some hemming and hawing eventually came out in support of his right to say what he wanted to say about his own, lapsed religion. Today, virtually no one seems to notice or care when Rushdie is once again threatened for his speech. That is because today, Islamist death threats made against persons who speak about Islam-related topics are so commonplace (recall South Park, Charlie Hebdo, and David Letterman). The world is so accustomed to placing the blame on the speakers that there really isn’t much to get indignant about.