Broward News

In Iran, the Courage of Muslim Moderates

I hope the people behind the April 27 Free Speech Summit in Boca Raton were watching this weekend's protests in Tehran. Being free with speech in that Iranian city means risking a police baton to the chops, or worse. These were Muslims -- thousands upon thousands of them -- bravely opposing a hard-line fundamentalist regime, despite their "Supreme Leader" having declared the presidential election to be fair and blessed by God.

If all the followers of Islam are extremists who hate the West and follow their religious leaders blindly, as the Free Speech Summit's keynote speaker, Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders, has said, then why did all of these Muslims react with such outrage?

Clearly, it's because that insulting premise is flawed. A great many Muslim people recognize when they're being manipulated, and this weekend proved they'll risk their lives for democratic principles.

I understand that the election of Mir Hossein Mousavi may not have changed Iran's nuclear ambitions and that ultimately the Supreme Leader calls the shots. But Mousavi's campaign stressed a more conciliatory tone with the West. More freedom of speech, expansion of freedom for Iranian women. The eagerness with which Iranians responded to his message is an indication that the citizens are independent thinkers not fooled by the propaganda of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Nations like Iran don't need to be invaded to learn the wonders of a free society. Rather, the small favor that Americans can do for people from these cultures is to make them feel welcome here, which is why the paranoia expressed by Delray Beach State Rep. Adam Hasner toward Muslim Americans is so disappointing. Hasner, who legitimized the summit with his appearance there, has still not bothered to distance himself from Wilders, who once called Islam the "ideology of a retarded culture."

That slur is free speech, and one must admit, grudgingly, that it deserves protection in a free society. But it's of a far lower quality than the speech that is being suppressed today in the streets of Tehran, which is why this week makes bad timing for the summit's organizers, Florida Security Council, to file its lawsuit against the Delray Beach Marriott, which apparently canceled the scheduled summit, forcing organizers to change locations. When it comes to abridging free speech, canceled hotel reservations score on the mild end of the spectrum compared with what's happening in Iran.

After the jump, Tom Trento, a reluctant reader of the Juice, warns of the litigation to come.

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Thomas Francis