Open Letter to Mehdi Hassan in response to his letter to “Free Speech Fundamentalists” in the Huffington Post









Dear Mehdi,

I am not Islamophobic.  I am also not a liberal pundit.  I am however a Jewish American Zionist who is opposed to any extremism that leads to violence against innocents.  Although I know you are not Jewish and would guess there is a better than fair chance that you are not a Zionist,  if I am to take you on your word in this letter, you are opposed to extremist violence against innocents. However, unfortunately like too many other decent Muslims, I believe you are missing a crucial point in your argument.  The concerns you have revolve around circumstances created by fellow Muslims, not the liberal hypocrites you feel the need to attack in your letter.


I think there are those who are standing up and screaming for free speech that are indeed hypocrites.  I do not however feel that they are the problem, nor do I believe that you are utilizing your time in the best manner possible by using this moment to expose their flaws.  This letter you wrote is the first thing I have ever seen written by you.  I do not know how much time you have spent on the more critical aspects of the global crisis we find ourselves in today.  I accept and appreciate how devastated you were personally by the awful acts of terrorism in Paris.  It is for this reason that I write to you with a degree of respect.  However, I believe it is critical for you to understand Mehdi, that the entire narrative is generated by the vicious behavior of more than a few Muslims.  And what I hope you realize, is that my making that statement does not make me Islamophobic.  I would be happy to meet you, shake your hand, have a drink or lunch and have a nice conversation.  I would look at it no differently than getting together with anyone else for the first time.  You being a Muslim does not make me see you automatically as a threat  or a problem.  That would make me Islamophobic.  Being honest about the reality of our world today, albeit harsh, does not.

How does this connect to your issues with what you call the Free Speech fundamentalists?  Unfortunately it is very simple and very basic.  They are not murdering anyone.  They are not trying to stop people’s activities at all costs regardless of the carnage or loss of human life. I’ve seen very little of the product to come out of Charlie Hebdo. Why? Because it is irrelevant in what should be the discussion today?  If I were to play devil’s advocate and say the creators of the product produced by Charlie Hebdo were and are offensive and disgusting, that would be a very minor infraction compared to murder.  Making offensive cartoons is not a crime punishable by death.  As you know and have stated.

You are fed up?  So am I. I am fed up by those who believe that a proponent of free speech who verbally attacks those whose viewpoints they despise are considered to be against free speech themselves.  That is hogwash.  I write Open Letters, many a lot harsher than this one, all the time.  Sometimes I am insulting, demeaning, and even downright nasty.  But I have never threatened one person with physical harm nor do I ever encourage or belong to any organization that does encourage physical harm, even to those I know hate me just for being Jewish.  Instead I exercise my free speech to expose them for what they are, and do my best to help encourage a verbal process that makes them shut up.  But let’s be honest Mehdi, there is a lot more chance of this letter generating a threat against my safety than there is of your letter generating one against yours.

All actions have consequences and words have responses.  If I attempt to drown your words either through my words or a process, I am not opposing free speech.  Instead I am using my free speech to battle you in the appropriate and civilized manner.  As I know you to believe as well, violence is neither an appropriate nor civilized manner in which to silence someone and someone who holds that same opinion is not a hypocrite just because in their expression of their free speech they say something we find ignorant or abhorrent. It just gives us the opportunity to oppose them in the same manner. Unless what they say promotes violence, in which case I think we would both agree they are not on our level.

Some of your points I believe to be valid and some points I disagree with vehemently, but I only truly take issue with what I consider is your moving the narrative in a wrong direction, and for that reason I hope you reconsider your approach.


David Groen





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