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In “Wilder’s Defense of Free Speech,” Andrew Bostom finds literary and historical precedence in the European attempt to censor Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilder for FITNA, a film critical of Islam.

Bostom calls our attention to Beaumarchais’ Marriage of Figaro , written at the close of the eighteenth century. A monologue in Act V, Scene 3 has this to say about Islam and freedom of speech:

I cobble together a verse comedy about the customs of the harem, assuming that, as a Spanish writer, I can say what I like about Mohammed without drawing hostile fire. Next thing, some envoy from God knows where turns up and complains that in my play I have offended the Ottoman empire, Persia, a large slice of the Indian peninsula, the whole of Egypt, and the kingdoms of Barca [Ethiopia], Tripoli, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. And so my play sinks without trace, all to placate a bunch of Muslim princes, not one of whom, as far as I know, can read but who beat the living daylights out of us and say we are “Christian dogs.” Since they can’t stop a man thinking, they take it out on his hide instead.

As the great moral philosopher Yogi Berra put it, ” It’s deja vu all over again.”



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