Attack on “hate speech” is an attack on the messenger

By Douglas J. Hagmann, Director


5 January 2008: Pictured above, Safaa IBRAHIM is the Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) - San Francisco Bay Area chapter in Santa Clara, California. Personally, I believe that she should also be yet another of CAIR’s poster children for advocating the repression of free speech when inconvenient facts get in the way of intellectual honesty.

At issue is a column written by Cinnamon Stillwell titled “Savage vs. CAIR: The battle over free speech” that appeared in SF Gate on December 19, 2007. In that column, Ms. Stillwell offered well documented evidence of CAIR’s pattern of strategic aggression and tactics against those who disagree with their ideology and objectives, citing the case of talk radio giant Michael Savage as the latest in a series of examples. Ms. Stillwell’s position was cogent, her arguments well defined, and her points both contemporary and relevant. Arguably, the facts she presented about the history and actions of CAIR could well be described as “best evidence” if her discourse was offered in a courtroom environment.

Enter Safaa IBRAHIM, who, in response to the December article, immediately launched a textbook-style assault against Ms. Stillwell by accusing her of propagating hatred through the defense of hate speech against a wide range of people, including “African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Muslims, Catholics, Jews, immigrants and women.”

I re-read Ms. Stillwell’s column and could find no validity to Ibrahim’s wild and unsubstantiated accusations. Then it suddenly occurred to me that I’ve seen this tactic used before, most effectively by the well-trained spokespeople of CAIR who march in lockstep to the same tune all across North America. If you cannot refute the uncomfortably factual evidence presented in a coherent manner, transform the argument into accusations of hate speech, and move the debate from one of facts to highly charged allegations of “hatemongering and Islamophobia.”

While Ms. Stillwell’s article focused on the case of Michael Savage, it naturally segued into salient truths about CAIR, all of which Ms. IBRAHIM apparently found troublesome, dismissing them as “recycled smears and distortions used by Stillwell to defame CAIR.” Instead of addressing the facts she describes as “distortions,” Ibrahim resorted to personally attacking Ms. Stillwell’s credibility as a columnist. In her factually-void, “would you like cheese with that whine” rant, IBRAHIM failed miserably at protecting the reputation of CAIR – a reputation that perhaps cannot be protected without assailing and attacking the messengers of truth, like Ms. Stillwell.

The article authored by Ms. Stillwell was well-researched and documented, while the response by Safaa IBRAHIM was devoid and barren. I cannot think of a better example of the transparent methods of transference of blame used by CAIR apologists than the article written by Safaa IBRAHIM. In a rather convoluted way, those who want to keep free speech truly free should thank Safaa IBRAHIM for displaying her lack of intellectual acuity in her published response to Ms. Stillwell.