All across the Muslim world, protests are being staged, and I openly encourage them to exercise that right.
Go out and protest! Go and chant in the streets! Burn American flags and effigies of Obama! Holler “DEATH TO THE USA” at the top of your voice until your lungs run dry.
But do not - and I urge this strongly - open fire with a submachine gun on a KFC restaurant, or strap a bomb to your chest in an act of disgraceful suicide-murder, or kill American diplomats with little disregard for the implications, and do not firebomb the offices of newspapers that don’t share your worldview.
Shall I go on? Because I can.
Do not murder filmmakers with knives, or provide a financial reward for the death of a novelist, and do not run translators down in the street over a book you will never read. Do not extradite, without due process, bloggers and journalists to nations that hold apostasy as punishable by death, and do not torch embassies, whether they are on your sovereign territory or not.
Of course, the irony is painful and obvious: protest on the scale seen across the Middle East currently would never be allowed against the government or the powers-that-be. These same governments will no doubt stand aside when violent offenders ought to be caught and charged.
Islam is the binding factor here, and is fast becoming a threatening catalyst for more violent action. Sydney’s Islamic leaders are setting a fantastic standard in quelling anger (their New Zealand counterparts too), and their example should be repeated.
While we must protect every man’s right to protest and voice his opinions, we must repel and condemn any acts of violence with equal conviction.
But, universally and ultimately, what is true for the recently-liberated everyman in Libya, is also true for me here in Auckland, as a writer with a reasonably visible platform, who insists on attacking the actions of those in positions of influence or power (see here, here, here, here, and here).
Would I consider ever refraining from an attack? Possibly – if life or limb were at risk for no ostensible purpose, but certainly not because feelings were bound to be hurt. But I must stress, time and time again, it is not my responsibility if someone is harmed.
This may seem callous on the surface, but it’s a fundamental principle of responsibility, as the editor of a French newspaper said this week: "It is like saying a woman who has been raped is to blame because she wore a mini-skirt," he said."We are provocateurs, we are wearing a mini-skirt. But who is guilty: the person in the mini-skirt or the rapist?"
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