(published on The New Yorker Web site)
By David K. Shipler
The winning cartoon in the contest to draw the Prophet Muhammad, early this month in Garland, Texas, which two gunmen attacked, depicts a fierce Prophet waving a scimitar and saying, “You can’t draw me!” The artist, whose hand and pencil are visible, replies from outside the frame, “That’s why I draw you.”
And so the principle of free speech confronted American society’s unwritten code of restraint on contemptuous stereotyping. . . Freedom of expression suddenly looked like two overlays on a map, the legal landscape and the cultural landscape, each with its own boundaries. . . .
Virtually all the alarm over the coming Islamic takeover and the spread of Sharia law can be traced back to an old document of questionable authority and relevance, “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America.” Dated May 22, 1991, it was found in 2004 by the F.B.I., buried in one of a large number of boxes uncovered during a search of a house in northern Virginia.