Mona Eltahawy was arrested after spray painting a New York City subway ad. In the process, another woman put herself between Eltahawy (pictured on left in clip from Toronto Star website) and the ad in an attempt to prevent Eltahawy from defacing the poster. All of which led to a heated confrontation and culminated in Eltahawy being led away in handcuffs by police.
Mona Eltahawy is an Egyptian-born journalist and commentator based in New York City. She became an American citizen in 2011. As she was being arrested, she said, “This is non-violent protest, see this America? I’m an Egyptian-American and I refuse hate.”
So what was the fuss about? According to the Toronto Star:
The ads—reading, ‘In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.’—went up in 10 subway stations across Manhattan after a court victory by a conservative commentator who once headed a campaign against an Islamic centre near the World Trade Center site.”
Really, that’s all it took to rile this self-professed activist to the point of committing criminal mischief, a misdemeanour for which she now stands charged.
Firstly, it is shocking that a journalist of all people would believe defacing private property—as she was seen doing here—could be her right under U.S. First amendment. She said she was exercising her right to free speech and free expression.
Secondly, she referred to the ad as “hate and racism.” But is it?
Given the modern meaning of Jihad and how it is used in day-to-day speech across the U.S., does it really rise to hate speech when that word is equated to savagery? And, given that Jihad is most commonly used in connection to a religion, how it it racist?
Yet here is one example of her defence (click here to see Eltahawy’s Twitter feed):
I believe Ms. Eltahawy is completely wrong on this score. Her actions were those of a common street vandal and she deserves to have been arrested and charged. She is, in effect, trying to justify her unrestrained anger and trying to make something noble of it.
In a recent column, Andrew Coyne of the National Post pointed out that taking offense is a choice …
Like any other choice, however, it is bounded by constraints. A civil society, it is often forgotten, imposes mutual obligations on its members: not to give offense needlessly, and not to take offense lightly. But I would go further: not merely to ask whether taking offense is reasonable in the circumstances, but whether it is reasonable at all.”
And he adds,
To be offended by something—not to disagree with it, or dismiss it, or object to it, but to be borne aloft on a wave of indignation—is simply a form of self-indulgence.”
I will argue that there is an excellent case to be made that many acts of modern Jihadists are indeed savage and can be labeled as such without fear that one can reasonably and justifiably be accused of hate or racism.