The closer the voice to officialdom, the louder the call for self-censorship in publishing about Islam. The call for self-censorship comes in various disguises, such as requests for media responsibility and for media not to be deliberately provocative or offensive. Hugh Hewitt, who is (do I recall correctly?) thinking about running for elected office, and sounding more and more like an official party man, argues that deliberately provocative publication of the cartoons aids our enemy in the war on terror, because it causes discomfort to our Islamic allies, such as Jordan. He suggests that publishing the cartoons puts a newspaper in the same camp, or near it, anyway, as the New York Times in revealing the top secret NSA terrorist surveillance program.
The call for self-censorship is based in part on a misunderstanding of the religion of Mohammed. Mohammedanism is, in doctrinal terms, a totalitarian religion. The notion that there is a moderate Islamic religious party (who are put on the defensive in their societies by the cartoon publication) is not based on the existence of a large body of intellectually moderate religous creed. It is, rather, predicated largely on the idea that there is a large group of Muslims who don't care enough about being Islamic to toe the party line or who have become partially secular. If the Muslim countries were free democracies with free religious expression, tolerance for anti-religious parties, and free political expression, it might make sense to appeal to a large segment of Islamic slackers, so to speak, since they might politically organize themselves in order to protect their desire not to have to follow Islamic law all the way. But there are no such free societies, with the exception of Turkey, perhaps. President Bush is trying to move Islamic countries toward more democracy, but obviously he has a long way to go.
So it is an empty gesture to self-censor, to withhold publication of "offensive" satirical or anti-Muslim or anti-Mohammed materials. In the absense of organized genuine Islamic moderation inside Muslim countries, organized Islamic fundamentalism is in a position to object to anything it wants to. It could object to nonreligious school uniforms for school children, to permitting women to eat with men in public, to selling alcoholic beverages, and so on. And it will. Islamic fundamentalism will object to anything and everything that is not in accordance with strict sharia, suing in Western courts, pressing for restrictive legislation, holding demonstrations in big cities, and murdering individuals, as long as it can get away with it. Because it is a totalitarian religion, it has a lot it can object to, and a lot it must object to in order to maintain itself as a religion of total governance of individual and social life.
The only way to stop the wild, violent, Muslim demonstrations against what they are offended about is not to give into their objections and demonstrations. Giving in encourages them. Not giving in would help the war on terror, because it would encourage "moderate" Muslims, in the West and in the Islamic countries which are nominally our allies, to believe that the West will stand up to Islamic totalitarianism. It would encourage the belief, which we should honor, that we could assist them in the name of democracy to organize themselves as a distinct party inside their national societies.
The corollary of this wisdom is that Western self-censorship and giving into the Islamic totalitarians will assist our enemies and weaken our own position in the war on terror. A better strategy is to practice free discussion about Islam, including deliberately provoking the Muslims, which is what we do to our politial adversaries; then, don't give into their protests. Do this often enough and the organized fundamentalist Islamists will get the idea that they can't convince us or bully us or badger us to relinguish our own freedoms. The calls for self-censorship must be ignored. Our official leaders need to wise up.