Is the biggest issue
in the cartoon controversy free expression, sensitivity or fear?
One vote here for none of the above. The key question may be this:
Are Muslims in Europe going to live by the rules of the West,
or by the rules of Islam?
Every now and then,
a European nation decides to put its foot down, banning headscarves
in French schools, expelling some jihadist imams in three nations,
and deporting Muslim illegals as the Netherlands did after two
high-profile murders that shocked the nation. But on the whole,
Europe has chosen weakness and backpedaling.
A British judge agreed
to bar Jews and Hindus from the jury at the trial of a Muslim.
Sheikh Qaradawi was welcomed in London, despite his call for the
murder of homosexuals and the fact that he himself was wanted
for murder in Egypt. King Ferdinand III, who fought to win Spain's
independence from the Moors, was removed as patron saint of the
annual fiesta in Seville out of deference to Muslim feelings.
The Dutch Language
Union decreed that the word Christ would now be spelled with a
lowercase "c," starting in August. Crucifixes are disappearing
from hospitals, and some Muslims are demanding that statues of
Dante be removed, because the poet's "Divine Comedy"
placed Muhammad in hell. A government office in Britain banned
Winnie the Pooh, piggy banks and other images of pigs so Muslims
wouldn't have to see them -- a small but galling example of Europe's
unwillingness to live by its own standards.
In France, more than
10,000 cars were torched in 2005, mostly, it appears, by young
Muslims. Ho-hum. In the post-cartoon demonstrations in Britain,
police ignored the signs saying "Exterminate those who mock
Islam" and "Be prepared for the real holocaust,"
but quickly arrested two counterprotesters carrying posters with
images of Muhammad. In the first cartoon riots in Denmark last
September, Danish police were warned to stay out of Muslim neighborhoods.
As one Muslim said, "This is our area. We rule this place."
Europe is facing more
opportunities to back down. Muslim fathers in Linz, Austria, are
demanding that all female teachers, whether Muslim or not, be
required to wear headscarves in school. The Muslim Council of
Britain, which justifies Palestinian suicide bombers, wants Holocaust
Much of the Muslim
assertiveness is an outgrowth of Europe's disastrous love affair
with multiculturalism. In theory, immigrants were to be encouraged
to maintain their own identity and traditions in exchange for
accepting Europe's system of shared values. In practice, it has
mostly been a plan for hands-off separatism and resistance to
financial help in building schools and places of worship, and
encourage the importing of imams from Arab countries, many of
them predictably haters of the West. Raed Hlayhel, an imam in
Denmark, for instance, was part of an entourage that toured the
Middle East, building rage over the cartoons. He and the other
imams took along several fabricated cartoons, one showing Muhammad
as a pedophile and another depicting him having sex with a dog.
Shouldn't these provocations earn each of these imams a one-way
trip back to the Middle East?
As historian Fred
Siegel of New York's Cooper Union points out, many of the imams
have taken a page out of Yasser Arafat's book, speaking tolerantly
in Europe, but calling for blood when on the Arab media. He says
Muslim spokesman know how to game Western liberalism, demanding
free speech when they deny the Holocaust, then dropping the free-speech
argument and arguing that anti-Muslim criticisms and cartoons
should be censored on grounds of multicultural sensitivity.
Europe has a hard
decision on what to do with the so-called "conveyor-belt"
Islamist groups that do not commit terrorism themselves, but recruit
and indoctrinate young males, then turn them over to terrorist
groups. One of them, Hizb ut-Tahrir, active in Denmark and more
than 40 other countries, played an incendiary role in the cartoon
controversy. "By combining fascist rhetoric, Leninist strategy
and Western sloganeering with Wahhabi theology, Hizb ut-Tahrir
has made itself into a very real and potent threat that is extremely
difficulty for liberal societies to counter," Zeyno Baran
of Washington's Nixon Center wrote in Foreign Affairs.
The conveyor belts
are designed to take advantage of the West's protections of free
speech and civil liberties. But they are dangerous parts of the
broader terrorist operation. Germany banned Hizb ut-Tahrir. Other
nations should too. If the West doesn't stop the spread of Islamic
radicalism, the danger will soon be far graver than it is now.
2006 John Leo
by Universal Press Syndicate