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Fiddling While Europe Burns By: Aaron Hanscom
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, October 23, 2006

"It has become politically correct to attack Islam, and this is making it hard for moderates on both sides to remain reasonable.” 

That’s the opinion of Imam Wahid Pedersen, a Danish convert to Islam, quoted this month in a New York Times article. 

Where has Pedersen been these past few years? The truth is that today any criticism of certain aspects of Islam -- whether coming from a documentary film, Danish cartoons, the Pope, or the former British foreign secretary -- results in seething Muslim rage and feeble Western obsequiousness. Indeed, contrary to the laments of sensitive Muslims, recent events have shown that it has actually become politically correct to celebrate Islam at every opportunity. 

There is no better time to celebrate than a holiday, which is why the CNV trade union federation in the Netherlands wants a Muslim feast to be introduced as a bank holiday.  The free day would allow Muslims to celebrate the end of Ramadan during the Sugar Festival. By “offer[ing] Muslims the freedom to practice their faith,” CNV vice chairman Rienk van Splunder wishes to “create freedom and respect for one another.” Van Splunder seems to be unaware that the Dutch government already funds schools, mosques, and community centers where Muslims are able to practice their religion. The main barrier to the harmony Van Splunder seeks comes from the fact that a great many of the one million Muslims in the Netherlands desire the freedom to live under Shari’a law.


Taking a cue from Dutch politicians like Piet Hein Donner, who has said that he sees no objection to undemocratic Shari’a law in the Netherlands provided it is imposed by “democratic means," the CNV apparently wants to speed up the process by creating a national Muslim holiday in the Christian nation. To make room for the Sugar Festival, the federation is willing to sacrifice Whit Monday or Easter Monday. Van Splunder may in fact have been correct when he said that these Christian holidays have lost their meaning in an increasingly secularized nation. But replacing them with the celebration of the Islamic month of fasting would be viewed by Muslims as nothing less than a complete rejection by the Dutch of their own traditions.


Spain is one county that knows a thing or two about sacrificing their traditions for the benefit of Muslims. The Spanish newspaper El Pais recently reported that several towns in the Valencia region have made some curious changes to their traditional festivals commemorating the liberation of Spain from more than 700 years of Muslim domination.  Apparently, last year’s angry response by Muslims to the publication of the Danish cartoons spooked some Spaniards so much that certain customs practiced during the celebration of the Reconquista have been abandoned.  Exploding Mohammeds -- made by packing the head of a wood-and-cardboard Mohammed dummy with fireworks -- will no longer be seen in the village of Bocairent. The mayor of Bocairent, Antonio Valdes, explained his reasoning: “It just wasn’t necessary, and as it could hurt some people’s feelings, we decided not to do it.”


The mayor’s sentiments are not uncommon.  Mayor Alfredo Sanchez Monteseirin of Seville has suppressed the festive character of the “Feast of San Fernando” because a joyful celebration of the reconquest of the city in 1248 by King Ferdinand III of Castille might upset Muslims.  Meanwhile, there has been opposition to the “Toma de Granada,” which celebrates the arrival of the Catholic Kings to the last Muslim holdout on the Iberian Peninsula.


The Spanish town of Badajoz has figured out a politically correct way for festivals to be a blast without actually blasting Mohammed dolls: celebrating its founding by Arab invaders.  At this year’s Al-Mossassa festival there was no suppression of traditions, perhaps because it featured veil dancing and not flamenco. 


Former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar talked about the newest double standard in a speech last month at the Hudson Institute: “It is interesting to note that while a lot of people in the world are asking the pope to apologize for his speech, I have never heard a Muslim say sorry for having conquered Spain and occupying it for eight centuries.”


Aznar might have added that the only apologies are coming from guilt-stricken individuals who believe that "Islamophobia" is the biggest threat to world peace. Explaining the genesis of the “Venise et l’Orient” festival now running in Venice, organizer Marie George Nida told Islam.net: “The exhibition highlights cross-fertilization between the West and Islam to counter war mongering clichés that now make international headlines.” Nida’s premise is flawed: International headlines tell of countries like Italy continuing to arrest Islamic terrorists intent on attacking the West.  An Italian city deciding to host an exhibition celebrating Islamic contributions to Western civilization and arts isn’t likely to change any holy warrior’s mind.


The real malleable minds are those of young children, which makes a story out of Nyssa, Oregon, so disturbing. A local school district has been teaching the “five pillars” of Islam and having students learn Muslim prayers and dress as Muslims. Concerned parent Kendalee Garner told WorldNetDaily.com that her 13-year-old-son is being “indoctrinated that Islam is a religion of peace, and being dressed up as a Muslim, being taught prayers, and scriptures out of the Quran.”  Superintendent Don Grotting assured parents that students were learning about the “contributions to math, science, medicine, and the arts by the Muslim population."


But it is the automatic celebration of all aspects of Islam that is so disturbing. Honest assessments of Islam, especially from Muslims and their Western apologists, are what will bring about a much-needed reformation in Islam.  Until that day, the gulf between the West and the Muslim world will only widen. 


Nowhere is this more evident than in Britain. The British government has long tried to win favor with Muslim minorities by celebrating their differences.  According to the London Telegraph, multicultural favors like using tax dollars to fly Muslim scholars to Britain and encouraging financial institutions to comply with Islamic requirements are only deepening the rift.  A document released by the Church of England revealed the effects of such policies:

Indeed, one might argue that disaffection and separation is now greater than ever, with Muslim communities withdrawing further into a sense of victimhood, and other faith communities seriously concerned that the Government has given signals that appear to encourage the notion of a privileged relationship with sections of the Muslim community.

Here is the uncomfortable truth facing Islam’s Western apologists: Politically correct concessions to the Islamic community, instead of encouraging moderates, have only empowered the extremists.

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Aaron Hanscom is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

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