The last few extraordinary weeks have produced three clarifying developments in the conflict between the West and Islamism. The victory of the terrorist group Hamas in the Palestinian elections, and the Iranian Mullahs’ increasingly open efforts at creating nuclear weapons are nearly self-explanatory in their significance. The third, the angry and sometimes violent protests in Europe and the Middle East against the European publication of cartoons depicting Mohammed, demands an explanation. But what all three have in common, in the words of a radical imam based in Norway, is that they signal that a war has begun. Europe’s very future may hinge on the outcome of the Danish Cartoon Affair.
The furor first began in September of 2005 when the center-right Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran 12 cartoons – one depicted Mohammed with a bomb as his turban – prompting angry demonstrations and small scale rioting that was overshadowed by the Ramadan riots in France.
The European Union has been outspoken in its criticism of how the US treats terror suspects at Guantanamo, but then the Europeans can afford to be absolutist on this since they know they won’t face riots and death threats from angry Americans. When it comes to Danes – and the cartoonists are in hiding because of death threats, the European Union response has been to grant the Muslim extremists a rioters’ veto by calling on newspapers to censor themselves.
The European political class has been nearly unanimous in insisting that freedom of the press has to be sacrificed in the name Europe’s close but dysfunctional relationship with the Arab and Islamic worlds. If as seems likely either Islam becomes Europeanized or Europe becomes Islamized, the European reaction to date suggests that the latter seems more likely.
To read the New York Times or listen to intimidated European politicians you might think that the current angry demonstrations calling for death to the cartoonists were spontaneous eruption of anger. The demonstration in reaction to the cartoons in September of last year may have been spontaneous. But the campaign in the last two weeks to bully tiny Denmark has been funded by the Saudis and other Arab governments.
Raed Hlayhel, an imam who lives in Denmark, was part of an entourage of clerics that toured the Middle East to gin up the anti-Danish campaign. It appears that in addition to the 12 cartoon that ran in the Jyllands-Posten, Hlayhel and other imams fabricated several additional cartoons including one that depicted Mohammed as a pedophile and another showing him having sex with a dog. These additional cartoons seemed to be what spurred the current well-organized rage.
The Danish embassy in Damascus was attacked, in Beirut it was been burned to the ground. In Londonistan deranged protesters carried posters reading: EXTERMINATE THOSE WHO MOCK ISLAM and BE PREPARED FOR THE REAL HOLOCAUST. The British police acting at the behest of Tony Blair stood back amidst the calls for violence. But they sprung into action in order to arrest two counter-protesters bearing posters with the image of Mohammed. Self-censorship seems to be Europe’s future.
When the earlier riots took place, the Danish police were told to stay out of Muslim neighborhoods because in the words of one rioter, “This is our area. We decide what goes down here.” Now the Arab governments are telling Danes that “what goes down” in their press will also be decided by Islamic standards.
For his part, the courageous Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has refused to apologize for a free press. He’s tried to reason with the touring imams. But he discovered that they have taken a page out of Yasser Arafat’s playbook. They spoke in English of reconciliation, but in the Arab media they called for blood.
Why have so many Europeans submitted this kind of blackmail? Anti-Americanism is part of the answer. Like the Arab world, Europe is deeply resentful of American power. In order to counter balance the United States and increase their dwindling welfare state populations, Europeans have, ever since the oil shock of 1973, entered into a close relationship with the Arab world. The so called Euro-Arab dialogue produces regular meetings designed, in principle, to bring modernity to the Arab world while easing the way for Arab immigrants to be integrated into Europe. In practice, as in the case of the Danish cartoon affair, the Arab world has been little modernized, but it has successfully exported its hatreds and world-view to Europe.
Europe may have given up on imperialism, but the same can’t be said for the Islamic world. The report on the 2003 “Dialogue between Peoples and Cultures in the Euro-Mediterranean Area," bears a striking cover that sums up the Arab view of their relationship with Europe. It’s a medieval Arab map of an upside-down Europe at the feet of a commanding Arab North Africa.
The Arab world understands Europe’s weaknesses far better than the other way around. Criticism of Islamism is usually described by Muslim spokesmen as “racist” as if religious ideology was a biological given. Even more important, they have learned how to game Western liberalism. When Muslim spokesmen deny the Holocaust, they defend themselves on the grounds that they are only exercising their free speech rights. When they insist that images offensive to Muslims should be barred, they drop the free speech bit and argue on the grounds of multi-cultural sensitivity. The latter argument received strong backing from most of the European left which, looking upon Muslims as the new proletariat, insists that Islamophobia, not Islamofascism, is the great issue of the day.
None of this should be unfamiliar to Americans who’ve seen the same game play out on American college campuses. But what’s happening in Europe is campus political correctness enforced by violence and the threat of war.
The Islamists insist that Europeans must desist from criticizing Islamism because that will only alienate the moderates – a game anyone who remembers the Black Power movement will be familiar with. But, one of the biggest losers in this game is moderate Muslims in Denmark who are afraid of being squeezed between zealots on one side and a right-wing backlash on the other. They have urged Prime Minister Rasmussen not to give in. But if European governments can’t stand up to extremism, how can moderate Muslims?
Like the Czechs of the 1930s, the Danes of today have become a bellwether of Europe’s willingness to confront thuggery. Will Europe once again fail the test? At least the lines have now been draw so clearly that only fools, knaves, cowards, Eurocrats and appeasers can now deny the obvious.
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