Along with his oft-mentioned love of Broadway shows and great songs, Mark Steyn is the best observer of the dramatic change Islam has made in Europe. As Steyn has written, the old guard in Europe only knows how to use their freedoms, not to fight for or defend them. It began long before Fleming Rose commissioned drawings of Muhammad as editor of Jyllands-Posten in September 2005.
Rose believed there were increasing examples of self-censorship in Europe because of possible violent threats from Muslim groups. Eventually, it was the experience of a Danish writer of children’s books, Kåre Bluitgen, who couldn’t find illustrators for a book about the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Jyllands-Posten asked illustrators to depict Muhammad "as you see him." Among the cartoons submitted, there were two which caricatured the writer, Bluitgen, one that made a laugh of Jyllands-Posten itself, caricatures of Danish politicians and one which depicted Muhammad with a bomb in his turban.
The text supporting the publishing of the 12 cartoons Rose wrote: "The modern, secular society is rejected by some Muslims. They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule." I remember talking to Mr. Rose at the height of the controversy in February 2006 and he was in hiding, afraid for the lives of his wife and children amid the violent protests 6 months after the cartoons were published. At the time of the publication, there was one letter in protest to the newspaper, but in mosques around the world, anger was being whipped up over these cartoons.
Political correctness ran amok this week again in Europe. A short film, “Fitna,” was released on the web. Fitna a 15 minute film and its title is Arabic for strife. It points out to a secular Europe what a religious war looks like. The film was made by Dutch legislator Geert Wilders. There were negotiations to show the film on Dutch television, but those negotiations fell through, so Mr. Wilders posted the film on the internet. Within hours the original site that posted the film, LiveLeak — a British video sharing site — pulled the video due to serious threats of violence to its staff.
I watched “Fitna” on the Little Green Footballs blogsite and it was no worse than the videos that we have seen on news reports and have been released by Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. In fact, it contains a lot of uncontroversial video from the 9-11 attacks, the bombings in London and in Spain and videos of radical Muslim imams preaching violence. It seemed to show the world what we can’t accept — Islamofacists have declared war on the non-Muslim world and we have to decide if we are going to continue fighting back or bend to political correctness and retreat.
Europe was an easy target with its democratic socialist, “post modern” way of life and multiculturalism. Initially the influx of Muslims looked as if they were bringing structure into a society living on the public dole and they were extended tolerance, but as their numbers grow, they are exerting in some communities intolerance for anything but their own beliefs.
Even the Netherlands Central Jewish Board fell prey to the fear of reprisals from the Muslim community and called the film “counterproductive.” Dr. Ronny Naftainiel of the Hague-based Center for Information and Documentation on Israel said that while the anti-Semitic material Wilders compiled “demonstrates some Muslims have terrible ideas about Jews,” the way Fitna portrays reality serves to “polarize Dutch society.”
The Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he was "proud" of Dutch Muslims for their peaceful reaction to the film. Balkenende seems to accept as the norm that they would take to the streets over a fifteen minute film or some cartoons but when their brethren behead Nick Berg or string up the dismembered and charred bodies of contractors in Iraq no one is expected to protest.
The Dutch Parliament is due to discuss “Fitna” this week. The government feared religious riots if the footage was deemed offensive, but the umbrella group for Dutch Muslims said that the film does not insult their religion. But as the news spreads throughout the world, this “moderate” group will be ignored.
In Iran, the Dutch envoy was summoned to be scolded about “Fitna.” The Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen published an article in the Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, calling on people "to keep their heads cool and relations warm." He also underlined the need for dialogue to explain that freedom of speech and religion are human rights enshrined in the Dutch constitution.
In the United States, Bill Keller, one of the world’s leading internet evangelists and the founder of LivePrayer.com, has received death threats for posting the movie on his website.
As Mark Steyn discussed at length in his book, “American Alone,” Europe may be lost because of bowing to pressure, but American cannot. We are the last best hope for mankind.
It is ironic this is blowing up at the same time another anti-war movie about Iraq, “Stop-Loss” is tanking at the box office. It seems that the free market knows what good film is and what is not. Maybe that is what the Islamofacists are afraid of — moderate Muslims will see this film and say, “that’s not me” and do something about it, and the rest of the world will understand this is a fight for our very civilization and the freedoms that we have fought for over the last 232 years.
It is also worth noting it is the secular world was hit first. As Europe became less religious and more “tolerant,” it opened the door for a radical faith to invade and take advantage of those freedoms in order to take them away.
I expect there will be more protests regarding this movie. In the days I have been working on this column the news of protest has gone from Europe, to Iran, Australia and Singapore. Hang on; this issue not going away quietly.