TWO WEEKS AGO, Judge Simon Cardon de Lichtbuer of the Brussels civil court ruled that he lacked authority to overturn a decision by the city's mayor, Freddy Thielemans, to ban a demonstration planned for September 11 under the slogan of 'Stop the Islamization of Europe.' The rally had been called to protest what its British, Danish and German organizers call the "creeping" Islamization of European society.
Provocative in their assertion of Islam's incompatibility with democracy, the rally organizers nonetheless would have been violating no known law. Yet Thielemans (who had approved a September 9 rally by a group of conspiracy theorists who claim that the September 11 attacks were orchestrated by the Bush administration) neither liked them nor the possibility of a violent reaction from what he termed "Muslims," "peace activists" and "democrats."
This is but the latest manifestation of a disturbing European malaise--preemptive cringe before the threat of violence from Muslim extremists. It is no secret that Muslim extremists in Europe are very much likely to offer violence in response to conduct deemed hostile to Islam. Three key examples:
* November 2004: Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by an Islamist in broad daylight in the streets of Amsterdam after making a short film dealing with the travails of Muslim women in traditional Islamic communities. Pinned to his chest by a dagger was a note threatening Western governments, Jews, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born feminist and former Dutch parliamentarian who wrote the film script and who has since left Holland for America.
* September 2005: 12 cartoons depicting Muhammad published in a Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten resulted in the torching of Danish embassies, boycotts against Danish goods and weeks of protest in Muslim countries.
* September 2006: Pope Benedikt, in the course of an academic address, quoted harsh criticism of Islam by a 14th-century Byzantine emperor, leading to the gutting of six Middle East churches, the murder of a nun and her bodyguard in Somalia, and countless furious protests and calls for the murder of the pontiff.
The effect of violence and its threat can now be seen in unprecedented acts of self-censorship by the European majority populations and their governing authorities, with Britain in particular affording several examples:
- September 2005: The fast-food chain Burger King withdrew its ice-cream cones after the design on the lid of the dessert offended a Muslim in England's High Wycombe.
- September 2005: London's Tate Gallery removed sculptor John Latham's work "God is Great," which included a Bible and a Koran torn in half, citing the "sensitive climate" in the days after the July 2005 subway bombings by young radical Muslims.
- October 2005: The U.K.'s Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers, banned the wearing of St George tie pins after observing prison officers wearing them at Wakefield jail, Yorkshire, apparently in support of a cancer charity, because they might be "misinterpreted," presumably by Muslim inmates.
- February 2006: The owner of the magazine France-Soir , fired his editor, Jacques Lefranc, for republishing the Danish cartoons.
- February 2006: The EU Commissioner for Freedom and Security, Franco Frattini, proposed a voluntary code of conduct to be "facilitated" by EU officials committing journalists to exercising "prudence" in reporting on Islam.
- September 2006: Berlin's Deutsche Oper cancelled a production of Mozart's Idomeneo after police warned of an "incalculable risk" to the performers and the audience because it was to have included a scene involving the severed head of Muhammad.
- This month, the BBC is considering axing a £1million episode of its hit drama Spooks in which an al Qaeda terrorist is shot dead, because the actor Shaun Dingwall, who plays the terrorist's killer, fears for his life if it is screened.
Add to this the news this year that an English vicar has advocated abolishing St George as England's patron saint in deference to Muslim opinion; that the Blackpool city council threatened to rescind licenses from taxi drivers for flying Union Jacks during last year's World Cup soccer tournament; that a history course on the Holocaust has been dropped by at least one British school in deference to their Muslim students learning a very different lesson in their homes and mosques (variously--denial, minimization, justification); and it is clear that the specter of violence has had its effect.
Undoubtedly, the reactions to these events are not uniform: publications in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain also re-ran the Danish cartoons to register their support for free speech; the German interior minister defended the Pope's remarks; and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, some of her ministers, and the Berlin mayor criticized Deutsche Oper's decision to drop the Idomeneo production. But it isn't at all clear that Europeans appreciate the implicit long-term threat to their liberties stemming from a growing population of Muslim supremacists.
Daniel Mandel is director of the Zionist Organization's Center for Middle East Policy, a fellow in History at Melbourne University and author of H.V. Evatt & the Creation of Israel: The Undercover Zionist (2004).