Given the general debasement of Western culture it seems that nothing in the 21st century is sacred—nothing, that is, except what might potentially incite violent Muslims. As we are learning after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the intellectual cowardice on this matter is immeasurable. The latest news is that Oxford University Press has issued guidelines instructing authors of children’s books to avoid references to pigs, sausage, or anything else that might be construed as porcine for fear of offending Muslims.
“Now, if a respectable publisher, tied to an academic institution, is saying you’ve got to write a book in which you cannot mention pigs because some people might be offended, it’s just ludicrous,” observes BBC Radio 4 presenter Jim Naughtie. “It is just a joke.”
Indeed. Imagine the impact if we retroactively applied this self-censorship to beloved children’s literature. We’d tell our kids the story of the Three Little Something or Others. Charlotte’s Web would require redactions that would make the editors of CIA reports blanche. And most ironic of all, imagine what this would do to Animal Farm. The allegorical tale is many a young student’s introduction to the horrors of totalitarianism. Recall that the character of Napoleon the pig was based on Joseph Stalin. Stalin may have been an atheist, but he knew a thing or two about killing people who said things that offended him—so he’s at least got that in common with Islamic terrorists.
For their part, Oxford University Press has made a pretty transparent and disheartening attempt to justify their policy. “Our materials are sold in nearly 200 countries, and as such, and without compromising our commitment in any way, we encourage some authors of educational materials respectfully to consider cultural differences and sensitivities,” a spokesman told the Telegraph. If Oxford University Press is so keen on not offending religious sensibilities, we would like to see the specific policies they have issued instructing authors not to offend Christians. We’re pretty confident no such guidelines exist.
The timing of this policy is also alarming. Muslim objections to pork are dietary, not literary. And they are hardly new, so why now? Undoubtedly because we have seen a significant uptick in threats and violence against Western publishers in recent years. Oxford University Press can equivocate all it wants; it’s impossible to argue it isn’t sending a clear signal that threatening publishers is a tactic that works. Such craven cowering will only invite threats and attacks in the future.
While we have little faith in our cultural elites’ ability to defend Western civilization, our hope is that Oxford University Press’s belly-flop down the slippery slope toward sharia compliance may rouse others out of their complacency. In their own way, pigs are a rare combination of adorable and delicious, and they’re absolutely worth fighting for. At the very least, you’ll have to pry The Scrapbook’s bacon from our cold, dead mouth.