In mid-December, my aunt Priscilla told me about the furor in Denmark over the publication of twelve cartoons of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper. (She lives in Denmark with her Danish husband.) Despite that advance warning, I’m somewhat surprised by the explosion of bloodthirsty fury in recent days. (The delayed response might have something to do with the fake cartoons now circulating among Muslims, although no drawing could possibly justify the violence response.)
Just consider this recent report from Lebanon:
Thousands of Muslim protesters, enraged over the publication of caricatures of Islam’s prophet Muhammad, set ablaze the Danish Embassy on Sunday and rampaged through a predominantly Christian neighborhood, escalating sectarian tensions in a country whose melange of faiths can sometimes serve as a microcosm of the world’s religious divide.
The unrest, which involved as many as 20,000 protesters, was some of the worst in Lebanon in years, and leaders from across the political and religious spectrums appealed for calm. In vain, some Muslim clerics tried to step into the hours-long fray to end the clashes, which news agencies said left at least one demonstrator dead and 30 wounded.
But in the streets, fistfights broke out between Christian and Muslim Lebanese after protesters threw rocks at a Maronite Catholic Church, broke windows at the Lebanese Red Cross office and shattered windshields of cars. Bands of Christian youths congregated with sticks and iron bars, promising to defend their neighborhoods.
The Lebanese are just taking their cue from the Syrians, who set the Danish Embassy ablaze on Saturday. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many Islamic leaders openly thirst for Danish blood:
A leader of the Islamic militant Hamas group, which recently swept Palestinian parliamentary elections, told an Italian newspaper on Saturday that the cartoons were an “unforgivable insult” that should be punished by death.
“We should have killed all those who offend the Prophet and instead here we are, protesting peacefully,” Mahmoud Zahar, a top leader of the militant Islamic group that won the January 25 Palestinian elections, told Italian daily Il Giornale.
“We should have killed them, we should have required just punishment for those who respect neither religion nor its holiest symbols,” Zahar was quoted as saying.
The Islamic Army in Iraq, a Sunni Arab insurgent group, issued an Internet statement calling for attacks on Danish companies and nationals. The group urged followers to “catch some Danish people and cut them into pieces.” There are about 500 Danish soldiers in Iraq.
And don’t miss these signs from a protest in London advocating beheadings for critics of Islam and the like.
In a revoltingly ironic twist, these cartoons were “commissioned by the Jyllands-Posten (Jutland’s Post) to accompany an article on self-censorship and freedom of speech after Danish writer Kare Bluitgen was unable to find artists willing to illustrate his children’s book about Mohammed for fear of violent attacks by extremist Muslims.” (That article includes a translation of the original article from the Danish newspaper, along with a brief but helpful explanation of each drawing.) As a friend said in an e-mail, “Pretty ironic that the cartoons were commenting on the intolerance and violent tendencies of Islam, and their reaction was… surprise: intolerance and violence.” Indeed.
This conflict highlights — in the most stark possible terms — the ongoing battle between Western civilization and Islamic barbarism. Yet too many of our supposed leaders are unwilling to fight for basic freedoms, even with mere words:
Bill Clinton described the cartoons as “appalling” and equated criticism of a person’s chosen religion with racism.
The editor of a French newspaper was bold enough to republish the cartoons, but the owner promptly fired him, saying that “We express our regrets to the Muslim community and all people who were shocked by the publication.”
The Vatican claims that “the freedom of thought and expression, confirmed in the Declaration of Human Rights, can not include the right to offend religious feelings of the faithful.” Worse still, it rationalized the vicious response of the Muslim rioters by saying that “any form of excessive criticism or derision of others denotes a lack of human sensitivity and can in some cases constitute an unacceptable provocation” (emphasis added).
In a panel discussion on “Special Report with Brit Hume” on Thursday, conservative Mort Kondrake seemed utterly shocked that freedom of speech should protect such offenses as those blasphemous cartoons.
Earlier in that show, Brit Hume showed many of the actual cartoons in an excellent segment upon the controversy. He even critically puzzled over CNN’s refusal to show the images, while showing a clip of CNN’s totally pixelated version of the drawings in which nothing whatsoever could be distinguished. (CNN says, “Muslims consider it sacrilegious to produce a likeness of the Prophet Mohammad. CNN has chosen to not show the cartoons in respect for Islam.”) Apparently, CNN is not alone in refusing to show the images, even though readers and viewers absolutely need to see the actual cartoons in order to properly judge the issue. What cowardice! (Happily, many bloggers have posted the cartoons.)
One State Department spokesman said, “We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.” Another State Department official did much better by focusing upon the free speech rights involved in the case.
Honestly, this conflict scares me, despite the Danish government’s honorable and courageous refusal to submit to the violent threats of the Islamists. If Europe does not fight this battle tooth and nail, if they cannot defend Western values against the Islamic barbarians openly clamoring for beheadings at their gates, then they will be overrun by their own immigrants in just a few decades. The consequences of passivity or submission are too apparent for any better outcome. The fact that Europeans must be so eloquently urged to defend their freedoms against Muslim totalitarianism by critics of Islam like Ibn Warraq gives us reason to fear not hope, since such a response should be a foregone conclusion, not a debatable point.
Oh yes, Islam is a religion of peace… and if you dare say otherwise, thousands of Muslims will be happy to tear you from limb to limb, while millions of others will be content to watch in silence, if not cheer. (Yes, some do protest, but they are a small minority at odds with their own religion.) If the prospect of accommodating that barbarity cannot inspire a civilization to fight for its life, then nothing will.
Just imagine how much would be lost if Europe slid into yet another Dark Ages, this time of Islam rather than Christianity. And if that happened, America would stand alone on the front lines of an ever-expanding cultural empire of Islam. Would we have the knowledge and determination to fight for the values of Western civilization? Or would we be overrun by our own Christian barbarians and embroiled in a religious war between two evils: Christianity and Islam?