December 4, 2007
Every sane person on Earth knows that the furious protests in Sudan against the British schoolteacher were patently absurd. Gillian Gibbons, a sweet and innocent middle-aged lady, committed the "blasphemy" of letting her students name a teddy bear "Mohammed," and all hell broke loose. Yesterday she was freed from jail (an act of "mercy") and returned to Britain; see Washington Post.
On the Post editorial page, Anne Applebaum reminds us of similar episodes in the past: Salman Rushdie, Pope Benedict, the Danish cartoonists, and Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gogh, among others. Each of the protests staged by Muslims against these individuals was characterized by a freakishly exaggerated reaction to relatively minor affronts. Viewed from the conventional mindset of politically correct cultural relativism, it is natural to ask "What did we do to deserve this? We need to be more sensitive to the Muslims and avoid inflaming tensions." In truth, however, the protests have had little or nothing to do with "Muslim hypersensitivity" but instead were a contrived outcry aimed at rallying political support for Islamic extremist leaders. Just look at the video images of the grinning mobs: They're not angry, they are gloating at our collective gullibility! Nevertheless, as Applebaum writes, many people in the West just don't get it. Among them is Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who "regretted the 'disproportionate' punishment." Sheesh. Is it any wonder that few if any Western leaders have the gumption to take the lead in saving the people in Darfur from genocide?
This episode also reminds us of the appropriateness of the label Islamofascist. True, it is applied too widely on occasion, and certainly doesn't apply to most Muslims, but it is nonetheless a very real and dangerous phenomenon with strong parallels to the grievance-mongering of Hitler and Mussolini in the 1930s. As long as Western democracies are too timid or self-doubting to stand up and call a lie a lie, the aggressors will keep getting away with it.