We are used to the exaggerated, scare term “Eurabia“, to describe the capitulation of European culture and politics to Islam. As is often attributed to Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” So you can imagine how grave the danger is when apparently intelligent, open-minded academics go a stage further and actually censor publications. Appeasement and highbrow anti-Semitism have always been a European disease. But the disease has now spread to the USA. The USA and Europe are very different in so many ways, so the way a virus translates into a disease will certainly differ. But one could equally use the term “Americarabia”, a danger as long as the US is dependent on Arab oil and Saudi goodwill.
Of course, I welcome any attempt to bridge gaps and overcome antipathies. I support Obama’s desire to communicate. I understand the steps he takes to try to burnish his credentials as an honest broker in the Middle East, and I am not as neurotically negative as much of American and Israeli Orthodoxy are about him. But there is a huge gap between ensuring no Muslim is disadvantaged or discriminated against simply because of his or her faith, and capitulating to primitive irrational demands merely to curry favour. Just as there is a huge difference between tarring all Islam with a terrorist brush and standing up to those who insist on continuing to use it as a tool of realpolitik.
Look at the absolutely disgraceful way Libya has publicly welcomed back a mass murderer! What is it about so much of Islam that lusts after death and murder? Is this what we should be appeasing rather than condemning? And if the bomber was only a sacrifice for the State, how do we feel about a state that glorifies bombing a civilian plane? Those Jewish extremists who blew up the King David hotel were never glorified by Israel or publicly acclaimed. Neither were Americans who accidentally caused collateral civilian damage or misread coordinates.
Yale University has decided to censor a book about the Danish cartoon affair of 2005 for fear of Islamic fanatics. And then tries to justify itself. The full statement refers, in self-defense, to the number of papers in Britain and the USA who declined to publish the cartoons originally. Sadly, this is not the first example of craven capitulation to fear. Sherry Jones, an author whose novel, The Jewel of Medina, was shelved by Random House because of fears of violent reprisals, said, “I decided to take a stand for free speech and publish my books in spite of threats and violence because I wanted to make a positive difference in the world…Yale University Press’s decision, like that of the executives at Random House, does the opposite…Self-censorship changes our world for the worse.”
I wonder has Yale censored books about abortion because an anti-abortion fanatics have killed doctors? Or did it censor books on politics because Americans have been assassinated by political opponents?
And here’s another straw in the wind. The Presidential Medal of Freedom was recently awarded to Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu, amongst others. They are both seriously flawed icons of the left. Flawed not just for their bitter opposition to Israel but for the language of contempt, insensitivity, and antipathy they use towards Israel and Jews which (as with the case of Jimmy Carter) is used by others to delegitimize–the result of which was the infamous Durban anti-Semitic hate-fest over which Mary Robinson presided and which Desmond Tutu encouraged.
Of course, any Democrat government in the US is inevitably going to counteract its Republican predecessor in any way it can, whether it is in appointing Supreme Court judges who think the way it does or honoring those whose values it identifies with. Certainly both Tutu and Robinson have been champions of a left-wing radical agenda, so their being honored was unsurprising. It is all part of the swings and roundabouts, checks and balances that all democratic countries experience.
In Britain, the likeable leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, has often said he opposes the sort of mindless tirades the sad Baroness Tonge spews out against Israel. But if he continues to allow her to remain part of his party as he does, the virus will spread. Sweden too is diseased. Not only can a left-wing newspaper reinvent the Blood Libel by claiming, with no facts, that the Israeli Army harvests organs from Palestinians, but the government springs to its defense on the grounds of free speech. Sadly, politics is concerned with power, not truth, and there are more Muslim than Jewish voters.
What worries me is when we tolerate the incursion of hate under any guise. Consider the apparently idealist and egalitarian socialist regime, the USSR, supported by so many Jews, which ended up being so anti-Semitic. This happens when anyone is demonized and “good” people do not oppose it. This is what has happened throughout the Muslim world, where opponents of autocrats are demonized. To a far lesser extent, it happens in religions where denigration and delegitimization become the favored tools of discourse (where there is any discourse).
It is not for me to champion civilized Islam. The record of its achievements will outlast the current barbaric desire to return to the cave. But I believe we in the West owe it to Islam not only to ensure there is no discrimination in our midst, but also to ensure that moderate Islam is not silenced. Every time we give in to Mad Mulla pressure we undermine the moderates. And every time people in the West bang on about the Israel/Jewish lobby yet ignore the Arab/Islam lobbies, then we will indeed allow a creeping takeover of liberty that will start with protecting fanatical Islam and end up censoring anyone who opposes religious or political extremism.