Sunday, February 05, 2006

Stand Firm Against the Tantrum

Writing in German online magazine Spiegel, Ibn Warraq, a well-known Muslim dissident, begs Western nations to stand together in defense of freedom of speech and not cave in to Muslim bullying. The article appears as Muslims mobs in Syria have burned two European embassies over cartoons published months ago in Danish newspapers.
The cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten raise the most important question of our times: freedom of expression. Are we in the west going to cave into pressure from societies with a medieval mindset, or are we going to defend our most precious freedom -- freedom of expression, a freedom for which thousands of people sacrificed their lives?

A democracy cannot survive long without freedom of expression, the freedom to argue, to dissent, even to insult and offend. It is a freedom sorely lacking in the Islamic world, and without it Islam will remain unassailed in its dogmatic, fanatical, medieval fortress; ossified, totalitarian and intolerant. Without this fundamental freedom, Islam will continue to stifle thought, human rights, individuality; originality and truth.Unless, we show some solidarity, unashamed, noisy, public solidarity with the Danish cartoonists, then the forces that are trying to impose on the Free West a totalitarian ideology will have won; the Islamization of Europe will have begun in earnest. Do not apologize.

Ibn Warraq's argument is as valid as it is crucial to the understanding of the uproar over the cartoons. Islamic extremists are testing Western resolve. These cartoons were publish in a Western country. If Muslims worldwide can silence a Western newspaper, they will have won a tremendous victory; they will have prompted - by yelling and screaming and tantrum throwing - the West to abandon one of its hardest won civilizational principles. Worse, they will have estabished a precedent under which Islam and all things Islamic will be forever put beyond critique. Cartoons are today's rallying cry. But it they are successful, the next blowup with be over an article or opinion piece critiquing any aspect of Islamic culture - the treatment of Muslim women, perhaps. Or maybe the penchant Muslims seem to have for slaughtering innocent civilians. A parent who gives in to their toddler's tantrum at the supermarket checkout over a candy bar had taught the child a lesson. Once the concession is made, thetoddler knows that the parent's authority is weak and that he can have his way whenever he likes with a few loud screams. So, too, Muslims in Europe and around the world.

But Ibn Warraq knows the West's weakness, just as well as the radical Muslims making merry in the streets: self-loathing.

This raises another more general problem: the inability of the West to defend itself intellectually and culturally. Be proud, do not apologize. Do we have to go on apologizing for the sins our fathers? Do we still have to apologize, for example, for the British Empire, when, in fact, the British presence in India led to the Indian Renaissance, resulted in famine relief, railways, roads and irrigation schemes, eradication of cholera, the civil service, the establishment of a universal educational system where none existed before, the institution of elected parliamentary democracy and the rule of law? What of the British architecture of Bombay and Calcutta? The British even gave back to the Indians their own past: it was European scholarship, archaeology and research that uncovered the greatness that was India; it was British government that did its best to save and conserve the monuments that were a witness to that past glory. British Imperialism preserved where earlier Islamic Imperialism destroyed thousands of Hindu temples.

On the world stage, should we really apologize for Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe? Mozart, Beethoven and Bach? Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh, Breughel, Ter Borch? Galileo, Huygens, Copernicus, Newton and Darwin? Penicillin and computers? The Olympic Games and Football? Human rights and parliamentary democracy? The west is the source of the liberating ideas of individual liberty, political democracy, the rule of law, human rights and cultural freedom. It is the west that has raised the status of women, fought against slavery, defended freedom of enquiry, expression and conscience. No, the west needs no lectures on the superior virtue of societies who keep their women in subjection, cut off their clitorises, stone them to death for alleged adultery, throw acid on their faces, or deny the human rights of those considered to belong to lower castes.

How can we expect immigrants to integrate into western society when they are at the same time being taught that the west is decadent, a den of iniquity, the source of all evil, racist, imperialist and to be despised? Why should they, in the words of the African-American writer James Baldwin, want to integrate into a sinking ship? Why do they all want to immigrate to the west and not Saudi Arabia? They should be taught about the centuries of struggle that resulted in the freedoms that they and everyone else for that matter, cherish, enjoy, and avail themselves of; of the individuals and groups who fought for these freedoms and who are despised and forgotten today; the freedoms that the much of the rest of world envies, admires and tries to emulate." When the Chinese students cried and died for democracy in Tiananmen Square (in 1989), they brought with them not representations of Confucius or Buddha but a model of the Statue of Liberty."

Self-loathing was a poison fed to the West by the left, a gambit to weaken the West's defenses to utopian socialism. With the failure of that dream, the left has turned malevolent, furious at own its failure and consumed with bitterness at the truimph of the Western political economy it hates. The slow poisons of multiculturalism and political correctness have chewed away at the cultural confidence that was once the hallmark of the West, while mass immigration - another great leftist ploy - has deposited large numbers of aliens hostile to the West and its values inside Western countries.

Self-loathing and the political pressure of large foreign (in this case Muslim) communities, make it harder and harder for Western leaders to openly defend Western values - and the West itself. President Bush, for all his bluster and tough talk has allowed his State Department to side with the Muslim mob, so too the excerable Tony Blair, who sent Jack Straw out like a trained monkey to condemn the cartoons and express pleasure that no British newspaper had printed them. A shameful performance on both sides of the Atlantic, by the two Western nations allegedly most committed to the Western experiment.

With Western leaders such as these, Ibn Warraq has every reason to be worried. And so should we all.


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