- "What hypocrisy. When it comes to
what Germans are most sensitive about, Hitler and the Holocaust, they are
ruthless censors. British historian David Irving has spent three months
in a Viennese prison awaiting trial on Feb. 20 for speeches he made 15
years ago in Austria. Skeptics and deniers of the Holocaust are prosecuted,
fined and imprisoned in Europe with the enthusiastic endorsement of the
- That demagogues and agitators are exploiting
those cartoons of Mohammed to advance a war of civilizations and expel
Europeans from the Middle East seems undeniable.
- But that does not excuse the paralyzing
stupidity of that Danish paper in running those cartoons or the arrogant
irresponsibility of European newspapers in plastering those cartoons all
over their front pages.
- The storm first broke last September,
when Jyllands-Posten published 12 caricatures of Mohammed, including a
lampoon of the Prophet with a terrorist bomb as a turban. In the Islamic
faith, any depiction of the face of Mohammed is forbidden.
- The Danish paper knew this. It published
the cartoons to protest "the rejection of modern, secular society"
by Muslims. The cartoons were thus a defiant provocation. And they succeeded.
- The Middle East responded with a boycott
of Danish foods and goods. But when, in the name of press solidarity, Le
Soir and Le Monde in Paris, El Pais in Madrid and Die Welt in Berlin republished
the cartoons on page one, Islam exploded. For this was an in-your-face
declaration by the secularist media of the European Union that it will
exercise its right to insult any God, any Prophet, any faith, whenever
it so chooses.
- "Enough lessons from these reactionary
bigots," said Serge Faubert, editor of Le Soir. "Just because
the Quran bans images of Mohammed doesn't mean non-Muslims have to submit
- Faubert, however, is not a Danish soldier
in the Shi'ite sector of Iraq. Innocents will pay the price of his heroism.
- The U.S. State Department seemed to empathize
with Muslim rage, stating that "inciting religious or ethnic hatred
in this manner is unacceptable." But, within hours, State had retreated
to neutral ground: "While we share the offense that Muslims have taken
at these images, we at the same time vigorously defend the right of individuals
to express points of view."
- As of today the Danish consulate in Beirut
has been burned, Danish embassies have been stormed, and Danes are fleeing
the Middle East. Europeans are getting out of the West Bank, Gaza and Beirut,
where mobs are attacking embassies and Christian churches.
- Islamic countries have recalled ambassadors
from Copenhagen. People have been injured and property destroyed in mob
assaults as far away as Indonesia. Relations between the West and the Islamic
world have been dealt another rupturing blow.
- And for what? What was the purpose of
this juvenile idiocy by the Europress? Is this what freedom of the press
is all about the freedom to insult the faith of a billion people
and start a religious war?
- Can Europeans be that ignorant of the
power of the press to inflame when Bismarck's editing of just a few words
in the Ems telegram ignited the Franco-Prussian war? Did Europeans learn
nothing from the Salman Rushdie episode? Or the firestorm that gripped
the Islamic world when Christian ministers in the United States called
Mohammed a "terrorist"?
- European governments are wringing their
hands over the rage and violence unleashed, but they seem paralyzed. What
is the matter? Why cannot they denounce press irresponsibility while defending
press freedom? Even friends of the West like Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan,
President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey have denounced
these cartoons as insults to Islamic values and deeply damaging to Western
- British Foreign Minister Jack Straw deplored
republication of the cartoons as "insensitive ... disrespectful ...
wrong." But German Interior Minister Wolfgang Shauble haughtily dissented,
"Here, in Europe, governments have nothing to say about which publisher
- What hypocrisy. When it comes to what
Germans are most sensitive about, Hitler and the Holocaust, they are ruthless
censors. British historian David Irving has spent three months in a Viennese
prison awaiting trial on Feb. 20 for speeches he made 15 years ago in Austria.
Skeptics and deniers of the Holocaust are prosecuted, fined and imprisoned
in Europe with the enthusiastic endorsement of the European press.
- Nor are we all that different. Sen. Trent
Lott was ousted as majority leader for a birthday-party compliment to 100-year-old
Strom Thurmond. Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker was almost lynched for
saying he considers New York a social pigsty. There were demands that Rocker
undergo psychiatric counseling.
- We have "speech codes" in colleges
and "hate crimes" laws to protect minorities from abusive remarks.
But newspapers that hail these codes throw a blanket of "artistic
freedom" over scatological art that degrades religious symbols
from putting a figure of Christ in a jar of urine to a "painting"
of the Virgin Mary surrounded by female genitalia and elephant dung that
hung in a Brooklyn museum.
- What has happened in Europe is that the
secular press, which loves to mock the beliefs and symbols of religious
faith, has now insulted a deadly serious religion that answers insults
- Patrick J. Buchanan is co-founder and
editor of The American Conservative. He is also the author of seven books,
including Where the Right Went Wrong, and A Republic Not An Empire.