It is not only those readily identified as extremists who voice such views. The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, seemed to strike a conciliatory note, saying that the Pope's expression of regret for his remarks was “acceptable.” But he added: “[W]e hope there are no more statements that can anger the Muslims."
Similarly, on National Public Radio, a George Washington University professor, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, argued that statements such as those quoted by the Pope – expressing sentiments some Muslims may find offensive – must be viewed as a form of violence.
Is the Western ideal of freedom of speech and of the press threatened? Of course but that's only part of what is at work here. More significantly, Americans and Europeans are being relegated to the status of a dhimmi -- the Arabic word applied to those conquered by Muslim armies between the 7th and 17th centuries. Based on shari'a law, dhimmis are meant to “feel themselves subdued,” to acknowledge their inferiority compared to Muslims.
In some ways, we already have done so. For example, Muslims are welcome in the Vatican, even as Christians are banned from setting foot in Mecca. We do not object to Saudis building mosques in America and Europe, even as they prohibit churches and synagogues on Arabian soil.
We pledge to abide by the Geneva Conventions when waging wars against Muslim combatants. We do expect those combatants to follow the same rules. They are engaged in a jihad and they will show no mercy to infidel soldiers or even to infidel journalists. The “international community” does not seriously protest. With our silence, we consent to inequality.
Most of the world's Muslims are neither rioting nor calling for the death of the Pontiff. But quite a few may reason that if Christians and Jews haven't the confidence to reject dhimmitude and defend freedom, they would be foolish to stick their necks out. After all, a Muslim who challenges the Islamist Fascists brands himself as an apostate – as deserving of death as any uppity pope.
Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.