We need to learn a new word: dhimmitude.
I've written about dhimmitude periodically, lo, these many years since Sept. 11, but it takes time to sink in. Dhimmitude is the coinage of a brilliant historian, Bat Ye'or, whose pioneering studies of the dhimmi, populations of Jews and Christians vanquished by Islamic jihad, have led her to conclude that a common culture has existed through the centuries among the varied dhimmi populations.
From Egypt and Palestine to Iraq and Syria, from Morocco and Algeria to Spain, Sicily and Greece, from Armenia and the Balkans to the Caucasus: Wherever Islam conquered, surrendering dhimmi, known to Muslims as "people of the book (the Bible)," were tolerated, allowed to practice their religion, but at a dehumanizing cost.
There were literal taxes (jizya) to be paid; these bought the dhimmi the right to remain non-Muslim, the price not of religious freedom, but of religious identity. Freedom was lost, sorely circumscribed by a body of Islamic law (sharia) designed to subjugate, denigrate and humiliate the dhimmi. The resulting culture of self-abnegation, self-censorship and fear shared by far-flung dhimmi is the basis of dhimmitude.
The extremely distressing, but highly significant fact is, dhimmitude doesn't only exist in lands where Islamic law rules. This is the lesson of Cartoon Rage 2006, a cultural nuke set off by an Islamic chain reaction to those 12 cartoons of Mohammed appearing in a Danish newspaper. We have watched the Muslim meltdown with shocked attention, but there is little recognition that its poisonous fallout is fear.
Fear in the State Department, which, like Islam, called the cartoons unacceptable. Fear in Whitehall (where British government offices reside), which did the same. Fear in the Vatican, which did the same. And fear in the media, which have failed, with few, few exceptions, to reprint or show the images. With only a small roll of brave journals, mainly in Europe, to salute, we have seen the proud Western tradition of a free press bow its head and submit to an Islamic law against depictions of Mohammed.
Not that we admit it: We dress up our capitulation in fancy talk of "tolerance," "responsibility" and "sensitivity." We even congratulate ourselves for having the "editorial judgment" to make "pluralism" possible.
"Readers were well-served ... without publishing the cartoons," said a Wall Street Journal spokesman. "CNN has chosen to not show the cartoons in respect for Islam," reported the cable network. On behalf of the BBC, which did show some of the cartoons on the air, a news editor subsequently apologized, adding: "We've taken a decision not to go further ... in order not to gratuitously offend the significant number" of Muslim viewers worldwide.
Left unmentioned is the understanding (editorial judgment?) that "gratuitous offense" leads to gratuitous violence. Hence, fear -- not the inspiration of tolerance but of capitulation -- and a condition of dhimmitude.
How far does it go?
Worth noting, for example, is that on the BBC Web site, a religion page about Islam presents the angels and revelations of Islamic belief as historical fact, rather than spiritual conjecture (as is the case with its Christianity Web page); plus, it follows every mention of Mohammed with "(pbuh)," which means "peace be upon him" -- "as if," writes Will Wyatt, former BBC chief executive, in a letter to the Times of London, "the corporation itself were Muslim." Is it? Are we?
These questions may not seem so outlandish if we assess the extent to which encroaching sharia has already changed the Western way. Calling these cartoons "unacceptable," and censoring ourselves "in respect" to Islam brings the West into compliance with a central statute of sharia. As Jyllands Posten's Flemming Rose has noted, that's not respect, that's submission. And if that's not dhimmitude, what is?
The publication of the Mohammed cartoons solicited by Denmark's Jyllands Posten was an act of anti-dhimmitude. Since no Danish artist would dare illustrate a PC children's book about Mohammed for fear of Islamic law (and Islamic violence), the newspaper boldly set out to reassert the rule of (non-Islamic) Danish law. It's as simple as that. And as vital. The cartoons ran to establish -- or re-establish -- Denmark as bastion of Western-style liberty.
But in trying to set up a force field against encroaching sharia, Jyllands Posten and the Danes have showed us that no single bastion of Western liberty can stand alone. So, how do you say solidarity in Danish? If we don't find out now, our future is more dhimmitude.