John Leo

Is the biggest issue in the cartoon controversy free expression, sensitivity or fear?  One vote here for none of the above. The key question may be this: Are Muslims in Europe going to live by the rules of the West, or by the rules of Islam?  Every now and then, a European nation decides to put its foot down, banning headscarves in French schools, expelling some jihadist imams in three nations, and deporting Muslim illegals as the Netherlands did after two high-profile murders that shocked the nation.

    But on the whole, Europe has chosen weakness and backpedaling.  A British judge agreed to bar Jews and Hindus from the jury at the trial of a Muslim. Sheikh Qaradawi was welcomed in London; despite his call for the murder of homosexuals and the fact the he himself was wanted for murder in Egypt. King Ferdinand III, who fought to win Spain's independence from the Moors, was removed as patron saint of the annual fiesta in Seville, out of deference to Muslim feelings. The Dutch Language Union decreed that the word Christ would now be spelled with a lower-case c, starting in August. Crucifixes are disappearing from hospitals and some Muslims are demanding that statues of Dante be removed, because the poet's Divine Comedy placed Mohammad in hell. A government office in Britain banned Winnie the Pooh, piggy banks and other images of pigs so Muslims wouldn't have to see them-- a small but galling example of Europe's unwillingness to live by its own standards.

    In France, more than 10,000 cars were torched in 2005, mostly, it appears, by young Muslims.  Ho-hum. In the post-cartoon demonstrations in Britain, police ignored the signs saying “Exterminate those who mock Islam" and "Be prepared for the real holocaust,” but quickly arrested two counter protestors carrying posters with images of Mohammad. In the first cartoon riots in Denmark last September, Danish police were warned to stay out of Muslim neighborhoods. As one Muslim said, "This is our area. We rule this place."

    Europe is facing more opportunities to back down. Muslim fathers in Linz, Austria, are demanding that all female teachers, whether Muslim or not, be required to wear headscarves in school. The Muslim Council of Britain, which justifies Palestinian suicide bombers, wants Holocaust Day eliminated. 

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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