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.
Much of the Muslim assertiveness is an outgrowth of Europe's disastrous love affair with multiculturalism. In theory, immigrants were to be encouraged to maintain their own identity and traditions in exchange for accepting Europe's system of shared values. In practice, it has mostly been a plan for hands-off separatism and resistance to assimilation. Government offers financial help in building schools and places of worship, and encourages the importing of imams from Arab countries, many of them predictably haters of the west. Raed Hlayhel, an imam in Denmark, for instance, was part of an entourage that toured the Middle East building rage over the cartoons. He and the other imams took along several fabricated cartoons, one showing Mohammad as a pedophile and another depicting him having sex with a dog. Shouldn't these provocations earn each of these imams a one-way trip back to the Middle East?
As Historian Fred Siegel of New York's Cooper Union points out, many of the imams have taken a page out of Yasser Arafat’s book, speaking tolerantly in Europe, but calling for blood when on the Arab media. He says Muslim spokesman know how to game Western liberalism, demanding free speech when they deny the Holocaust, then dropping the free speech argument and arguing that anti-Muslim criticisms and cartoons should be censored on grounds of multicultural sensitivity.
Europe has a hard decision on what to do with the so-called "conveyor-belt" Islamist groups that do not commit terrorism themselves, but recruit, and indoctrinate young males, then turn them over to terrorist groups. One of them, Hizb ut-Tahrir, active in Denmark and more than 40 other countries, played an incendiary role in the cartoon controversy. "By combining fascist rhetoric, Leninist strategy, and Western sloganeering with Wahhabi theology, HT has made itself into a very real and potent threat that is extremely difficulty for liberal societies to counter,” Zeyno Baran of Washington’s Nixon Center wrote in Foreign Affairs. The conveyor belts are designed to take advantage of the West’s protections of free speech and civil liberties. But they are dangerous parts of the broader terrorist operation. Germany banned HT. Other nations should too. If the West doesn't stop the spread of Islamic radicalism, the danger will soon be far graver than it is now.