Law professor Eugene Volokh calls it “censorship envy.” Muslims in Europe want the same sort of censorship that many nations now offer to other aggrieved groups. By law, eleven European nations can punish anyone who publicly denies the Holocaust. That’s why the strange British historian David Irving is going to prison. Ken Livingstone, the madcap mayor of London, was suspended for four weeks for calling a Jewish reporter a Nazi. A Swedish pastor endured a long and harrowing prosecution for a sermon criticizing homosexuality, finally beating the rap in Sweden’s Supreme Court.
Much of Europe has painted itself into a corner on the censorship issue. What can Norway say to pro-censorship Muslims when it already has a hate speech law forbidding, among other things, “publicly stirring up one part of the population against another,” or any utterance that “threatens, insults, or subjects to hatred, persecution or contempt any person or group of persons because of their creed, race, colour or national or ethnic origin…or homosexual bent”? No insulting utterances at all? Since most strong opinions can be construed as insulting (hurting someone’s feelings), no insults mean no free speech.
It’s not just Europe. In Canada, a teacher drew a suspension for a letter to a newspaper arguing that homosexuality is not a fixed orientation, but a condition that can be treated. He was not accused of discrimination, merely of expression thoughts that the state defines as improper. Another Canadian newspaper was fined $4,500 for printing an ad giving the citations-but not the text-of four biblical quotations against homosexuality. As David Bernstein writes in his book, “You Can’t Say That!” “It has apparently become illegal in Canada to advocate traditional Christian opposition to homosexual sex.”
Many nations have set themselves up for Muslim complaints by adopting the unofficial slogan of the West’s chattering classes: multiculturalism trumps free speech. Sensitivity and equality are viewed as so important that the individual right to speak out is routinely eclipsed. Naturally enough, Muslims want to play the same victim game as other aggrieved groups. The French Council of Muslims says it is considering taking France Soir, which reprinted the Danish cartoons, to court for provocation.