Kathleen Parker
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Traveling to Europe's Dark Ages, one might expect to find newspaper headlines like these:

-- Archbishop of Canterbury says sharia law to be incorporated into British laws.

-- A Danish cartoonist is placed under indefinite police protection as three would-be assassins are arrested.

-- Renegade Muslim author seeks country to protect her from Islamist fanatics promising to kill her.

Alas, these are headlines from the past few weeks in modern-day Europe, where ancient values continue to collide with Western civilization.

One does not have to be anti-Islam to be concerned as radical Islam clashes with Modern Europe. One does have to be blind

-- or in dangerous denial -- not to be concerned that threats and violence from religionists, coupled with incremental accommodations and submissions by the soon-to-be "formerly" dominant culture, are leading to a darker age.

Is that the land of Mordor in the distance?

No, it's Denmark, where the cartoon controversy that caused Muslim outrage in 2005 continues to draw fire from the lunatic fringe. Three Muslim men have been arrested for plotting to kill one of the cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard, whose drawing showed the prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb-turban with a lit fuse.

Westergaard's intention, he has explained, was to illustrate how fanatics have co-opted the prophet for their murderous purposes. But literal-minded, fundamentalist Muslims, who apparently have no understanding of satire or the irreverence that underpins Western humor, saw only disrespect.

Wednesday, newspapers in Denmark, Sweden and Spain republished one of the infamous cartoons in solidarity with the Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, which originally published the cartoon, one among a dozen, as an exercise in free speech.

Replaying the events that previously caused so much trouble may be viewed as unnecessary -- and many American editors apparently see it that way. With only a few exceptions, most U.S. newspapers elected not to run the cartoons, sending readers to the Web for more information and, it would seem, self-defeat.

But if you were Westergaard, now under indefinite police protection -- or author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who needs protection wherever she travels -- you might think that the debate over free expression needs to be relentlessly aired no matter what the immediate fallout.

Hirsi Ali, author of "Infidel" -- an autobiographical critique of Islam and the religion's oppression of women -- has been on the run since her co-filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, was murdered on the streets in Holland.

Stabbed to his chest was a note for Hirsi Ali promising that she was next.

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Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
 
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