It began with the Danish cartoons. It ended with the flying imams. Two thousand six was a banner year for the Religion of Perpetual Outrage. Twelve turbulent months of fist-waving, embassy-burning, fatwa-issuing mayhem, intimidation, and murder resounded with the ululations of the aggrieved. All this in the name of defending Islam from "insult." Let's review.
In late January, masked Palestinian gunmen took over a European Union office in Gaza City to protest the publication of a dozen cartoons about Islam, Mohammed, and self-censorship in the Danish newspaper the Jyllands-Posten. They stormed the building, burned Danish flags, and spearheaded an international boycott of Denmark's products across the Muslim world.
The rage was manufactured pretext. The cartoons had been published four months earlier with little fanfare. It wasn't until a delegation of instigating Danish imams toured Egypt with the cartoons -- plus a few inflammatory fake ones, including an old image of a French hog-calling contest participant deceptively portrayed as "anti-Muslim" -- that the fire started burning. Think the mainstream media will remember that? Not likely. They fell for the ruse and were slow to acknowledge it after American bloggers and Danish television exposed the scheme.
What was really behind Cartoon Rage? Muslim bullies were attempting to pressure Denmark over the International Atomic Energy Agency's decision to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council for continuing with its nuclear research program. The chairmanship of the council was passing to Denmark at the time.
Alas, Western journalists, analysts, and apologists were too clouded by their cowardice and conciliation to see through the smoke. More than 800 were injured in the ensuing riots, and 130 people paid with their lives. The innocents included Italian Catholic priest Andrea Santoro, who was shot to death in Turkey on Feb. 5, by a teenage boy enraged by the illustrations. The Muslim gunman shouted, "Allahu Akbar!" as he murdered Father Santoro while the priest knelt praying in his church. Several brave moderate Muslim editors who stood up to the madness were jailed, fined, and convicted of crimes related to insulting Islam. The Danish cartoonists remain in hiding.
The world soon tired of Cartoon Rage, but the "peaceful" Muslim ragers were just warming up. They found excuses large and small to riot and threaten Western infidels. In India, they protested the magazine publication of a picture of a playing card showing an image of Mecca and also burned Valentine's Day cards. An insult to Islam, they screamed. In Spain, they protested a Madrid store for selling a postcard with a mosque on it with the words "We slept here." An insult to Islam, they protested. In Pakistan, they burned down a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, a Pizza Hut, and toppled Ronald McDonald. In Jakarta, they smashed the offices of Playboy magazine. You know why.
In June, the trial against lioness journalist Oriana Fallaci for insulting Islam commenced in Bergamo, Italy. She had been charged by professional Muslim rager Adel Smith of the Muslim Union of Italy of "vilipendio" -- vilifying Islam -- in her post-9/11 books slamming jihad. A judge had refused to throw out the case. She faced a pile of death threats and accusations of "Islamophobia" for speaking truth to Islamo-power.
Fallaci's death from cancer during the fifth anniversary week of the September 11 terrorist attacks preempted the trial in Italy, but her passing did nothing to preempt the eternal rage of the perpetually outraged. The day she died, the grievance-mongers were shaking their fists and calling for the head of Pope Benedict XVI for his speech that made reference to a 14th-Century conversation touching on holy war and jihad. For engaging in open, honest intellectual and spiritual debate, he was condemned, lit afire in effigy, and targeted anew. The ragers bombed Christian churches in Gaza City and Nablus. They murdered Italian Sister Leonella Sgorbati, an elderly Catholic nun shot in the back by a Somalian jihadist stoked by Pope Rage. "Whoever offends our Prophet Mohammed should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim," a Somalian cleric had declared. The Vatican made nice with Muslim leaders.
New outrages are always in bloom. In late September, it was a Berlin production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" that featured the decapitated head of Mohammed. A week later, it was a banyan tree attacked by Indonesian Muslims who wanted to disprove its mystical powers. A few days after that, it was former British foreign secretary Jack Straw, who had the audacity to make the very obvious observation that full Muslim veils impede communications between women and Westerners. Offensive! Disturbing! An insult to Islam!
Not to be outdone, a delegation of extortionist imams boarded a U.S. Airways flight in Minneapolis in November and tried to manufacture an international human-rights incident. They clamored for a boycott and threatened to sue.
The good news: The fire did not catch here this time. The bad news: As Oriana Fallaci warned before her death: "The hate for the West swells like a fire fed by the wind. The clash between us and them is not a military one. It is a cultural one, a religious one, and the worst is still to come."