For the last ten years the chattering classes in the West have spent a great deal of time lamenting what they feared was a terrible outbreak of Islamophobia. The fact that the idea of a post 9-11 backlash against Muslims was a myth devoid of proof did not deter liberals and others from constantly harping on the issue. Even in Europe where ethnic and religious tensions have been far greater due to the size of the immigrant population from Islamic countries, the notion of a wave of violence directed at Muslims was greatly exaggerated.
At the same time attacks perpetrated by Muslims living in the West are a reality that cannot be ignored as today’s firebombing in Paris of a magazine that published a satire on Islam proves once again. Though Western societies are racked with angst about the possibility of offending Muslim sensibilities, the willingness of Islamists to resort to violence to silence those whose views they dislike makes has created an offensive double standard.
The bombing in Paris was aimed at the offices of Charlie Hedbo, a vulgar satirical journal that recently published an issue they claimed was guest edited by the Prophet Muhammad in honor of the victory of an Islamist party in the elections in Tunisia.
Like the international violence that resulted from the publications of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2006 and the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004, there is a very real though often unspoken assumption that criticism of Islam or even gentle satire aimed at Islam will generate violence.
Lest we think that such fears are confined to Europe, remember that even Yale University refused to allow a book about the Danish controversy to include pictures of the cartoons themselves lest Muslim sensibilities in New Haven or elsewhere be offended.
There is a reason why the current Broadway hit poking fun at religion is called “The Book of Mormon” and not “The Koran.” While Mormons are no threat to anyone and do not dignify spoofs of their faith with protests, let alone violence, everyone knows that a play that was designed to offend Muslims the way Mormons are satirized with impunity in that play would never be produced for fear of what would follow.
Though the Paris bombing was answered with ringing condemnations of such violence by French authorities, the chilling effect of attacks such as this one cannot be overestimated. While Western intellectuals worry about Islamophobia, Islamists have instituted their own standards of political correctness that have imposed a gag rule that is broken at the peril of the speaker or publisher.