As the trial of Dutch MP Geert Wilders for offending Muslims unfolds in Amsterdam, I am reminded of Oriana Fallaci’s post-9/11 writings on how she saw Europe wasted from within by the alien cultural force of Islam.And what does this darkness look like? Brendan O'Neil:
Fallaci attributed her understanding of Europe’s fate in part to the writings of another woman of great courage. In Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide and Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, Bat Ye’or, a Jewess born in Egypt and forced into exile, documented the recent history of Europe’s partnership with Arab states.
This Euro-Arab relationship has meant increased sensitivity in European capitals and among its political-intellectual elite for Arab-Islamic politics and culture. It is this sensitivity as political correctness that is on display at the Wilders’ trial.
But this sensitivity also inhibits the political-intellectual elite in Europe and North America from discussing the outrageousness of putting on trial Wilders, or anyone else, for speaking and writing on matters that might offend Muslims.
The demand by Europe’s officialdom — Canada’s officialdom is on the same page — that “free speech” must also meet the requirements of “responsible speech” when the subject is Islam is tantamount to repudiating Europe’s history that made her the cradle of the modern world of science and democracy.
The Wilders trial is indicative of Europe’s bleak future, as Fallaci had warned. This trial amounts to appeasing official Islam, which has demanded “defamation of religions,” according to a resolution adopted in the UN General Assembly in March 2008, be prohibited.
Moreover, in trying Wilders, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal has conceded space to the Islamists by accommodating, in practical terms, their demand for acceptance of Shariah (Islamic law) within secular society.
This can only mean abandoning those Muslims, especially women, who escaped from Islamic countries seeking freedom. They will become vulnerable once again to Islamists enforcing Shariah rule inside enclaves where Muslims reside within Europe.
And a Europe that appeases official Islam, while punishing its critics, will also be uncaring about the struggle for reform inside the Arab-Muslim world as in Iran. Such a Europe, as Fallaci so passionately raged against, will be then sliding into a new dark age.
That relativism has been elevated over liberty can be seen in the fact that at the same time that more ‘extremists’ are allegedly running riot on campus, there are more and more codes of speech governing the extent to which other people can question, ridicule or mock these ‘extremists’, or even moderate religious and political speakers. At the end of last year I was invited to debate the head of the UK wing of Hizb ut-Tahrir at Queen Mary Westfield College in London. But under pressure from censorious student groups and the university’s administration, the debate was banned. It was moved to the University of Westminster a couple of weeks later, and there, both me and the representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir were informed about what we could and could not say. The university’s religious affairs liaison – a white convert to Islam – told us that before being allowed to speak we would have to read a document telling us not to insult or ridicule anyone else’s religious beliefs, political affiliations, sexual preferences and so on.(HT: Blazing Cat Fur)
I read it, and ignored it, and later got booed for saying ‘Sharia law is inferior to Enlightenment-derived laws’. Yet this experience reveals much about the crisis of freedom in British universities. In one serious London university a debate is banned outright because the ‘extremist’ might corrupt the pathetic students, and in another serious London university the debate is allowed to go ahead but is severely governed by informal codes designed to preserve ‘respect for identities’. Such codes now exist on campuses across the UK. The extremist is allowed to speak, but no one is really allowed to say to him: ‘You’re talking bollocks, mate, and here’s why…’ Such informal rules protecting all belief systems and granting equal weight to all lifestyle choices really demonstrate what lies behind the ‘let the extremists speak’ argument: a relativistic climate in which universities doubt whether it is their job to assert Truth with a capital T over madder, weirder small-t ‘truths’, and where what looks like free speech is actually something very different.
If a student at a British university starts believing that some radical form of Islam is ‘the Truth’, it is most likely as a result of this intellectual cowardice rather than the strength of conviction of some visiting preacher. It is the climate of non-debate, of listening and nodding along to everyone, that can make things seem like the Truth by default. This creation of a relativistic mishmash of equally valid views sells students short as surely as does the outright censorship of ‘extremists’: it, too, creates a climate of conformism and question-avoidance, where the extremists are allowed to speak but only because ‘everyone must be heard and treated with respect’.