Gender Democracy

Monday, October 16, 2006

Europe Is Raising Its Voice over Islamic Intolerance

The German Opera in Berlin recently canceled its revival of a production of Mozart's "Idomeneo," fearing that a scene showing the severed head of the prophet Muhammad — as well as those of Jesus, Buddha and Poseidon — would anger Islamists.

In 2005, the Tate Gallery in London withdrew a glass sculpture titled "God Is Great" because officials did not want to offend Muslims with images of the Bible, Talmud and Koran.

The decisions are part of what liberals regard as a timidity that emerged after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S. and intensified during this year's Muslim protests against a Danish newspaper's cartoon caricatures of Muhammad.

Henryk M. Broder, whose book Hurray, We Capitulate is a polemic on what he sees as Europe's submission to Islamists.
It's a fear of brutality, and you submit to that brutality. It's surrender to an enemy you're deathly afraid of…. Europe is like a little dog on his back begging for mercy from a big dog. The driving factor is angst.
Even intellectuals who don't share Broder's views agree that Europe must defend its principles. The change in mood comes as Europeans of all political persuasions are growing less tolerant of Muslim immigrants and questioning whether Islam can coexist with Western ideals.

Philippe Val, editor of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo:
We live in Europe, where democracy was based on criticizing religion. If we lose the right to criticize or attack religions in our free countries … we are doomed.
Their presence underscores the theological battle between moderate and extremist Muslims. Most Muslims in Denmark protested peacefully against the Muhammad cartoons. Islamic leaders in Germany expressed concern about the Mozart production, but said they would be willing to attend a performance before passing judgment. Government officials and artists were encouraged, but they blamed moderate Muslims for offering only faint public criticism of extremists. Anas Schakfeh, president of the Islamic Community in Austria, said,
It's true that moderates in the past were not quoted as much in the media when it comes to speaking against radicals. But this is changing. Moderates do speak up more and more…. We published the names of two or three mosques that have allowed hate speeches. We don't want that.
Leftists argue that Europe is placating radical elements at the expense of its culture, and the continent's image as a bastion of tolerance has clouded the fight against extremism.

When his sculpture was pulled from the Tate exhibit last year, John Lathan accused the gallery of cowardice.
If they want to help the militants, this is the way to do it. It's not even a gesture as strong as censorship. It's just a loss of nerve.
Hans Neuenfels, director of the German Opera's "Idomeneo," had similar sentiments when the show was canceled:
Where will we end if in the future we allow ourselves, in foresighted obedience, to be artistically blackmailed?
Europe's roots may be religious, but its population is increasingly secular. Threats against plays, books and a conservative pope's right to free expression strike at the core of European identity, revealing what many see as an unbridgeable divide between Islam and the West.

In her 2002 book The Rage and the Pride, Oriana Fallaci, one of Italy's foremost journalists, who died last month, wrote of Islamists:
What logic is there in respecting those who do not respect us? What dignity is there in defending their culture or supposed culture when they show contempt for ours? I want to defend my culture, not theirs, and inform you that I like Dante Alighieri and Shakespeare and Goethe and Verlaine and Walt Whitman and Leopardi much more than Omar Khayyam.
Outspokenness can have a price. A French philosophy professor, Robert Redeker, has gone into hiding after writing in Le Figaro that
Jesus is a master of love; Muhammad is a master of hatred…. Islam is a religion that, in its very sacred text as much as in some of its everyday rights, exalts violence and hatred.
Shortly after the article appeared, French intelligence services informed Redeker that radical Islamic websites had published his picture, his phone number and a map to his house. Redeker said one threat stated, "This pig should have his head cut off."
Klaus Staeck, president of the Berlin Academy of Arts.
We must have courage and not give in to angst. The freedom of opinion is a basic right laid down in our constitution for everybody. And this has to be defended.

Los Angeles Times


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