I like that weary “and so on”…
Bret Stephens on Geert Wilders, and the anniversaries of “Piss Christ” and The Satanic Verses:
Fast forward to Mr. Wilders’s situation and what’s remarkable is that his most serious detractors — those that aren’t themselves Islamists or spokesmen for supposedly mainstream Muslim organizations — tend to fall to the political left. In Holland, leaders of both the Socialist and Labor parties support the prosecution. In Britain, it’s the Labour government of Gordon Brown that has enforced the travel ban. In Germany, the leftish Der Spiegel calls Mr. Wilders “pushy” and accuses him of making “hate-filled tirades.” Elsewhere he is described as a “racist,” an “Islamophobe,” and so on.
For his part, Mr. Wilders says he hates Islam as an ideology, not Muslims as individuals, and categorically parts company with the neo-fascist European right typified by the late Jörg Haider. He has also traveled extensively in the Middle East; even Der Spiegel admits “he is not a dull racist and xenophobe.” (…)
For liberals, the issue is straightforward. If routine mockery of Christianity and abuse of its symbols, both in the U.S. and Europe, is protected speech, why shouldn’t the same standard apply to the mockery of Islam?
And if the difference in these cases is that mockery of Islam has the tendency to lead to riots, death threats and murder, should committed Christians now seek a kind of parity with Islamists by resorting to violent tactics to express their sense of religious injury?
The notion that liberals can have it both ways — champions of free speech on the one hand; defenders of multiculturalism’s assorted sensitivities on the other — was always intellectually flimsy.
If liberals now want to speak for the “right” of this or that group not to be offended, the least they can do is stop calling themselves “liberals.”
For conservatives, especially of the cultural kind — the kind of people who talk about defending Western Civ. — Mr. Wilders’s case should also provoke some reconsiderations. It may not be impossible to denounce the likes of Mr. Serrano while defending the likes of Mr. Wilders. But a defense of Mr. Wilders is made a lot easier if one can point to the vivid difference between a civilization that protects, even celebrates (and funds!), its cultural provocateurs and a civilization that seeks their murder.
This is no small point. Western civilization is not simply the “Judeo-Christian tradition.” It is also the civilization of Socrates and Aristophanes, Hume and Voltaire, Copernicus and Darwin; of religious schismatics and nonbelievers.
PS: once again, I may be wrong but I don’t think Wilders is “trying to ban the Koran.” Rather he is asking why it isn’t banned if — as is the case across Europe — Mein Kampf is illegal.