Mark Steyn writes today about the controversy over the Mohammed cartoons that has sparked a furor amongst Muslims overseas. In it, he argues in favor of the publication of the cartoons on free speech grounds and makes a great point that multicultural ‘sensitivity’ (such as that which is being shown in free societies such as our own) can and will lead to the downfall of civilization if we let it:
One day, years from now, as archaeologists sift through the ruins of an ancient civilization for clues to its downfall, they’ll marvel at how easy it all was. You don’t need to fly jets into skyscrapers and kill thousands of people. As a matter of fact, that’s a bad strategy, because even the wimpiest state will feel obliged to respond. But if you frame the issue in terms of multicultural “sensitivity,” the wimp state will bend over backward to give you everything you want — including, eventually, the keys to those skyscrapers. Thus, Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, hailed the “sensitivity” of Fleet Street in not reprinting the offending cartoons.
No doubt he’s similarly impressed by the “sensitivity” of Anne Owers, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, for prohibiting the flying of the English national flag in English prisons on the grounds that it shows the cross of St. George, which was used by the Crusaders and thus is offensive to Muslims. And no doubt he’s impressed by the “sensitivity” of Burger King, which withdrew its ice cream cones from its British menus because Rashad Akhtar of High Wycombe complained that the creamy swirl shown on the lid looked like the word “Allah” in Arabic script. I don’t know which sura in the Koran says don’t forget, folks, it’s not just physical representations of God or the Prophet but also chocolate ice cream squiggly representations of the name, but ixnay on both just to be “sensitive.”
And doubtless the British foreign secretary also appreciates the “sensitivity” of the owner of France-Soir, who fired his editor for republishing the Danish cartoons. And the “sensitivity” of the Dutch film director Albert Ter Heerdt, who canceled the sequel to his hit multicultural comedy ”Shouf Shouf Habibi!” on the grounds that “I don’t want a knife in my chest” — which is what happened to the last Dutch film director to make a movie about Islam: Theo van Gogh, on whose ”right to dissent” all those Hollywood blowhards are strangely silent. Perhaps they’re just being “sensitive,” too.
And perhaps the British foreign secretary also admires the “sensitivity” of those Dutch public figures who once spoke out against the intimidatory aspects of Islam and have now opted for diplomatic silence and life under 24-hour armed guard. And maybe he even admires the “sensitivity” of the increasing numbers of Dutch people who dislike the pervasive fear and tension in certain parts of the Netherlands and so have emigrated to Canada and New Zealand.
Very few societies are genuinely multicultural. Most are bicultural: On the one hand, there are folks who are black, white, gay, straight, pre-op transsexual, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, worshippers of global-warming doom-mongers, and they rub along as best they can. And on the other hand are folks who do not accept the give-and-take, the rough-and-tumble of a “diverse” “tolerant” society, and, when one gently raises the matter of their intolerance, they threaten to kill you, which makes the question somewhat moot.
One day the British foreign secretary will wake up and discover that, in practice, there’s very little difference between living under Exquisitely Refined Multicultural Sensitivity and Sharia. As a famously sensitive Dane once put it, “To be or not to be, that is the question.”
Read the whole thing.
More: In the meantime, Kevin/blogagog sends along this link that notes the Vatican’s position on the publication of these cartoons:
The Vatican condemned the publication of the cartoons, saying freedom of speech did not mean freedom to offend a person’s religion.
That’s an interesting position for the Vatican to take, especially considering any number of positions the Vatican has taken which would offend others, such as their anti-gay union and anti-abortion stances. The Vatican enjoys the religious freedom to condemn practices which they deem morally abhorrent and against Catholic teachings – which in turn offends ‘progressives’, but apparently the Vatican doesn’t feel like society has the freedom to condemn (in this case, via cartoons) a particular religious group’s more extreme practices which they deem morally abhorrent and against all common decency. Classic example of “free speech for me, but not for thee” if I’ve ever seen it.
Update: Charles Moore writing in today’s UK Telegraph nails it:
On the Today programme yesterday, Stewart Lee, author of Jerry Springer: The Opera – in which Jesus appears wearing nappies – let the cat out of the bag. He suggested that it was fine to offend Christians because they had themselves degraded their iconography; Islam, however, has always been more “conscientious about protecting the brand”.
The implication of the remark is fascinating. It is that the only people whose feelings artists, newspapers and so on should consider are those who protest violently. The fact that Christians nowadays do not threaten to blow up art galleries, invade television studios or kill writers and producers does not mean that their tolerance is rewarded by politeness. It means that they are insulted the more.
Right now, at the fashionable White Cube Gallery in Hoxton, you can see the latest work of Gilbert and George, mainly devoted, it is reported, to attacks on the Catholic Church. The show is called Sonofagod Pictures and it features the head of Christ on the Cross replaced with that of a primitive deity. One picture includes the slogan “God loves F***ing”.
Like most Christians, I find this offensive, but I think I must live with the offence in the interests of freedom. If I find, however, that people who threaten violence do have the power to suppress what they dislike, why should I bother to defend freedom any more? Why shouldn’t I ring up the Hon Jay Jopling, the proprietor, and tell him that I shall burn down the White Cube Gallery unless he tears Gilbert and George off the walls? I won’t, I promise, but how much longer before some Christians do? The Islamist example shows that it works.
There is a great deal of talk about responsible journalism, gratuitous offence, multicultural sensitivities and so on. Jack Straw gibbers about the irresponsibility of the cartoons, but says nothing against the Muslims threatening death in response to them. I wish someone would mention the word that dominates Western culture in the face of militant Islam – fear. And then I wish someone would face it down.
I second that!
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