The (literal) Islamophobia of the British media

This is a small chunk from The Diversity Illusion chapter 11, ‘The New Blasphemy Laws’ on how Europe responded to the Danish cartoon crisis. Seems appropriate today.


The Danish Prime Minister and Foreign Minister blamed the cartoonists, while European and world leaders went out of their way to condemn these grossly offensive comics. The Foreign Office declared in a message to the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation: ‘The whole international community stands with them in their staunch rejection of those who distort the noble faith of Islam. We join them in celebrating the values of Islamic civilisation. Their values are our values.’

Rather than supporting a fellow European democracy with an impeccable record of freedom, ethical government and humane treatment of refugees, Europe bowed before the leaders of the most intolerant states on earth. The EU expressed ‘regret’, while Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said freedom of speech is fine, but not if it led to ‘open season’. Several continental newspapers republished the pictures in solidarity, but not a single major British publication did. Indeed newspapers warned about Islamophobia while they were themselves too scared of Muslims – they were literally Islamophobic – to publish the cartoons. Only two college magazines printed the pictures, and both editors were sacked, one of them going into hiding.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan even said that ‘the offensive caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed were first published in a European country which has recently acquired a significant Muslim population, and is not yet sure how to adjust to it’. But was it not up to Muslims to adjust to them, not vice versa? Once again the European Left went into cognitive dissonance mode. Social scientist Jytte Klausen pointed out that three years previously, ‘Jyllands-Posten refused to publish cartoons portraying Jesus, on the ground that they would offend readers’.

But a conservative newspaper is perfectly within its rights to not offend Christianity, for fear of upsetting its readers. The Daily Telegraph would not mock Christ, just as it would not attack foxhunters, and nor would the Guardian ridicule social workers or teachers. There is a difference between doing something out of genuine affection (and business self-interest) and out of fear. It is telling that Jack Straw said it was ‘disrespectful’ for European papers to republish, while Kofi Annan and Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, also used the word ‘respect’ after the cartoon affair, since respect can also mean fear. Does Europe respect Islam, or fear it?

In February 2006 Norway’s Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion called a press conference, which featured the largest collection of imams in the country’s history, and issued an abject apology to Mohammed Hamdan, head of Norway’s Islamic Council. Hamdan, accepting on behalf of 46 organisations, asked that all threats against the editor of the Norwegian publication and his family be withdrawn. That year Norway passed a law making offensive statements about religion punishable by a fine and imprisonment.

It was not the only one. Following the affair Ireland introduced blasphemy laws for the first time, with the Defamation Act making the publication or utterance of blasphemous matter a crime punishable by a €25,000 (£22,500) fine. In response secularist campaigners set up an Exhibition of Blasphemous Art at the Irish Museum of Contemporary Art (Imoca) in Dublin on Good Friday, 2010, against a law that they said ‘prevents intellectual debate’. The artists tested this theory with works such as ‘F— Christmas’, ‘Bible Gun’ and ‘Resur-erection’, which all satirised religious figures such as Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, although one particular 7th century figure was strangely absent. Not a single one mocked Islam, for the simple reason that long before the artists would be spending their lives under armed guard, the entire state machinery would have been forcing them to back down to spare Ireland a repeat of Denmark’s ordeal.

Like female genital mutilation and honour killings in Europe, these blasphemy laws are not a product of religion (or at least Christianity) but a combination of mass immigration and moral uncertainty. It is easier to blame these problems on religion in general, when in reality there is only one religion that threatens freedom in Europe, which is why the people behind the exhibition (quite understandably) did not mock its founder. Attacking Christianity is not going to change this threat. In fact, and to paraphrase Napoleon, a less-than-fanatical believer who understood society’s need for faith, a nation that does not respect its own religion will soon learn to respect someone else’s.

Comments so far

  1. Patrick Sheehan says

    Spot on Ed,
    Ive been watching in Ireland and with more time than usual (currently without subbing work) the reaction. First there was the fake solidarity, and now its lets all blame all religions when they know damn well and are too cowardly to admit this is a lie. There is only one religion any European has to fear. Although totalitarian lefty secularism could be another giving the progress or lack of it among young people.

    PS: I hope one day one writer will point out that Christians are not obligated to do everything or live by thats written in the bible. I almost cry with frustration when I see illiterate atheists stating such nonsense.

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