The showy compromise of free speech in Belgium
by Bruce S. Thornton
As the headquarters for the European Union, Brussels is the capital of the EUtopia that Europeans and blue-state Americans keep touting as the social-political order superior to that of the United States. We benighted Americans, the EUtopians tell us, are mired in an unjust Darwinian free-market economy, a Neanderthal unilateral foreign policy, theocratic hegemony, and a philistine culture of fast food and trashy films. But in Europe, the state provides cradle-to-grave social welfare benefits and economic equality, promotes a sophisticated, dolce-vitalifestyle freed from Christianity’s repressive strictures, and embraces a “postmodern” foreign policy that eschews force and relies on multilateral diplomacy, international agreements, and trans-national institutions to keep the peace, and create freedom and prosperity.
There are, of course, numerous problems with this pleasing fantasy, not the least being Europe’s sluggish economies, aging workforce, and disappearing populations. But the biggest fly in the EUtopian ointment is the millions of European Muslims who are underemployed, disaffected with European culture, overrepresented in prisons and on the welfare rolls, and filled with arrogant confidence that their faith is superior to European social and political ideals. After all, Muslims believe passionately in Allah and the perfection of his revelation to Mohammed, whose sayings and deeds are a sufficient guide for creating a social-political order superior to the godless license on display everywhere in the West. Who needs human rights, freedom, or democracy when you have Allah, Mohammed, and eternal paradise? To reverse Islam’s military setbacks at Tours, Vienna, and Sèvres, European radical Muslims just have to chip away at Europe’s resistance with violence and demands for concessions, and then wait for Europeans — unwilling as they are to defend their own ideals or even to reproduce — to dolce vita themselves into extinction.
So far this strategy is working. Over the past few years we have repeatedly seen European governments betraying the West’s most cherished ideals in the face of Muslim intolerance and violence, from the Spaniards pulling out of Iraq after the Madrid train-bombings, to the hand-wringing apologies for those innocuous Mohammed cartoons. But fearful appeasement and sentimental multiculturalism are not the only motives behind such betrayal. Cold political calculation has played a role as well. The European left particularly has sought to further its power and influence by catering to Muslims no matter how much the latter espouse ideals antithetical to those of the West.
We saw this month an example of this suicidal alliance in Brussels itself. As reported by Paul Belien in The Washington Times, an organization of Christian Europeans called Stop the Islamization of Europe (SIOE) wanted to hold a demonstration on 9/11 in front of the European Parliament building to commemorate the victims of that attack and protest the creeping introduction of Islamic sharia law in Europe. This exercise of free speech, one of the West’s most important political goods, is guaranteed by both the Belgian constitution and the European Charter of Human Rights. Yet permission for the demonstration was denied by the socialist mayor of Brussels, who over the past six years has allowed 3,500 demonstrations, banning only six, one of which was planned by a known terrorist organization. One of the approved demonstrations was by United for Truth, a zany group that believes the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were orchestrated by the U.S. government.
The mayor’s reasons for banning the 9/11 demonstration encapsulate the self-loathing appeasement and political calculation that have crippled Europe’s resistance to Islamic jihad: “First and foremost the organizers have chosen the symbolic date of 9/11. The intention is obviously to confound the terrorist activities of Muslim extremists on the one hand and Islam as a religion and all Muslims on the other hand… Such incitement to discrimination and hatred, which we usually call racism and xenophobia, is forbidden by a considerable number of international treaties and is punished by our penal laws and by the European legislation. The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly pronounced judgments condemning this type of acts.”
Let’s parse this Orwellian statement. First, no one needs to invidiously “confound” Muslim terrorism with Islam because the connection is simply a fact. After all, Buddhists aren’t blowing up Chinese in Beijing because Tibet is occupied by China. Egyptian Copts aren’t blowing up Muslims in Cairo because Christians in Egypt are being oppressed. The pitiful remnants of Christians in Iraq aren’t the ones blowing up mosques in Baghdad, even though they are being hounded into extinction. Nor are the few Jews left in Iran, dwindling as rapidly as those in Iraq, blowing up buses and trains in Tehran. Anyone not besotted by multicultural groveling before the Third-World “other” knows that unlike Christianity or Buddhism or Judaism, Islam sanctions holy war — jihad, that is, violence against infidels — and that based on Islamic traditions a case can even be made for terrorist attacks as a tactic justified by Islam’s military weakness vis-à-vis the West (see al Qaeda theorist Ayman al Zawahiri’s “Jihad, Martyrdom, and the Killing of Innocents” in The Al Qaeda Reader).
Next is the mayor’s use of the question-begging epithets “racism” and “xenophobia” to describe the content of SIOE’s demonstration. Note well how a desire to cherish and defend one’s own traditions against those who want to destroy them is now called “racist,” which doesn’t even make sense, given that the issue is cultural, not genetic differences. No more coherent is the charge of “xenophobia,” since the quarrel is not with foreigners per se but only with those who scorn Western political goods and are actively seeking to replace them with Islam’s, all the while they benefit from those same goods. Finally, notice how the mayor justifies this criminalization of a core Western political good, free speech, by invoking those same trans-national laws and institutions that the EUtopians claim are such a progressive advance over the parochial customs and laws of nation-states.
More revealing is what did happen on 9/11 at the Place de Luxembourg in Brussels — riot police carted away and detained 150 of those who had informally gathered there to commemorate the victims in New York. Consider how well the jihadists have conditioned the Eurocrats: the latter now on their own initiative, without the excuse of violence or threats, will violate their own best political values. Fear, of course, factors into this behavior. But political calculation also figures in the willingness of leftist politicians to sell out their own traditions for political gain. Across Europe the left has found in Islam a convenient ally, since both hate the core political goods of the West, liberal democracy and free-market economies, and both hate Christianity — the same mayor of Brussels who silenced European Christians greeted the death of Pope John Paul II with a call for champagne. Al Qaeda understands this Western self-hatred, which is why bin Laden speaks to us about economic oppression, colonialism, even environmentalism, issues about which he cares nothing but which create common cause with the anti-Western left.
Perhaps nothing better shows the lunatic folly of these attitudes than the experience of a German Christian in the Place de Luxembourg on 9/11 (SeeBrussels Journal). He was arrested after he took out a wooden cross and started praying to himself. There you have the terminal sickness of EUtopia: publicly exercising your right of free speech and displaying the symbol of the faith that created Europe in the first place will get you arrested, even as the E.U. elite bend over backwards to profess their admiration for and to indulge the intolerant, imperialistic faith that for fourteen centuries their ancestors fought and defeated. That’s how EUtopia will end: with the terrorist’s bang followed by the appeaser’s whimper.
©2007 Bruce Thornton