Contemporary Western culture has tended to ignore, euphemize, and whitewash the violent, hate-driven objectives of Islamic jihad – trying to downplay a permanent offensive whose ultimate aim is to impose Islam on the entire world as the only true religion.
When Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (religious decree) calling for the murder of Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie, he effectively introduced a new kind of jihad -- against freedom of speech. In recent years, other Islamists have joined this crusade, seeking to undermine Western societies’ basic liberties and to extend sharia within those societies.
Two recent events in particular--the 2004 assassination in Amsterdam of Theo van Gogh in retaliation for his film about Islam’s oppression of women; and the global wave of riots and murders that followed a Danish newspaper’s 2005 publication of cartoons satirizing Mohammed—show how serious Islamists are in their assault on the West.
Motivated variously by fear, sympathy, and multiculturalism (which teaches them to be suspicious of their own “oppressive” heritage and sympathetic to non-Western “victim” cultures, however violent and repressive), Westerners have sought to appease Islamists in their midst and exempt them from the philosophy of assimilation which has traditionally made for social solidarity.
The Western media have played a large role in this approach and in the divisiveness and social confusion that have followed. Often their approach is to argue that “natives,” and not the Islamists, are to blame for any strife that occurs within Western nations. After the late Dutch sociologist-turned-politician Pim Fortuyn sounded the alarm about the danger that Europe’s Islamization posed to democracy, for instance, elite journalists labeled him a threat. A New York Times headline described Fortuyn as "marching the Dutch to the right." Dutch newspapers Het Parool and De Volkskrant compared him with Mussolini; Trouw likened him to Hitler. This vilification played a large role in Fortuyn’s assassination in 2002.
Press acquiescence to Muslim demands and threats is endemic throughout Western Europe and increasingly in the United States as well. In September 2005, after the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published the “Mohammed cartoons” to defy the media's rising self-censorship, only one major American newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, joined such European dailies as Die Welt and El País in reprinting them as a gesture of free-speech solidarity. Editors who refused to run the images claimed that their motive was multicultural respect for Islam. Critic Christopher Hitchens believed otherwise, writing that he “knew quite a number of the editors concerned and can say for a certainty that the chief motive for restraint was simple fear.””
As part of their commitment to avoid all appearance of “Islamophobia,” the elite media regularly underreport fundamentalist Muslim misbehavior or obfuscate its true nature. After the knighting of Salman Rushdie in 2007 unleashed yet another wave of international Islamist mayhem, Tim Rutten wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “If you’re wondering why you haven’t been able to follow all the columns and editorials in the American press denouncing all this homicidal nonsense, it’s because there haven’t been any.””
Consider also the riots that gripped immigrant suburbs in France in the autumn of 2005. These uprisings were largely assertions of Muslim authority over Muslim neighborhoods, and thus clearly jihadist in character. Yet weeks passed before many American press outlets mentioned them—and when they did, they de-emphasized the rioters’ Muslim identity. Instead, they described the violence as an outburst of frustration over economic injustice.
After each major terrorist act since 9/11, the press has dutifully published stories about Western Muslims fearing an anti-Muslim backlash, although no such backlash has ever materialized.
Muslim pressure groups have for the most part succeeded in keeping movies and TV shows from portraying Islam as anything but a Religion of Peace. For example, the Council for American-Islamic Relations successfully lobbied Paramount Pictures to change the villains in The Sum of All Fears (2002) from Islamist terrorists to neo-Nazis, while Fox’s popular series 24, after Muslims complained about a story line depicting Islamic terrorists, ran public-service announcements emphasizing how nonviolent Islam was.
In April 2006, an episode of the animated series South Park mocked the wave of self-censorship that followed the Jyllands-Posten crisis, but Comedy Central censored it, replacing an image of Mohammed with a black screen and an explanatory notice. According to series producer Anne Garefino, network executives frankly admitted that they were acting out of fear.
In the art world, postmodernists who have always strived to shock and offend have learned not to offend Muslim sensibilities. Museums have put into storage manuscripts featuring images of Mohammed. London’s Whitechapel Art Gallery removed life-size nude dolls by surrealist artist Hans Bellmer from a 2006 exhibit just before its opening, for fear that the nudity might offend the gallery’s Muslim neighbors. In November 2007, after the cancellation of a show in The Hague of artworks depicting gay men in Mohammed masks, the artist, Sooreh Hera, charged the museum with capitulating to Muslim threats. British artist Grayson Perry, whose work has mercilessly mocked Christianity, is candid about why he has steered clear of Muslim themes: “The reason I haven’t gone all out attacking Islamism in my art is because I feel real fear that someone will slit my throat.”
Leading liberal intellectuals and academics have shown a striking willingness to betray liberal values when it comes to pacifying Muslims. In 2001, Unni Wikan, a distinguished Norwegian cultural anthropologist and Islam expert, responded to the high rate of Muslim-on-infidel rape in Oslo by exhorting women to "realize that we live in a multicultural society and adapt themselves to it."
Western political leaders likewise have gone to great lengths to speak about Islam in the gentlest possible manner, with politicians of all parties ritualistically reminding their constituencies that Islam is a "religion of peace." In 2005, Norway’s parliament, with virtually no public discussion or media coverage, criminalized religious insults (and placed the burden of proof on the defendant). In 2007, Norway's most celebrated lawyer, Tor Erling Staff, argued that the punishment for Muslim honor-killings should be lighter than for other murders, on the theory that it would be arrogant for Westerners to expect Muslim men to conform to Western norms. In 2006, the Dutch minister of justice Piet Hein Donner said that if voters wanted to bring sharia to the Netherlands—where Muslims will soon be a majority in major cities—“it would be a disgrace to say, ‘This is not permitted!’ ”
Even military leaders can succumb to political correctness when speaking about jihad and radical Islam. In 2005, columnist Diana West noted that America’s Iraq commander, Lieutenant General John R. Vines, was educating his staff in Islam by giving them a reading list that whitewashes jihad, dhimmitude and sharia law with the works of Karen Armstrong and John Esposito; two years later, West noted the unwillingness of a counterinsurgency advisor, Lieutenant Colonel David Kilcullen, to mention jihad. In January 2008, the Pentagon fired Stephen Coughlin, its resident expert on sharia and jihad, because his acknowledgment that terrorism was motivated by jihad had antagonized an influential Muslim aide.