The recent terrorist attacks in France and Denmark against a satirical magazine, a free speech conference, and multiple Jewish targets are not coincidental. The European political, legal, and cultural environments make Europe an easy target for such attacks.
Anti-discrimination laws in Europe punish offensive speech up to the point of criminalizing opinions. Thus, a number of figures that were perceived of being critical of Islam or Muslims were either prosecuted or forced into exile to avoid prosecution.
Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party in the Netherlands, is again under the radar of Dutch prosecutors a year after he was acquitted of incitement against the Muslim population.
French actress Brigitte Bardot was prosecuted five times in a period of 10 years for “inciting against Islam” after she made a number of derogatory comments against the Muslim population.
French intellectual Alan Frinkielkraut was sued for challenging the view that the 2005 Muslim riots in France had not necessarily been a reaction against social conditions, but an expression of ethnic and religious sentiments.
By the same token, British scholar Bernard Lewis was sued for failing to apply the term “genocide” to the massacres of Armenians at the hands of the Turks during World War I.
The idea of criminalizing certain opinions is counterproductive, even for the Muslim population. First because it creates anti-Muslim resentment among those whose opinions are repressed. Such laws hinder opportunities to have free discussions that may lead to a clear understanding of the distinction between radical Islam and law abiding Muslims.
If a cartoon drawing can cause such heinous attacks, it is also because Europe has sent the message that such artistic expression may not be legitimate. Such restrictions increase anger and thus it empowers the extreme right. We witnessed this in the latest European Union parliamentary elections and in a number of other local and national elections as well.
Author Christopher Caldwell, who has written a book on this matter, has pointed out that the culture in Europe is such that ethnic pride is acceptable, but nationalism is not.
Vicious anti-Zionism is acceptable, but Islamophobia is not.
Thus, it is in these contradictions where Europe emboldens radical Islamists.
The Europeans find nothing inciting in academic and other boycotts against Israel. The European left’s fierce attacks against Israel not only include media, academics, and ideologists but also politicians from mainstream political parties. One such example is when Illmar Reepalu, the mayor of Malmo, Sweden, accused Jews of being responsible for the wave of anti-Semitism since they failed to criticize Israeli policies.
Repalu, a social democrat, also held the the “Israeli lobby” responsible for the criticism he received. Did anybody dare prosecute the bigoted mayor for incitement?
The Social-Democratic Party in Sweden has been able to influence the church of Sweden into adopting positions that called the Israeli presence in the West Bank as a “sin” and an “abomination against God.”
Of course the church made no similar comment about the massacres in Syria, the murderous nature of Hamas, or even the Islamic State.
As a result of “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza, the Labour Party chairwoman of the Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee in the Norwegian parliament, along with an entirely left-wing coalition, called to boycott “Israeli products manufactured in the occupied territories.” The fact that Hamas bombed Israeli civilian populations or used Palestinians themselves as human shields, did not seem to matter.
And last year in Denmark itself, the speaker of the Danish parliament, a social democrat, visited Hamas-controlled Gaza but not Israel. He also called former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a “brutal military leader who was not interested in reaching an agreement with the Palestinians.” This was said regardless the fact that Sharon withdrew from Gaza and advocated for a final Israeli detachment from the West Bank.
Finally, the European Union declared a boycott on Israeli goods produced beyond the green line. This includes not only the West Bank but also the Golan Heights, a territory claimed by Syria that Syria never wanted to seriously negotiate in exchange for peace.
Likewise, a European court recommended removing Hamas from the terrorist list.
Europe has sold out its freedom of expression and the state of Israel, a state that has fought with determination and courage against terrorism and it is also an ally of the West. This can only be interpreted by radical Islamists as a sign of weakness. This will not bring any calm to Europe but will only make it more vulnerable to terrorist episodes.
The Muslim population at heart might even be relieved if a serious blow was to be inflicted on the radicals. But Europeans, especially the left, suffer from a strong dose of what Karl Marx would call “false consciousness.”
Unless there is a reversal of consciousness in Europe as well as political and moral determination, it will continue to be vulnerable to the threat of radical Islam.
Luis Fleischman has worked as adviser for the Menges Hemispheric Security Project at the Center for Security Policy on issues related to Latin America, hemispheric security, democracy, and U.S policy in Latin America. He is the author of "Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Threat to U.S. Security." Fleischman is an adjunct professor of sociology and political science at Florida Atlantic University Honors College and FAU Lifelong Learning Society. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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